Hyundai Fortune, Hanjin Pennsylvania, and MSC Flamania, UPS Airline are all recent cases where Dangerous Goods have been mis-declared or damaged in transit causing loss of life or damage to property and the environment.
So what are Dangerous Goods and how can we ensure that these types of incidents do not occur?
Dangerous Goods are all around us. We all have bottles of oven cleaner, bleaches, matches, firelighters, lithium batteries, nail polish remover, first aid kits in our houses. These articles individually are generally not hazardous but when shipped in bulk can be capable of posing a hazard to health, safety, property and the environment.
Hazardous articles and substances are documented in the list of Dangerous Goods published by the United Nations. Every mode of transport has detailed regulatory guidance on how these hazards should be identified, packaged and handled to ensure that during the rigors of transport they can be safely stowed and transported without causing a risk.
There are 9 Hazard Classes to be aware of
Class 1 – Explosives
Class 2 – Gases
Class 3 – Flammable Liquids
Class 4 – Flammable Solids, Substances liable to Spontaneous Combustion, Substances which, in contact with water emit Gases
Class 5- Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
Class 6 – Toxic and Infectious Substances
Class 7 – Radioactive Material
Class 8 – Corrosives
Class 9 – Miscellaneous
All shippers hold the major responsibility for declaring to the forwarder and operator, regardless of the quantity, that a dangerous substance is included in the goods we are shipping by air, sea, road or rail. This allows all parties within the transport chain from packer, loader, trucker, forwarder and operator to ensure that the article is securely and safely handled.
This was recently highlighted in the legal case for MSC Flamina where unfortunately 3 people lost their lives and liability claims for damage hit $280 billion, this included a major rebuild of the vessel.
Many forwarders assume that they have no responsibility for the cargo that they arrange transportation for, placing the responsibility wholly on the shipper. In this unique case the court found that both the shipper and the forwarder were liable as they both knew what the hazards were and were negligent for ignoring their safety protocols for loading.
The lessons to be learned;
- The risk for not declaring or mis-declaring dangerous goods is not financially viable for any business model or reputation.
- The principles of shipper only negligence are shifting to cover multiple parties within the transportation chain.
- Although this was a maritime incident it will have repercussions across all modes of transport.
How do you ensure that you are taking responsibility?
It is vital for all employees within a shipper’s and forwarder’s facility to have an awareness of what dangerous goods are. After all recognition of what dangerous goods are is half the battle, asking questions when you see articles being shipped.
Have material safety data sheets for all the products that you manufacture and transport both domestically and internationally.
Regardless of the quantity being shipped, validate whether you are meeting the requirements of the regulation.
If you do have dangerous goods in your facility, all levels of the organisation should be trained not only on awareness but a regulatory transport certification course from packer, admin, loaders. This should be repeated every 2 years to ensure that you are aware of the requirements of the most recent copy of the regulations.
Stock a copy of the latest regulations in your office and have a member of the team complete an annual audit of your dangerous goods processes.
After all, we all have a role to play in protecting people, property and the environment.
Article written by Sam Stretton, an Associate of Strong & Herd LLP.