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AFTER several high-profile incidents such as the Yantian Express fire in January, several ocean carriers have announced heavy fines for misdeclaring hazardous cargo.

Hapag-Lloyd recently announced it would levy a US$15,000 fine for misdeclared hazardous cargo, and said it would hold the shipper liable for all costs and consequences related to violations, fines, damages, incidents, claims and corrective measures resulting from undeclared or misdeclared cargoes.

A statement from the company said it was in the overall interest of safe operation onboard.

“Failure to properly offer and declare hazardous cargoes prior to shipment is a violation of the Hazardous Material Regulations,” the statement said.

“Such violations may be subject to monetary fines and/or criminal prosecution under applicable law.”

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TT Club has welcomed such initiatives. The international transport insurer said it had growing concerns about the lax cargo packing practices and erroneous, sometimes fraudulent, declaration of cargoes.

TT Club risk management director Peregrine Storrs-Fox said it was clear the shipper has primary responsibility to declare fully and honestly so the carriers are able to take appropriate actions to achieve safe transport.

“Since this is not always the case, carriers have to put in place increasingly sophisticated and costly control mechanisms to ‘know their customers’, screen booking information and physically inspect shipments,” he said.

“Equally, carriers have the opportunity to review any barriers to accurate shipment declaration, including minimising any unnecessary restrictions and surcharges.

“Penalising shippers where deficiencies are found should be applauded. Furthermore, government enforcement agencies are encouraged to take appropriate action under national or international regulations to deter poor practices further.”

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