IMDG Code compliance is mandatory, warns TT Club

15 November 2004

TT Club, the transport insurance mutual association, has expressed concern at an apparently widespread lack of awareness of changes in the legal status of the International Maritime Organization's International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) and its implications. The Club has recently hosted a number of awareness seminars on the Code for its Members worldwide, and says that feedback from these events shows that some cargo originators were unaware of their responsibilities under the Code and that the Code itself became mandatory worldwide from the beginning of 2004.

The Club is concerned that many such organisations still think that the IMDG Code, the international provisions governing the shipment of dangerous goods by sea, represents merely good practice guidelines, as used to be the case in some jurisdictions until the end of 2003. The reality, it says, is much more serious.

Andrew Webster, Director of Loss Prevention who has been leading the seminars, explained: "In May 2002, the International Maritime Organization adopted both the IMDG Code in a mandatory form, known as Amendment 31, and amendments to the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, that together made the IMDG Code mandatory worldwide from 1 January 2004."

Mr Webster urged all those concerned with the shipment of dangerous goods by sea to ensure compliance with the Code, as it governs all aspects of the classifying, packaging, marking, packing, securing, declaring, handling and stowing of all substances and articles classed as dangerous under the United Nations' classification system.

"Naturally we consider the safe shipment of dangerous goods to be an issue of the highest priority," said Mr Webster. "Since 1998 we have witnessed about two incidents a year of large containerships being seriously damaged by major fires or explosions arising from packaged dangerous goods. With the current huge surge in the volume of containerised goods, largely emanating from China and other parts of Asia, we are very concerned that the chances of further incidents will increase."

The TT Club is highlighting four main safety problem areas:

· deliberate non-declaration or mis-declaration,

· ignorance resulting in negligent non-declaration,

· lack of properly trained and experienced staff leading to defective documentation and marking/labelling/placarding,

· improper stowage and incorrect cargo segregation.

"Our message through the seminars is primarily directed at forwarders and NVOCs," Mr Webster said. "If undeclared dangerous goods create a problem, the vessel operator is likely to hold its customer responsible as the latter is under a strict legal duty to warrant that cargo as fit for carriage. If a forwarder or non-vessel operating carrier (NVOC) is the shipper of record, it is no defence for him to say that it was his client's fault. As far as the shipowner is concerned, the contractual liability stops with the NVOC. This could leave the NVOC exposed to a potential multi-million dollar claim."

TT Club, working in association with ICHCA International, is reinforcing its message with a continuing series of IMDG seminars in key strategic locations worldwide throughout 2005.

ENDS

Notes for editors:

The TT Club is the international transport and logistics industry's leading provider of insurance and related risk management services. Established in 1968, the Club's membership comprises ship operators, ports and terminals, road, rail and airfreight operators, logistics companies and container lessors. As a mutual insurer, the Club exists to provide its policyholders with industry-leading benefits, which include specialist underwriting expertise, a world-wide office network providing claims management services, and first class risk management and loss prevention advice.

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