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Extreme increase in undeclared hazardous materials

May 4, 2016

The German transportation company Hapag-Lloyd has recently announced that in 2015 they saw an immense 65% increase in improperly declared hazardous materials that were carried by cargo. The announcement has been made possible due to Hapag-Lloyd’s Watchdog IT system, which analyses cargo data and flags up anything suspicious. This special safety software was industrialised by the company’s ocean carriers’ information technology and dangerous goods experts. It has been key in identifying dangerous goods, as it continuously checks for potentially hazardous materials.

Hapag-Lloyd announced that in 2015 they pin-pointed 4314 cases of incorrectly declared cargo. This is a 65% increase from 2014. It is believed that their dangerous goods specialists examined more than 236,000 suspicious cases which came to the attention of the firm’s safety software in 2015. This is a 46% growth from the previous year.

Why exactly has this increase occurred?
This swift increase in incorrectly declared hazardous materials is primarily down to two factors. One of the key reasons is the Tianjin explosion in China, which took place at a warehouse at the port which held hazardous chemicals. It’s widely reported that these chemicals were improperly stored, which caused the blast and left 173 people dead. Subsequently security measures were greatly tightened at the warehouse. The dangerous goods guidelines were tightened tremendously, and even prohibited hazardous goods completely in some cases. Rainer Horn, a spokesman from Hapag Lloyd, clarified that: “Many Chinese ports banned dangerous goods cargo partly or wholly after the explosions. So shippers didn’t declare their dangerous goods cargo hoping that they could get the cargo through.” Despite the fact that some ports have restrictions and rules in place which prohibit dangerous goods, some shippers are deliberately not declaring goods so that they can use all ports and carriers.

It’s believed that the other major reason for this increase in undeclared harmful goods is Hapag-Lloyds merger with CSAV’s container business. This merger boosted their overall business, and as a result increased the overall number of undeclared hazardous materials.

So what are the dangers involved with this increase?
The Tianjin blast highlights the importance of both appropriate storage and declaration of hazardous goods. Dangerous goods which are not declared hold a massive threat. In a statement Hapag-Lloyd described how: “Dangerous goods that are declared imprecisely, incorrectly or not at all have the potential to pose a major risk to crews, ships, the environment and other cargo on board.” It is extremely important for the crew members to know exactly what is inside the containers, so that they are able to carry out the correct handling procedures.

It’s clear from Hapag-Lloyd’s recent announcements about undeclared hazardous materials that there is a pressing need to improve health and safety legislation. Ken Rohlmann, head of the company’s dangerous goods department, sums up the danger of incorrectly declared dangerous goods in his statement: “If you consider that a single incorrectly declared container is enough to cause a disaster, the devastating potential of every single incorrect or non-declaration becomes clear.”

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