The International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) has recently highlighted a Health and Safety Operational Alert – “Fumigated Cargoes, Liverpool Incident” issued by Peel Ports Group.
umigation is the process of releasing toxic gases (pesticides) into a cargo hold or compartment for the purpose of eliminating or avoiding infestation by insects or other pests that may cause the cargo to deteriorate.
Shipowners, charterers or agents may arrange for fumigation in the ship’s hold. In-transit fumigation is often preferred by shippers and charterers because it reduces time in port. If transported as part of a sea journey, fumigants must be transported in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation’s Dangerous Goods Code which is given force by the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods and Marine Pollutant) Regulations.
In this incident, a vessel carrying sweet potato pellets from China arrived, and on preparing to discharge the bulk bags, stevedores noticed that partially empty cannisters were distributed within the holds.
On investigation, these were confirmed to be fumigation cannisters (aluminium phosphide) and it was confirmed that the cargo had been recently treated in three holds.
All operations were immediately brought to a halt and the MCA, MAIB and HSE were informed. The MCA has since taken enforcement action against the vessel’s Master and are continuing with their investigation.
Whilst there is a legal duty on the Master to inform the receiving port of a fumigated cargo, it cannot be relied upon. Ports must positively establish for themselves, that no fumigants have been employed.