In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Ian J. Lennard, President & CEO of the National Cargo Bureau (NCB) refers to their new container inspections safety initiative, highlighting it is critical industry stakeholders to join forces in favor of container ship safety.
olutions such as cargo screening or robust container inspection programs can form a common baseline for safety while further harmonization of dangerous goods, international regulations , i.e. IMDG Code and national dangerous goods regulatory requirements would also assist in minimizing confusion, Ian Lennard suggests. In this context, and as their Container Inspection Safety Initiative has revealed, when there is a reasonable chance shipments will be inspected, shippers and consolidators are more likely to comply with applicable regulations. As a result, ongoing, container inspection programs work and can enhance cargo safety.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities in your agenda for the next five years?
Ian Lennard: We will continue to be guided by our mission of Safety of Life and Cargo at Sea. Top priorities include:
1. Robust data collection and analysis to provide risk profiles of cargo shipments through global screening of cargo booking data aided by machine learning; expanded container inspections conducted physically or remotely by NCB surveyors or other companies with inspection results compiled in a common data base; and sharing of industry incident data.
2. Safer carriage of problematic cargos such as Lithium Ion batteries through broad collaboration with industry and regulators.
3. Expanded training opportunities, particularly for those parties that are not intentional bad actors but are just unaware of the regulations and the proper way to prepare cargo for shipment.
S4S: Tell us a few words about your Container Inspection Safety Initiative. What is the focus and goals of the Initiative?
I.L.: The current Container Inspection Safety Initiative (CISI) is a follow-up to our initial CISI that was conducted in 2018 in the aftermath of the MAERSK HONAM incident. Over 55% of the 500 containers inspected during the first initiative were revealed to be non-compliant, with 43% failing due to poorly secured dangerous goods and 6.5% found to be carrying mis-declared cargos, many of which posed a serious threat to the ship and crew. A major difference now is our ability to perform remote inspections, in addition to physical inspections, on a global basis. The goal of this second CISI is to further magnify problems and recommend corrective actions for future safety improvements, driving an industry-wide shift towards a safer maritime environment.
S4S: What are currently the key challenges for container ships from your perspective?
I.L.: Commercial pressures and the fast pace at which cargos are expected to move reduces the turn time for review of dangerous goods at every stage of transportation, leading to more shipboard related issues, particularly for “new” cargos that may present risks that the carrier is potentially not prepared for. Fighting a container fire is already very difficult for a ship’s crew to handle while at sea, particularly as container vessels become larger and larger, and the increasing volumes of Lithium Ion batteries and Electric Vehicle (EV) incidents, for instance, are proving to be very challenging in successfully fighting these fires. The added risk of carrying undeclared and mis-declared dangerous goods only magnifies this issue.
S4S: What are the lessons learned from your last Container Inspection Safety?
I.L.: Robust, ongoing, container inspection programs work! During the first CISI, for dangerous goods containers exported from the US, the failure rate was 38% which, when compared to the annual average of 7.9% for our regular, ongoing inspections, may be a strong indication that shippers and consolidators are more likely to comply with applicable regulations if there is a reasonable chance their shipment will be inspected. It was also apparent during the first CISI that many shippers and consolidators have a general lack of knowledge of the IMDG and CTU Codes. Once they were informed of the regulations or discrepancy, most understood the importance of following the regulations and modified their procedures and training moving forward.
S4S: Have you noticed any trend(s) during the last years and a possible alarming trend(s) for the years to come with respect to cargo handling?
I.L.: We are seeing many damaged vehicles, both Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEV) and EV’s being packed in containers for export. These damaged vehicles have a much greater possibility of starting a fire due to faulty batteries and electrical systems short circuiting and leaking fluids. Additionally, we are now seeing used batteries from EV’s being packed in containers for recycling. If these batteries are not suitably packaged and secured, they can easily short circuit. Same is true for other used batteries, such as laptop and regular 12v car batteries. All need to be suitably packaged and secured, but unfortunately, we have seen that this is often not the case.
S4S: What is your wish list for the industry and/or regulators and all parties involved with respect to container ship safety?
I.L.: It is important that we continue to work together as an industry to enhance container ship safety. Our wish list would include industry solutions such as cargo screening or robust container inspection programs that form a common baseline for safety and are embraced by all relevant parties. Further harmonization of dangerous goods regulations between modes of transportation, international regulations such as the IMDG Code and the multitude of national dangerous goods regulatory requirements would also assist in minimizing confusion, ensuring compliance, and reducing the number of mis-declared or undeclared dangerous goods shipments in transportation.
S4S: How can we create the right mindset, engage our people and reinforce the right behaviors for strengthening safety culture onboard container ships?
I.L.: Container vessel operators bear a disproportionate level of the risk associated with the carriage of non-compliant dangerous goods and most have a robust culture to keep their ships and crews safe. However, with the proliferation of vessel sharing agreements and carrier alliances, it only takes one entity who is not adhering to best practices, to expose other operators who do follow best practices to the potential for disaster. As such, it is critical that all operators embrace training, deploy meaningful ramifications for bad actors, and engage in the use of industry solutions such as container inspections, digital screening, and validation tools to minimize the carriage of non-compliant cargos and the potential incidents that can occur when transporting these cargos.
S4S: If you could change one thing that would have either an immediate or profound impact on performance of the containership market, what would it be and why?
I.L.: It was apparent during our first CISI that many shippers and consolidators have a general lack of knowledge of the IMDG and CTU Codes. This is partly due to many companies treating dangerous goods compliance as simply a regulatory mandate rather than an integral part of their safety culture. This ultimately results in improper handling, securing and documentation of dangerous goods which can lead to catastrophic incidents onboard container ships. Incorporating dangerous goods compliance into a robust safety culture, throughout the supply chain, through documented policy and procedures backed by upper management, regular auditing, and testing, and proper (function specific and competency based) training should have a profound impact on container ship safety.
S4S: Do you have any projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
I.L.: As touched on above, we have commenced our Container Inspection Safety Initiative 2.0. Unlike the 1st initiative, we now have the capability to conduct remote inspections anywhere in the world. While this gives us more coverage for the initiative it allows us to perform container inspections globally on an ongoing basis as well as perform other types of inspections and investigations. We continue to develop and improve our digital cargo screening tool with the addition of machine learning AI.
S4S: What is your message to industry stakeholders for enhancing safety performance onboard containerships?
I.L.: We are all in this together, whether it is your cargo, your ship, or your insured. All have a responsibility for safety. We are all a part of the solution.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes discussion purposes only.