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Prevent Shipping Hazards: Follow the Rules and Take Precautions For Hazardous Cargo

Prevent Shipping Hazards: Follow the Rules and Take Precautions

for Hazardous Cargo

While transporting goods from one destination to another, traders have to be prepared to deal with certain transportation hazards. These can be in the form of vehicular breakdown or accidents, natural calamities like earthquakes, landslides, and floods in case of road and rail transportation. And, if at sea then – the “perils of sea”; if in the air then - due to bad weather or technical failures. 

Since, traders do not have control over these transport hazards, they safeguard their interests with insurance.

This said, there is one other reason because of which accidents or incidents happen on goods carriers that can also cause damage to other cargo on the carrier, and the land and property nearby and hurt the crew or people on board. It is presence of “dangerous goods” or “hazardous cargo” on the carrier. Unlike all the other reasons mentioned above, this can be, to an extent, controlled by the shipper.

Damages or accidents due to hazardous nature of cargo on board is something that traders can minimize by ensuring that they follow all the rules and procedures laid down with respect to packaging, transportation, and declaration of hazardous cargo.

What are Dangerous Goods or Hazardous Cargo?

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), under the UN Model Regulations has provided UN Recommendations On The Transport of Dangerous Goods. These recommendations provide guidelines for transportation of dangerous goods by all means of transportation apart from bulk tanker.

The Business Dictionary provides a short explanation of how the UN recommendations have defined dangerous goods. According to the definition, dangerous goods cover “articles or materials capable of posing significant risk to people, health, property, or environment when transported in quantity.”

Dangerous or Hazardous goods include various chemical substances, firearms, fireworks, and ammunition to name a few. The materials that have been identified as dangerous substances have been further classified into 9 groups/classes and sub classes. The main nine classes and a few examples of each are given below:

Class 1 – Explosives

a.    Fireworks

b.   Ammunition

Class 2 – Gases

a.    Helium

b.    Nitrogen

c.    Natural Gas

d.    Carbon di oxide

Class 3 – Flammable Liquids

a.    Fuel

b.    Alcohol

c.    Perfume

d.    Kerosene

Class 4 – Flammable Solids

a.    Camphor

b.    Phosphorous

c.    Matches

Class 5 – Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides

a.    Hydrogen peroxide

b.    Nitrates

c.    Lead nitrate

 Class 6 – Toxic and infectious substances; Poisons

a.    Pesticides

b.    Cyanides

c.    Dyes

Class 7 – Radioactive Material

a.    Uranium

b.    Radium

 Class 8 – Corrosive Substances

a.    Paints

b.    Batteries

c.    Nitric Acid

 Class 9 – Miscellaneous Dangerous Substances and Articles, including Environmentally Hazardous Substances

a.    Ammonium Nitrate

b.    Formaldehyde

c.    Asbestos 

All the goods listed under each of the above classes are given a UN Number and Name for easy identification that needs to be used while creating the transportation documents.

Although, it is not compulsory for countries to follow or implement this classification and the rules laid down by the UN, these guidelines have come to be accepted globally and are also followed by the authorities governing the various transportation modes internationally.

Who Frames the Rules for Air and Sea Transportation?

The shipping industry has established the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code or the IMDG Code. These guidelines have been made mandatory for all those who are associated with the shipping industry. They apply to the shipping lines, shippers, and service providers to the industry. These codes are updated every two years and provide instructions on how the dangerous or hazardous cargo is to be packed, labeled, handled, and stowed on board. The latest update happened in 2016 and will be put into effect from 1st January, 2018. However, the industry can use the revised codes from 1st January, 2017.

For transportation of dangerous goods by air, International Air Transport Association (IATA) puts together the rules and regulations.

Like the rules laid down for Air and Sea transport, the Container Corporation of India has also laid down rules on how dangerous goods/cargo containing hazardous material is to be treated. These rules are to be followed by all entities that are using the services of CONCOR.

How Shippers Can Help Minimize Shipping Hazards

While dealing with dangerous goods or hazardous cargo, it is important to follow the guidelines and rules that have been established by the various authorities.

Some rules that the shippers must follow are –

1.    Packaging – For any cargo, packaging is of utmost importance. Good packaging ensures that the cargo reaches the destination in a good condition and does not lose its salability. For dangerous cargo, packaging becomes even more important as the safety of the cargo, of the other cargo and of the carrier are dependent on it.

While packaging such cargo, shippers must ensure that they follow the guidelines laid down for packaging of the specific substance, the material is of good quality, the weight or volume of the package is in accordance with the guidelines (should not be over packed), and that there is no leakage or openings in the packaging. This check must be done for both the primary packaging and the secondary packaging of the cargo.

2.    Marking and Labelling - Again, extremely important. All dangerous or hazardous cargo must be labeled with the correct description of the cargo, the classification and the listed UN number. The package should also be marked with the correct dangerous cargo and handling instruction labels.

3.    Documentation – Along with providing the information of the cargo on all regular documents of transportation, there is a separate form called – “Dangerous goods declaration” or “Haz Cargo declaration”, that needs to be filled when shipping hazardous cargo. Shippers must fill in this form accurately with all required information.