Five Tricks for Safe Maritime Transport of Dangerous Goods

There are various modes of shipment for different types of goods depending on factors such as packaging, durability, expiry date, suitable temperatures, among others.  Goods requiring moderate care such as clothing, wearing apparel, toys and home décor accessories, can be shipped through a variety of modes without concern for loading and unloading.  As far as shipment complication is concerned, goods in the clothing category stand at the far left while dangerous goods stand at the far right.  Before touching on the five tricks for safe transport, we need to start by getting to know dangerous goods to be shipped.

            Dangerous goods are classified by type of dangerousness into nine categories, for example, combustible and flammable materials, toxic and infectious substances, corrosive materials, radioactive materials, explosive materials, among others.  Unless handled correctly, they can cause severe damage to the body, property, community and the environment.

            Dangerous goods can take the forms of solids, liquids or gases with both high and low temperatures, with pungent odor or odorless and with or without color and odor, while the degree of dangerousness can range from nausia and/or a burning sensation in the nostrils to loss of life.

Five Tricks for Safe Maritime Transport of Dangerous Goods

1. Knowing dangerous goods

Goods looking non-dangerous such as table tennis (ping pong) ball, nail polish, color and perfume could be assessed as dangerous in the context of transportation as they contain hazardous materials or substances.  When stored close to each other, they can cause hazardous reactions that are dangerous.

            Thus, knowing which of our goods can cause what types of danger will enable us to manage them, e.g. by putting them in packages that prevent reactions with other substances, storing them at a proper distance from goods or materials that may cause reactions, etc.

            Among various documents relating to the transport of dangerous goods is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which contains detailed information about dangerous goods and also states the chemical compound, chemical and physical properties, stability and susceptibility to chemical reactions, data on toxicity and ecology, features of dangerousness, storage, transport, packaging, personal protective equipment (PPE), first aid, firefighting, protective measures against leakage of toxic substances as well as eradication and management to prevent accidents or alleviate and minimize damage.

2. Compliance with Rules and Regulations Covering Transport of Dangerous Goods

The transport of dangerous goods is strictly controlled in every step of the process regardless of the mode of transportation.    This is because each process concerns humans and properties. 

Besides the operating complications in compliance with rules and regulations which are different and diverse depending each mode of transportation and restrictions imposed by each individual country and sometimes even by each state of the same country.  Thus, this article is going to touch on international rules governing maritime and air transport just to give you a rough picture of the situation.

       Maritime Transport:

The International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) has been created to internationally regulate the transport of dangerous goods by sea while ensuring safety of the crew, preventing marine pollution caused by leaks and spills of toxic substances and contaminants and building public confidence in safe marine transport.

Specific codes assigned to each category of dangerous goods contain definitions of technical terms and details for proper packaging, labeling, signs or symbols, storage and maintenance methods as well as measures to counteract emergencies.

       Air Transport:

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) plays an important role in setting standards and imposing rules and regulations covering passenger-centered services and operations including those working to ensure safe and smooth traveling and transportation.        

            IATA regulations have been enforced for more than six decades with occasional amendments to reflect the modern era and become more user-friendly.  They are recognized by airlines worldwide and presently have more than 100 member airlines.

3. Strict compliance with packaging procedures and standards

Also important is the method of arranging or stowing dangerous goods in order.  A case in point is, for example, the process of loading, stowing and transport of general cargo together with dangerous goods in a shipping container where the latter should be arranged and laid closest to the door to enhance swift and convenient access, timely segragation of the latter in case of emergency and alleviation of severe damage.

Given complications as regards dangerous goods management which give rise to cost increase, large numbers of logistics operators tend to ignore or fail to comply with the rules and regulations.  Thus, emergencies often result in damage to cargo or even loss of life/lives.

4. Checking to make sure that the packaging is appropriate for dangerous goods being handled

Packaging materials used for dangerous goods must be properly selected and suitably designed to reflect the nature of the cargo.  They must not (chemically) react with dangerous goods while helping protect and retain the original state of cargo, prevent leaks and spills or functioning as a temperature controller.  This is because certain dangerous goods might be affected by moisture, condensation or heat.  Besides, the packaging materials must be designed to facilitate safe transfer and handling.

In case where packages are to be reused, used labels or symbols must be removed or discarded because they might be misleading for workers such that dangerous goods are not correctly or properly handled and taken care of.

Despite different labeling requirements depending on the countries, the IMDG or UN numbers must be clearly stated as they specify the types of risk, degree of dangerousness and the sender’s emergency telephone number as well as country code that can be contacted round the clock to enable confirmation of emergency counteracting guideline.

5. Providing training for concerned personnel to ensure their understanding of dangerous goods and safety awareness

No matter how precisely the rules, regulations, requirements and work manuals have been researched and written, safety would mean nothing unless each party concerned is aware of their importance and puts them into practice and all parties in the chain be they shipping document preparers, loaders/unloaders, logistics workers or inspectors have been subjected to suitable training befitting their respective roles and understand the overall picture of work all through the entire chain.

Each individual worker should be familiar with rules and regulations relating to transportation, rules and regulations enforced at the port of destination and all related documents.

Summary

It’s clear that the delivery of dangerous goods requires a lot of expertise. Various aspects of the process need to be considered and prepared for with special attention. 

Operating agencies and all related parties must prioritise safety at the top of the list and get on the same page on implementation that strictly complies with regulations in place, it be document preparation, labeling, or symbols, all the way to reinforcement of transportation rules and standard operating procedures (SOP). 

On the other hand, transport of dangerous goods is not for any carrier. It must be handled by a qualified operator carrier that is, first and foremostly, aware of the risk involved and therefore implement safety measures that are embedded in the corporate culture and SOPs in order to handle the process responsibly, in a systematic way. On the physical side, to do so requires a carrier to meet facility and resource requirements that create conducive environments and facilitate operations that reflect planned measures. For corporate culture to reflect safety awareness and facility commitment requires safety narrative to be reflected in top level policy along with reinforced rules and SOPs. To handle complicated SOPs with experience operators, the best alternative for most companies thus is to outsource the entire supply chain to an expert logistics service provider capable of handling shipments with high safety standards. 

Foretunately, when it comes to the transport of dangerous goods, there’s an expert in town! Interested parties and strategic partners, please contact SCG-L at 02-586-5489 and simply ask for Khun Ithawat.

Compiled by: BLOG.SCGLogistics

References: freighthub.com

Photos: unsplash, modelegitimaraclari, dgm

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