Accidents and Knee Jerk Reactions

In the last article ‘Safety of Life at Shore ‘we looked at the accidents happened in Tianjin and Port of Santos and what measures can be taken by ports and CFSs/ICDs to avoid such incidents and accidents.

When we are not prepared and have not implemented basic measures to avoid incidents/accidents we get caught unaware and the consequences can be uncontrollably out of our hands, loss of lives, damage to environment and loss of properties. When we get caught unprepared with incidents of such magnitudes we tend to respond with a knee jerk reaction.

Reaction to Tianjin blast, occurred on 12 August 2015, suspected to have started with auto ignition of nitrocellulose and resulted in deaths of 173, injury to 797 and 8 missing, many ports in China went to heightened restrictions for dangerous goods. This was followed by various carriers and some other countries.

It is a safe decision to restrict handling of dangerous goods only if the restrictions are based on actual studies on risk analysis. Otherwise these newly introduced restrictions can only serve for hampering movements of goods in trade.

Ports and global carriers responded to Tianjin blast and Port of Santos fire incident by tightening the DG policy, some of which are listed below:

(Combination of carrier and port restrictions introduced)

Some not directly related to Tianjin

Combination of carrier and port restrictions introduced


Ports introducing quantity limitations, prohibition and or other restrictions based on risk analysis heightens safety and security. If the restrictions are based on unevaluated fear of other incidents happened elsewhere then the restrictions will not enhance safety or security but hamper trade.

When a port or a carrier insists for SDS for every DG box it really doesn’t make sense. Yes, shipper can provide the SDS and carrier can submit same. But why do we need SDS for every chemical when they are in concentrations listed in international chemical journals and dictionaries.

How ports and shore side can increase safety while keeping dangerous goods in their premises? Only by doing a quantitative and qualitative risk analysis for specific location considering lives, environment and economic impact.

Even if it is a knee jerk reaction imposing heightened safety measures and security cordon it does increase the safety and security. But what global trade need is prior evaluation of risks and measures to enhance safety & security and minimize accidents and incidents.

Unfortunately, there are still many ports in slumber mode with either no restrictions or illogical restrictions, for example one of the Indian terminal insisting Flammable gas placard must read 2.1 at the bottom corner and accept everything except class 4.3.

Here comes the wisdom and legal requirement of training. IMDG Code chapter 1.3 states “The successful application of regulations concerning the transport of dangerous goods and the achievement of their objectives are greatly dependent on the appreciation by all persons concerned of the risks involved and on a detailed understanding of the regulations. This can only be achieved by properly planned and maintained initial and retraining programmes for all persons concerned with the transport of dangerous goods. Shore-based personnel engaged in the transport of dangerous goods intended to be transported by sea shall be trained in the contents of dangerous goods provisions commensurate with their responsibilities. Employees shall be trained in accordance with the relevant provisions of IMDG Code before assuming responsibilities and shall only perform functions, for which required training has not yet been provided, under the direct supervision of a trained person.”

Being trained and being an expert are entirely two different things, however do get Trained and be prepared!