NCB calls for urgent reform to reduce container-related incidents caused by misdeclared dangerous cargoes

NCB calls for urgent reform to reduce container-related incidents caused by misdeclared dangerous cargoes
The Maersk Honam caught fire on March 6, 2018

The National Cargo Bureau (NCB) has called for an urgent reform to stem the increasing number of container-related incidents caused by poorly stowed, undeclared or misdeclared dangerous cargoes.

A recent inspection by the NCB has revealed an alarming number of containers carried by sea include misdeclared cargoes that represent a serious risk to crew, vessel and the environment.

In a newly released white paper the NCB, a US inspection body authorised to certify compliance with dangerous goods regulations, has called for the industry to adopt a comprehensive, holistic and coordinated approach to address this worrying trend.

Ian J Lennard, president of NCB, said: “The reasons for issues with dangerous cargoes are diverse and include a challenging regulatory environment; cargo prohibitions; more complex supply chains; and varied levels of understanding and processes.

“Because of this, it is important that the stakeholders work together and adopt a range of measures that will address all potential causes.”

According to the inspection initiative, 55% of containers were non-compliant with 43% failing to secure dangerous goods correctly within the container itself.

Additionally, it found that approximately 6.5% of containers carrying dangerous cargoes had been misdeclared.

On average a containership suffers a major fire every 60 days, however, in 2019 there were nine major containership fires which suggests that the frequency of incidents is increasing.

It is strongly suspected that these vessel incidents were caused by issues related to poorly stowed, undeclared or misdeclared dangerous cargoes.

As containerships grow bigger, thus more containers being carried, risks are increasing in number, value and concentration.

Lennard explained: “The link between undeclared, misdeclared or poorly stowed dangerous cargoes and the increased incidence of catastrophic containership fires is hard to ignore.

“Because of the clear and present risk predominately to safety of life but also to the ships, their cargoes and the environment, we are calling for all supply chain participants to work on a solution together.”

The NCB white paper details 12 recommendations as part of its holistic approach, ranging from embracing a safety culture for dangerous goods compliance to practical measures for container and vessel inspections and monitoring.