Shipping lines tighten screws on cargo misdeclaration

Ever since last year’s catastrophic fire destruction at sea of the X-Press Pearl (*), which suffered a nitric acid leak from one of its containers, Hazcheck Detect has fast gained popularity for detecting description deception. We have seen many marine disasters such as catastrophic fires onboard ships, primarily due to misdeclared and undeclared dangerous goods.

To clarify,

Misdeclared dangerous goods mean any dangerous goods not declared correctly as per the requirement of IMDG Code. This may include an incorrect or misleading description of hazardous goods in hazardous goods declaration, misleading Marking, Labeling and placarding.

Undeclared dangerous goods are any goods listed in the IMDG Code by name or meeting any of the classification criteria of the IMDG Code but not declared by the shipper as dangerous goods.

More and more ocean freight operators are signing up for Hazcheck Detect, a digital tool aimed at red-flagging the misdeclaration of goods used by shippers to avoid hazardous cargo rates.

Instead of declaring nitric acid, some shippers deceive carriers by using phrases like “plant growth regulator”, thereby avoiding hefty risk-related insurance rates determined by Institute Cargo Clauses, a world standard.

In recent years, the liquefaction of highly flammable substances, regularly misdeclared and wrongfully containerised, has led to disastrous Hazchem incidents at sea, resulting in litigation running into millions of dollars.

There are far too many errors in the classification and declaration of commodities to be transported, often amplified by poor decisions and practices relating to packaging, packing, segregation and securing.

Such things compromise safety in various ways, but most critically, when the goods should rightly be described as dangerous in a regulated sense.

Two internationally recognised codes are regulated by the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO). That guide, instruct and govern the safe transport of cargoes in containers and other CTUs; the mandatory International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code¹ and the Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code²).

This guide provides critical insights for all actors in the freight supply chain responsible for preparing unitised consignments for carriage by sea.