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
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)