Shippers continue to put lives at risk by flouting cargo regulations. And they’ll carry on getting away with it as competition among terminals for business is so fierce that blind eyes are turned on a daily basis to boxes that could kill.
A quick glance at our partner MarineTraffic’s site shows the severity of shippers failing to follow guidelines correctly. Remember the MSC Daniela? The 13,800 teu boxship suffered a fire on April 4 this year in its aft section off Sri Lanka. The ship continued to smoulder for weeks after the blaze was extinguished. MSC suspects shippers misdeclaring hazardous cargoes was the most likely reason for the blaze.
The ship was eventually able to make its own way to Shanghai, arriving on May 22, for what officials at the time said would be a fortnight’s repair work. As of today, MarineTraffic clearly shows this huge boxship still moored at China Shipping Industry’s Changxing yard.
The fire – caused most likely either by a non-declaration of IMDG cargo, or poor stowage of the same by the shipper – ripped through up to eight bays of the ship. All lashing platforms would have become distorted and now brittle, and will need replacement. New hatch covers will need to be fabricated. Cells guides might also need some attention, at least the opening flange part. Any electrics will have also burned out, so maybe a massive re-wiring is also required. Then a spot of painting and finally new sea-trials might also be required.
At least no one died in this accident.
The same type of unprofessional behavior by shippers was also likely the cause of the Tianjin port explosion two years ago, an inferno that killed 173 people and racked up damages in excess of $4bn.
I was chatting with a terminal operator today who described his week’s current travails. Operations had to be stopped on one ship on Monday as a hazardous container did not have labels. This container had loaded in another overseas port, been feedered, landed at a terminal nearby, stored, trucked through the port, entered the operator’s terminal, stored again and then loaded before anyone realised.
Tuesday saw the same hassled operator struggling with five feu which were loaded beyond their maximum payload, and whereas seemingly VGM compliant, needed to be lightered before shipment.
That same day he had to put up with customer sending a bayplan over, then asking my source to manually update 155 containers as IMDG hazardous.
“This is just a snippet of safety violations experienced this week, and we still have three days to go to complete the week,” my frustrated source confided.
There is little in terms of process efficiency or compliance within our industry, and we are very lucky that we only get a few cases such as the MSC Daniela.
The root of the problem lies with commercial competition. Terminal operators are unlikely to take a strong stance on non-compliance, as competitors hover nearby willing to take anything that comes their way.
Occasionally I get the odd greenwashing release from the world’s largest terminal operators, talking about what they are doing to save the environment together. It would be nice to see them come together with a collective stance on safety.