As discussed in the article ‘IUMI acts on preventing fires on container vessels’ of this IUMI Eye, the non-declaration or misdeclaration of dangerous goods on-board container vessels is an important part in solving the problem of container ship fires. Apart from delivering regulatory control, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) has definitions and classifications of dangerous goods, as well as procedures for declaration.
Accordingly, IUMI is part of an industry coalition that includes the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), the International Group of P&I Clubs, the International Vessel Operators Dangerous Goods Association (IVODGA) and the World Shipping Council (WSC), and Liberia as a supporting flag state. The coalition forwarded a paper to the 6th session of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Sub Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 6) in September 2019. IUMI is happy to be listed as a co-sponsor of this paper and will support the further process and progress.
The paper contains a proposal to undertake a comprehensive review of maritime Special Provisions (SPs) in the IMDG Code. The Dangerous Goods List in chapter 3.2 of the IMDG Code includes UN numbers assigned for dangerous goods, with an allocated Proper Shipping Name (PSN). These provisions need to be complied with in order to avoid safety risks associated with the carriage of dangerous goods.
At the same time, the IMDG Code is not applicable to commodities which fulfil the requirements of certain maritime SPs, meaning that those commodities are not considered dangerous and do not need to be declared as such by the shipper to the carrier. For example, a consignment of charcoal, which could otherwise be considered dangerous as liable to spontaneous combustion is authorised to be shipped as non-dangerous cargo as long as it has passed the tests for self-heating substances and is accompanied by a certificate as required by the respective SP.
The growing number of casualties related to container fires suggests that the problem is exacerbating, despite the extensive provisions of the IMDG Code. The strong assumption of the paper is that maritime SPs in the IMDG Code have been a frequent basis for exempting goods from the safety provisions of the Code, when in fact those goods were later proven to be dangerous. A significant number of reports additionally suggests the intentional non-declaration or misdeclaration of dangerous goods by shippers. This is done in different ways, including the provision of fraudulent certificates to the carrier, in an attempt to achieve exemptions allowed under SPs and as such bypass the provisions of the IMDG Code. The paper suggests that a holistic approach should be taken to reduce the risk of incidents involving container and ship fires. A key element in this approach is the extent to which maritime SPs authorise exemptions from the application of the IMDG Code to the shipments of goods that otherwise would be considered dangerous.
Recent initiatives by shipping lines such as Maersk, Hapag Lloyd and MSC are addressing this serious topic and they agree that non- and misdeclaration is a serious root cause for fires on-board. In response they are increasing control of cargo and imposing fines for customers not complying with shipping lines requirements for declaration.