In light of the accident in the Indian ocean that caused container feeder vessel X-Press Pearl to sink, insurance service provider TT Club noted the continuing problem of ship fires caused by mishandling dangerous goods
TT Club urged stakeholders involved in transporting such cargoes to “step up to their responsibilities and to act with transparency and diligence in matters of safety in transport.”
A statement read “The X-Press Pearl’s sad fate is the latest in a disappointing recent and persistent catalogue of container ship fires of varying degrees of severity, which occur on an almost weekly basis. The vast majority of these are initiated by a cargo of a hazardous nature. One estimate puts the number of mis- or undeclared dangerous cargoes in excess of 150,000 containers a year – each of which has disastrous potential. While still to be fully investigated, the catalyst for the inferno on X-Press Pearl has been asserted to be a leakage of nitric acid, which was correctly declared, but apparently incorrectly packaged.”
TT Club said it is involved in promoting awareness and wider use of the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code) and seeking changes in regulatory requirements to improve the clarity, application, implementation and enforcement of mandatory regulations, including the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
Risk management director Peregrine Storrs-Fox said, “It is a significant challenge to have all those responsible for the safe dispatch of general cargo follow the CTU Code, particularly when done on behalf of other parties and disconnected from transport risks.”
“However, dangerous goods are subject to mandatory regulation. In the case of this casualty, we see another element to the problem. The offending cargo was apparently correctly declared, with its relevant properties known, and presumably originating from an experienced shipper. Yet for whatever reason, the packaging was inappropriate or the packing and/or securing within the container was insufficient, resulting in a dangerous leakage. While supply chains are complex and the hazards numerous, relevant knowledge and guidance are critical, within a control environment that must include effective inspection and enforcement regimes.”
Mr Storrs-Fox added that the latest meeting of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee debated the issue of box ship fires in detail, but stressed the need for industry-led initiatives.
“An understanding by all the actors in the supply chain of safe packaging, packing, loading and unloading of containers, and of the need for detailed, accurate information of the cargo’s attributes and any potentially hazardous reactions to any eventuality occurring through the entire transit, is necessary.”
The CTU Code has an existing framework guidance for cargo packing. TT Club and other members of the Cargo Integrity Group are producing the CTU Code - Quick Guide and Container Packing Checklist to enable easier reference to the Code.
The quick reference is available in English, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin and Traditional) and Spanish.
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