2019 has seen a significant increase in incidents regarding shipment of dangerous goods, including a number of high-profile ship fires. This has given more attention and urgency to efforts by the lines and initiatives such as the CINS Organisation to enhance safety in the maritime supply chain.

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One element that has been identified as prone to error and inefficiency for processing dangerous goods internationally relates to terminal and port prohibitions and restrictions. Carriers must consider numerous rules that may exist not just between the original port of loading and the ultimate port of discharge, but also both transhipment and transit ports.

What is more, container ship operators, ‘charter’ space in their ships to 'partner' lines to provide customers a wider delivery network than that serviced by their own ships alone. Many lines have sharing agreements (VSAs) or 'slot charter agreements' with upwards of five partner lines on some routes. This system is important for economic slot utilisation.

Overall, about 10% of containers on deep sea container ships, upwards of a thousand containers on any of the larger container ships, contain dangerous goods. In certain trades this amount can be higher. For each of these shipments there are crucial checks to be made against the particular voyage legs for the dangerous goods being shipped.

While lines may restrict or prohibit certain classes of dangerous goods (particularly explosives, radioactive materials and some organic peroxides), and there may be physical limitations on board specific ships in order to comply with regulations (suitable space is finite), it is especially complex to accommodate rules applied by terminals and ports

TT Club said.

For this reason, carriers need to consider the expected port calls. Many ports and individual container terminals have strict rules on the classes of dangerous goods that can be loaded, unloaded or transhipped. These restrictions often apply also for cargo intended to stay on the ship while it is in port. Lines cannot afford to have their schedules interrupted because the 'wrong' dangerous goods are aboard a ship.

In addition, there is no single database of port and terminal restrictions or indeed operator restrictions. This leaves each shipping line trying to capture and keep its own record of port and terminal restrictions as they change on a frequent basis anywhere in their global network.