Hazardous and noxious substances – a port management perspective

As the chemicals industry continues to grow worldwide, the transport of chemicals classified as hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) in bulk, packaged and in containerised forms are also increasing. International conventions administered by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has responded to this growth with strict guidelines for HNS storage, segregation, packaging and transport, such as the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code and the International Bulk Chemicals (IBC) Code.

Common issues with packaged/containerised cargoes
As with many international regulatory standards, different companies and countries adhere to these standards at different levels. Many obey the strict letter of the law; unfortunately, some do not.

The inadequate packaging, stowage and labelling of HNS in packaged form within containers are among the most common problems encountered within ports around the world. IMDG Code compliance studies conducted in 2001 indicated that over 65 per cent of inspected cargo transport units had deficiencies with their labelling, packaging or documentation.

The diversity of cargoes transported as packaged goods within containerised units coupled with the significant potential for incident or injury when handled incorrectly, necessitates that large container ports have appropriate measures in place to manage these cargoes and the associated risks.

Port facilities
Most large container ports have established storage areas for segregation of leaking and/or damaged cargoes. Such areas, however, are rarely dedicated for this purpose and, consequently, do not offer the comprehensive infrastructure required to handle the range of hazards encountered.

Alex Spence, SEACOR Environmental Services, London, UK
Edition: Edition 41

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