SIX million containers shipped each year are likely to contain dangerous cargoes that have been misdeclared, according to the Standard Club's deputy director of loss prevention captain John Dolan.
Addressing the UAE branch of the International Institute of Marine Surveying in Dubai, Mr Dolan said that the rapid rise in containership size makes tackling the issue both more urgent and challenging, reported Colchester's Seatrade Maritime News.
Based on data released by the TT Club, up to 18,000 containers at sea could contain undeclared or misdeclared cargoes every day, Mr Dolan pointed out.
Many shippers fail to declare dangerous cargoes to avoid packaging and volume restrictions required by the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code or simply to avoid paying extra freight rates for dangerous goods. Lack of appropriate training among cargo booking personnel is also a contributing factor.
Mr Dolan told participants that more vigilance is required. Among a series of recommendations, he said that carriers should gain more knowledge of their customers and develop firm relationships; take extra care on due diligence and the closer vetting of new shippers; and pay particular attention to freight forwarders and the booking processes of slot charterers.
His comments come amid mounting insurance industry concerns in the wake of a string of fires on large box ships believed to have been caused by misdeclared dangerous cargoes.
On average, a serious fire requiring external assistance on large containerships now happens every 30 days, while the TT Club also reports that box ship crews themselves are tackling at least one fire per week. These casualties are estimated to be costing the insurance industry half a billion US dollars annually.
The result is contributing to rising insurance premiums, both for hull and machinery and Protection and indemnity insurance (P&I) cover. A survey by accountancy services firm, BDO, highlighted insurance costs as the most likely cost centre to increase rapidly from 2020 onwards.