It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of all containers contain dangerous goods; that means that the new generation of ultra-large containerships can be carrying more than 1,000 boxes with dangerous goods (DG) on any given voyage.
Ocean carriers have to undertake a significant number of complex but critical checks on each DG consignment, for each leg of a vessel’s voyage. However the checks assume that the shipper has properly declared the cargo as DG in the first place. In most cases shippers do try to do this but mistakes can be made due to lack of competence; unfortunately in some cases there is wilful misdeclaration to save costs or time. In other cases the cargo may have been properly declared, but when it comes to packing and stowing the cargo in the container the correct procedures may not have been used.
Unless the container is physically opened and inspected by the shipping line or the authorities then it is impossible to know if the cargo is completely safe for transport. The inspection process takes time and costs money so not every declared DG container is inspected; indeed, not every container line has the same regime.
Nevertheless, the number of inspections is increasing helped by companies like the National Cargo Bureau who recommend the establishment of a DG container inspection program and a common, centralized database accepted by industry to provide a minimum standard of quality control, capture inspection information for analysis and ensure efficient use of resources. Hazcheck Inspections is a web-based database and access portal for inspection companies to plan and enter details of cargo inspections completed on behalf of container or vessel operators.