Fines for dangerous goods mis-declaration

Shipping lines including Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, HMM and OOCL have announced that they will implement fines up to $15k for dangerous goods mis-declaration, which many lines suspect are behind recent containership fires.

Industry action follows insurer TT Club’s ‘Cargo Integrity’ campaign that seeks to promote good practice, as set out in the CTU Code (IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units), and to reveal behaviours leading to dangerous incidents on land or at sea.container ship fire

According to the Cargo Incident Notification System, up to 25% of all serious incidents on board containerships are attributable to mis-declared cargo.

Counter-measures imposed by lines include the introduction of fines for shippers and the strengthening of inspection procedures.

Hapag Lloyd’s penalty of $15k per container, comes into force, for cargo from China, today. In a statement the line said. “Failure to properly offer and declare hazardous cargoes prior to shipment is a violation of the Hazardous Material Regulations. Such violations may be subject to monetary fines and/or criminal prosecution under applicable law.”

“To ensure the safety of our crew, ships and other cargo onboard, Hapag-Lloyd holds the Shipper liable and responsible for all costs and consequences related to violations, fines, damages, incidents, claims and corrective measures resulting from cases of undeclared or mis-declared cargoes.”

The German carrier saw a fire on board its ship Yantian Express earlier this year, which took weeks to extinguish.

According to Lloyd’s List, South Korea’s Hyundai Merchant Marine has also brought in penalties at the same rate, while Hong Kong’s COSCO-owned OOCL is introducing fines of unspecified amounts.

In a related development Maersk has begun checking import and export cargo in US ports, to verify that contents match descriptions given and that cargo is correctly stuffed, latched and secured. 

“By performing these container inspections, we hope to remove some of the risk from mis-declared or incorrectly stuffed containers for all parties involved in handling and transporting cargo, as well as work towards an overall industry improvement of safety and reliability in the containerised maritime supply chain,” the company said. 

In a case where corrective action is needed to properly secure a cargo or change a declaration, the cost will be charged to the shipper or consignee, depending on the direction of the container. Containers that have already been transported by sea and containers that have already undergone inspection at the loading port will still be eligible for the random inspections, Maersk said.