TT Talk - Dangerous goods: Competence and assurance

Approaching a decade ago it became mandatory for all shore-side staff involved in dangerous goods transport by sea to have training. There's still too much to do! The commencement of full validity of the latest amendment to the IMDG Code (38-16) is a prompt to ask whether all those involved are appropriately trained - not just to the latest standard but at all.

While there are numerous national trade bodies providing appropriate and compliant dangerous goods courses, the challenge remains to reach those who currently slip through the net.

Who does not need to be trained?

For the sake of clarity, the IMDG Code clarifies the population of 'shore-based personnel' as all who are involved in the shipment of dangerous goods and mandates that they receive training 'commensurate with their responsibilities' (before they undertake them). The activities for which training is therefore required are listed: Those who.

  • classify dangerous goods and identify Proper Shipping Names of dangerous goods
  • pack dangerous goods
  • mark, label or placard dangerous goods
  • [pack/unpack] Cargo Transport Units
  • prepare transport documents for dangerous goods
  • offer dangerous goods for transport
  • accept dangerous goods for transport
  • handle dangerous goods in transport
  • prepare dangerous goods loading/stowage plans
  • load/unload dangerous goods into/from ships
  • carry dangerous goods in transport
  • enforce, survey or inspect for compliance with applicable rules and regulations
  • are otherwise involved in the transport of dangerous goods as determined by the competent authority.

“the population of ‘shore-based personnel’ is all who are involved in the shipment of dangerous goods by sea” 

The Code proceeds to describe three levels of training (General awareness/familiarization training; Function-specific training; and Safety training). Amongst other sources of training, TT Club continues to recommend as thorough and cost-effective the

IMDG e-learning tool

, developed by Exis Technologies in collaboration with IMO. TT Club Members are eligible for a 15% discount on the materials and courses.

Book it right and pack it tight

Coinciding with the entry into force of Amendment 38-16, TT Club has joined forces with UK P&I Club to update and revise the 'Book it right and pack it tight' publication, which provides a thorough introduction and guidance on the provisions of the IMDG Code. This is freely available in PDF and paperback form; if you would like a copy of the latter, please apply. 

Related to the initiatives to support training and awareness, TT Club and UK P&I Club would like to engage with the global supply chain community to understand better the real needs that could be served. Please take a few moments to complete the

linked survey

and forward it to your counter-parties; the more complete the picture that can be obtained, the better tools can be fashioned to mitigate the prevalent risks.

However, apart from reiterating the need for training and awareness, TT Club emphasises that trust through the supply chain requires more. Due to the complexity of the international supply chain, the entity identified as the 'consignor' on the dangerous goods document may not have direct or physical control over key elements of the end-to-end process, but needs to be aware that legal liability rests with the 'consignor' and ensure that arrangements are in place to be in compliance with these international and national regulations. Not all 'consignors' will be conversant with such responsibilities (consider for example charcoal as highlighted in our article in January 2017), with the result that counterparties should take additional actions. Thus, there are three steps inherent in achieving compliance and assurance throughout the supply chain:

  1. Ensure that your own relevant employees are competent;
  2. Inform all your customers, contractors and suppliers of their obligations to train to an appropriate level of competence; and
  3. Obtain documentary evidence that all relevant employees of your customers, contractors and suppliers are trained to an appropriate level of competence.

Evidence competence
While training to achieve ‘competence’ – or the ability to do a job properly – is critical and required by law, it needs to be followed through. This means that the training records not only should be maintained but also available. If you have yet to engage with counter-parties to ask for – or supply – such records, the system has yet to work effectively.

“If you have yet to engage with counter-parties to ask for – or supply – such training records, the system has yet to work effectively”

The importance of carrying out due diligence was set out in relation to the CTU Code in the IMO Circular MSC.1/Circ.1531. Interestingly, that document envisages the checks being addressed to those who seek to select a ‘provider of CTU-related services’. In an age where looking counter-parties in the eye is rare, this provides a good model in both directions; it is as important for the ‘provider’ (forwarder, logistics operator or carrier) to ‘know your customer’ as for the customer to seek assurance in relation to the contractor.

Reality triggers should be applied to consider the risk of dangerous goods. A quick internet search can identify key characteristics of a shipper or consignor – and consignee. A chemical factory is more than likely to need to demonstrate compliance with the training requirement. Equally, recognise that a garden centre consignee may just as validly seek shipment of pesticides or fertilisers as tools and wheelbarrows.

Staff Author

TT Club