News Article

Are dangerous goods notes accurate enough?

The foremost regulatory responsibility of a consignor/shipper/offeror is to prepare dangerous goods so that they are compliantly classified, packed, marked, labelled and declared in accordance with applicable national and international transport regulations that any movement off premises will be subject to. Their function is to provide the information to carriers and specifically for surface clear, precise and unduplicated information to facilitate emergency response in the event of an incident…
Unlike some penalties, those in respect of dangerous goods are not restricted to the value of the product or the freight charges, but are a deterrent based on the risk that the products present or the consequential damage or injury that may arise in the event of spillage, contact or incident. Criminal sanctions are unlimited fines and up to two years’ imprisonment.

Consequential commercial liabilities can exceed a company’s liability insurance cover. In the recent case of the MSC Flaminia, the shared shipper and NVOC forwarder liabilities exceeded $300 million for failing to correctly declare hazardous cargo, which directly led to a massive and fatal explosion that nearly sank the ship. Many of the companies involved in the claims process incurred millions in unrecoverable costs in order to prove they were not liable. Shippers who do not obtain transit insurance do so at their own risk.

Those who do not manufacture dangerous goods, which may form a small part of the product or service they provide, may be reliant on identifying transport responsibilities by reference to Section 14 of the suppliers’ Safety Data Sheet (SDS), or alerted by the presence of warning pictograms on packaging.
This is not 100% reliable, as articles such as power tools do not have SDS or display warning pictograms, but are never the less classified as dangerous goods for transport. A battery-powered drill would be classified as UN3481, Lithium Ion Battery, contained in Equipment, Class 9. As ignorance is no defence, shippers must exercise considerable care that they do not inadvertently fall foul of the transport regulations concerning the supplies or equipment that they procure and incorporate in the consignments that they ship. Matters can be further complicated as some products sent by road (ADR) can be shipped without restriction, but are subject to transport regulations when carried by sea/ferry (IMDG) or air (ICAO-IATA), and in what may be a surprise to some vice-versa – for example UN3334 & UN3496.

The consignor, shipper, offeror and ex-works buyers have a responsibility to declare dangerous goods to any party contracted by them to transport, irrespective of mode. This requirement to declare in writing is a prerequisite contractual requirement of all carriers’ terms and conditions, irrespective of any legal obligations.
As most movements will start by road, ADR places responsibilities on all participants in respect of the dangerous goods information. The responsibility as to the content and format of how dangerous goods information is provided to the carrier is set out as legal requirement. Differences exist, but basically the format will comprise the dangerous goods description in a strict sequence of UN Number/Proper Shipping Name, Class/Division, and when applicable Packing Group. This is followed by the number and description of packages, as well as by road/sea the total mass per different identification, and by air, with a few exceptions, the net quantity per package.
The gross weight, as with other commercial details of the consignment, is a requirement of other regulations and of identification, customs and security.
By ROAD, the information does not have to be in printable form until the cargo is loaded on the vehicle as the information may, and frequently is, transmitted electronically between a number of parties or offices within the same company. But it does not mean that the same personnel involved can ignore the basis of what is required. ADR clearly sets out the responsibility of the consignor and/consignor’s agent with a regard to required information. It is not a case of a pass the parcel to avoid responsibilities.

As stated in the introduction, the document provides information to enable carriers to undertake their responsibilities. The various participants in the transport chain use the information in different ways. For example, the road haulier will use the information initially as an index to establish the transport categories, to calculate whether the load will exceed ADR Load Threshold (, require an ADR Hazchem trained driver, and identify applicable operational requirements or routing restrictions.
If Eurotunnel is involved, its policy is based on ADR but has numerous quantity restrictions, such as UN1263 – 250 Litres, Class 4.2 or multiple package labelling prohibitions in place that the carrier must comply with – it is more of a case of knowing not asking.

By SEA (including ferry), the party responsible for arranging the manifesting of containers or trailers must identify any applicable segregation codes that impact on what you can and cannot be loaded in the same CTU. These are set out in the Container Vehicle Packing Certificate that the shipper of the CTU must ensure is complied with. The carrier will then be responsible for load planning to take stowage/segregation into account, a bit like a game of 3D chess.
Individual carriers and some ports impose restrictions of the amounts of dangerous goods that they will accept, or can enter a port, so this can vary on a voyage basis. Some of the carriers within the same consortium will have an individual restriction that may again impact on a vessel availability. Some of the ferry services are restricted by the number of passengers carried in relation to their size. All these can lead to delay as they can impact differently on a sailing-by-sailing basis.

By AIR, after initially having an option of either passenger/cargo or cargo aircraft only, the forwarder will, as with SEA, verify based on the operator and states en route any applicable operator/state restrictions. With over 500 restrictions, these can impact on and delay despatch.

When documents are not scrutinised by the participants in the transport chain, basic errors can easily mask problems of carrier selection or restrictions. Cargo originally booked on one sailing may have been accepted but then subsequently rejected as the routing may include a port with its own restrictions, or a ferry with too many passengers (Stowage Category E).
It is all too easy to pass incorrect documentation down the line and only react when someone rejects it, often the airline or ocean carrier. It can also be an eye-opener to see how many within the transport chain are clearly ignorant of the lessons to be learnt from the MSC Flaminia containership fire. That has shown that operators can be held to account if there is a major incident, should subsequent investigations expose poor or inadequate training that judges may find of interest.

“Article extracted from BIFA Link”

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