Dan­ger­ous goods: Han­dle with care

Trans­port­ing dan­ger­ous goods is in­her­ently a high-risk propo­si­tion. But since it has to be done, there is an in­dus­try ded­i­cated to it. Rad­hara­manan Pan­icker, Di­rec­tor, DGM In­dia talks about the risks in­volved in trans­port­ing dan­ger­ous goods, safety and th

Cargo Talk - - Front Page -

The in­dus­try both con­sumes and cre­ates an abun­dance of hazardous ma­te­rial that must be stored, han­dled and also trans­ported across the globe. Dan­ger­ous goods are sub­stances which, by virtue of their chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and or tox­i­co­log­i­cal prop­er­ties, pose risk to health, safety, prop­erty and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Trans­porta­tion of goods

As dan­ger­ous goods trade in­creases due to ris­ing de­mands for prod­ucts around the globe, the risk as­so­ci­ated with trans­porta­tion of such goods also grow man­i­fold. The risk is not just in re­spect of dam­age to prop­erty, en­vi­ron­ment or risk to hu­man life, but can be a business and a rep­u­ta­tional risk as well.

Be­cause of its high risk, there is in­ter­na­tional and na­tional reg­u­la­tion which strictly reg­u­lates the move­ment and trans­port of dan­ger­ous goods in or­der to pre­vent any such in­ci­dent from hap­pen­ing. The in­creas­ingly aware pub­lic and the ever-vig­i­lant en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists can cause sub­stan­tial dam­age to the rep­u­ta­tion of an en­ter­prise re­spon­si­ble for such in­ci­dents or ac­ci­dent.

This reg­u­la­tion is based on the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­pal that dan­ger­ous goods can be safely trans­ported if the ship­pers rightly clas­si­fies and iden­ti­fies the dan­ger­ous goods. And only then should the en­ter­prise pack, mark and la­bel the pack­age con­tain­ing the dan­ger­ous goods cor­rectly. The ship­per then also hands over to the car­rier a prop­erly pre­pared and signed dan­ger­ous goods dec­la­ra­tion.

So the pack­ing of dan­ger­ous goods play a very sig­nif­i­cant role in mit­i­gat­ing the risk in trans-

port of dan­ger­ous goods and make it safe for car­riage. Such a pack­age needs to be man­u­fac­tured as per spec­i­fi­ca­tion, tested and cer­ti­fied as per the reg­u­la­tion.

As a mem­ber of In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO), In­dia has rat­i­fied the ICAO tech­ni­cal in­struc­tion for safe trans­port of dan­ger­ous goods and has also en­acted the Air­craft (Car­riage of Dan­ger­ous Goods) Rules-2003. Th­ese rules makes it manda­tory for ev­ery ship­pers and freight for­warder, and also ev­ery­one in­volved, to strictly follow the said reg­u­la­tion in re­spect of trans­port of dan­ger­ous goods. Sec­tion 10 of the In­dian Air­craft Act 1934 spec­i­fies a penalty of ` 10 lakh or im­pris­on­ment of two years for vi­o­la­tion of the reg­u­la­tions.

Sim­i­larly in case of sea cargo, the gov­ern­ment has rat­i­fied In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­gan­i­sa­tion (IMO) and the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Dan­ger­ous Goods (IMDG) code – the reg­u­la­tion for trans­port of dan­ger­ous goods by sea.

The roots of Dan­ger­ous Goods Man­age­ment (DGM) are in oil and gas op­er­a­tions. Full ser­vice com­pa­nies at oil­fields can be hand­i­capped by con­flict­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the in­ter­na­tional rules and reg­u­la­tions when they need to trans­port chem­i­cals, com­mer­cial ex­plo­sives or ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als to the mostly re­mote drilling sites; rules such as IATA Ver­sus ADR ver­sus IMDG, lo­cal rules and de­crees, etc.

Risks in the business and how DGM is safe­guarded against this risk:

When the ship­per is sign­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion, he takes a big risk of stat­ing that he is in com­pli­ance with all in­ter­na­tional and na­tional reg­u­la­tion, when he ac­tu­ally doesn’t un­der­stand all the reg­u­la­tions prop­erly. The rea­son is very sim­ple. Very of­ten the per­son who signs the Dec­la­ra­tion is not the one who has pre­pared or packed the ship­ment. So he doesn’t know what is in the pack­age.

The sec­ond risk he takes is when he uses sub-stan­dard pack­ag­ing ma­te­rial to save costs. In dan­ger­ous goods business, you can­not cut cor­ners. Un­for­tu­nately in In­dia, we have too many fake ‘pack­ages’ be­ing sold.

In an 18-month study done in US by Cargo In­ci­dent No­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem group (CINS), it was found that 46 per cent of dan­ger­ous goods ac­ci­dents were caused by leak­age and 24 per cent caused by mis-dec­la­ra­tion. In terms of po­ten­tial cause, over 30 per cent of cases, the ac­ci­dents hap­pened due to poor pack­ag­ing.

Last year, the US Gov­ern­ment col­lected nearly US$1.85 mil­lion in penal­ties for vi­o­la­tions of dan­ger­ous goods reg­u­la­tion just from ship­pers and freight for­warders.

(Rad­hara­manan Pan­icker is

the Di­rec­tor of DGM In­dia)

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