Safe transport of dangerous substances in containers. (2023)

An international group of P&I clubs and shipping members of the Cargo Accident Notification System (CINS) have recently produced a new set of guidelines for the transport of calcium hypochlorite in containers. UK Club Risk Assessor David Nichol discusses why it was deemed necessary to update the guidelines for cargo that has already been involved in fires on board, as well as the broader problem of misdeclared dangerous goods. If a fire breaks out at sea, the crew does not have the option of simply evacuating the building and waiting for the arrival of the fire brigade. The crew have to figure it out themselves. Locating the exact source of a fire on a fully loaded container ship and extinguishing it with limited manpower and available resources is a daunting task for the crew. It is imperative for the safety of the ship and the crew that all necessary measures are taken for the handling and storage of dangerous goods in such a way that the risk of an emergency is minimized and that, in the event of a fire, the crew have the information to react quickly with appropriate fire extinguishing measures. For this to be possible, the ship's master must be provided with a correct and universally recognized description of the goods and the potential hazards they may represent.

While David was a ship inspector, he was involved in the investigation of a major explosion and fire on a container ship crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The incident led to the deaths of several crew members and caused extensive structural damage to the ship. It was determined that the explosion was caused by flammable gas in one of the holds, which was ignited by the crew performing maintenance on deck. The gas leaked from a series of tanks filled with expanded polystyrene balls, which may not seem particularly dangerous to the layman, but are a heavier pentane-containing material in air that can be released during storage. Although it is a cargo that required special requirements and precautions during transport, the shipper did not properly declare or mark it as such.

Shippers have always faced the possibility of being presented with goods that are unsafe for shipping. It is a well-established principle in maritime law, contained in the Hague-Visby Rules, that the shipper is not required to load dangerous goods without the knowledge and consent of the carrier. The master of the ship cannot be an expert in this regard and his practical ability to judge the safety of the goods depends to a great extent on the description given by the shipper and on the apparent external markings and condition of the shipper.

If a fire breaks out at sea, the crew does not have the option of simply evacuating the building and waiting for the arrival of the fire brigade.

Shipping cargo in sealed containers, which can be loaded at locations far from seaports beyond the carrier's control, means the carrier is more dependent than ever on the accuracy of the cargo description.

IMDG code

All dangerous goods must be transported in accordance with the provisions of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, which is a comprehensive set of internationally accepted rules that allow for the safe transport of packaged dangerous goods by sea. As approximately 10% of all container cargo is dangerous goods, almost all container ship services fall within the scope of the Code. The Code requires the shipper to provide a description of the product and a classification of any hazards such as toxicity or flammability. It sets limits on the type and size of packaging, specifies warning signs and labels, establishes rules for co-loading in a container, and outlines a documentation system that requires shippers and packers to certify in writing that they have followed the Code's rules. . . In addition, there are provisions for proper storage and emergency instructions for handling dangerous goods on board. The IMDG Code allows for the carriage of dangerous goods to be acceptable under controlled risk conditions and, provided the ship is fully aware of the risk, packaging is adequate and intact, and storage and segregation are in accordance with the IMDG Code. Code, the ship must be able to cope with an unexpected occurrence.

Why do the incidents happen?

The incidents are usually not caused by the product itself, but by a breach of the IMDG Code. Calcium hypochlorite has a known history of causing serious incidents on ships, but it is by no means the only cargo with an enviable reputation. The following factors contribute, individually or in combination, to causing incidents:

• Incorrect declaration or no declaration of the sender

• Quality and choice of packaging.

• Provision and accuracy of documentation and labeling.

• Professionalization of the container packaging process.

• Human factors: regional, cultural and corporate attitudes towards good practices and compliance.

• Uncontrolled irregularities in the product production process.

• Mishandling or falling of the container

A carrier may misdeclare dangerous goods, either as a deliberate attempt to defraud or through ignorance. Deliberate misstatement may be made in describing the cargo as a product normally considered harmless to avoid additional transportation costs or the more stringent transportation requirements specified in the IMDG Code.

Analysis of data collected by CINS during 2013-2014. shows that 27% of incidents in terms of detected causation can be attributed to incorrect cargo declaration, second only to poor packaging (CINS share includes almost 70% of global container handling capacity).

The failure of carriers to properly declare dangerous goods is an ongoing challenge for shipowners and has contributed significantly to numerous high-profile maritime accidents involving loss of life and severe structural damage, not to mention many minor and serious incidents. near misses. Worryingly, GI clubs have noted an apparent increase in container fires involving calcium hypochlorite in recent years, which in most cases, the investigation found, had been misreported by shippers.

calcium hypochlorite

A chemical widely used to clean water supplies, as a swimming pool disinfectant, and as a bleach, it occurs as a white or yellowish solid in powder, granule, or tablet form. Calcium hypochlorite is an oxidizing agent and is classified as a Class 5.1 oxidizer in the IMDG Code. However, it is also unstable and undergoes exothermic decomposition at high temperatures, releasing chlorine, oxygen, and heat, or in the presence of impurities such as powdered metals or certain organic compounds. The rate of decomposition increases with temperature and worsens when heat cannot escape from within the material. The release of heat and oxygen in the self-accelerating reaction has caused serious fires and explosions, and oxygen sustains and intensifies any fires already started by the decomposition reaction. The release of toxic chlorine gas also poses an additional risk to personnel.

There are different descriptions of calcium hypochlorite with corresponding separate UN numbers listed in the IMDG code. However, calcium hypochlorite can be mislabeled as calcium chloride, and other names found include BK powder, bleaching powder, CCH, sanitizer, Hy-chlor, chloride-lime, or chlorinated lime. The IMDG Code requires cargo to be declared under the "proper shipping name" to avoid misdeclaration issues. Calcium Hypochlorite is the proper shipping name and therefore should only be shipped under that name with the appropriate UN number.

The new guidelines for calcium hypochlorite in tanks are the result of working groups established by IG Clubs and CINS members, sharing their views and experiences and conducting a comprehensive review of previous FAQs created by IG Clubs in 2010. The guidelines can effectively be considered the "IMDG Code plus precautions" as they incorporate selected provisions of the IMDG Code plus additional precautions as advised by the consulting scientists. We hope these new guidelines will be seen as providing clearer and more logical step-by-step guidance on issues related to cargo hazards, IMDG Code classification, container selection, container packing and on-board storage.

A copy of the new guidelines is available in the Circular.16/10.If you would like more information on this topic or additional loss prevention tips, please contact us.Loss Prevention Department:loss prevention.ukclub@thomasmiller.comThis article is excerpted from the latest version of Hellas Highlights available for


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