Transporting dangerous goods


Published: 9 December 2013

The Association has previously advised members in respect of a number of practical and loss prevention issues in respect of the carriage of dangerous cargoes. Further to those advices, the Association is grateful to Chris Potts for the Crump & Co December 2013 update on “Transportation of dangerous goods” which provides an insight in to the legal issues that arise from such carriage, and in particular when incidents occur that lead to liabilities and claims.

With the unabated rise in global commerce, the shipment of goods that are dangerous, or potentially dangerous, is increasingly common. With proper cargo declarations and prudent loss prevention these risks can be managed and mitigated so as to allow the transportation of dangerous goods without incident and for the economic benefit of all concerned..

It is when such prudent loss prevention measures are not implement, or when cargoes are not properly declared, then the risk of a serious incident is increases significantly. In recent years particularly the dangers of miss-declared containers, which may have lead to fires and explosions, as well cargoes prone to liquefaction that have grabbed the headlines with spectacular and often tragic consequences.

Additionally, however, it is important to be aware of who - legally - has taken the responsibility for ensuring that the cargo is safe for carriage and who will be held liable should something go wrong. That is a matter for contractual arrangement under charters, cargo documentation and sale contracts as well as for carriage conventions (like the Hague-Visby Rules) and other international regulations such as SOLAS, the IMSBC and the HNS Convention.

The mentioned case study in the attached update December 2013, while relating to an air freight accident, is also relevant to the container industry as a box may contain similarly dangerous cargoes which can lead to equally dramatic incidents.

The Association’s advice is that at all times a shipowner and master should take comfort in remembering that the overriding concern and duty is always towards safety and that a master will never be legally prevented from taking such steps as are necessary to ensure the safety of the crew and the vessel.

If there is any doubt or concern about a particular cargo it is always better to stop and check, rather than simply to continue loading and just “hoping for the best”.

Crump & Co: Transportation of dangerous goods - an update (December 2013).

The Association is grateful to Chris Potts of Messrs. Crump & Co for permission to republish their December 2013 update.