Transportation by ships (which is governed by IMDG codes) significantly impacts our daily lives.
On World Maritime Day 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted, “Everyone benefits from shipping, but few people realize that Maritime transport is central to global commerce and prosperity.”
People aren’t aware of it, so why is it so little known? Maritime shipping transports approximately 90% of the world’s trade, but unlike other modes of transportation, it is mostly conducted in the shadows. We use and consume every day the affordable finished goods shuttled by sea, as well as the raw materials that were used to make them. We all have an interest in the integrity of the maritime industry simply because of this reason.
The world is being transported by tens of thousands of cargo ships and several million cargo containers as you read this. A large proportion of container trade now consists of dangerous goods, with a volume that is on the rise. In addition, a growing number of containerships are losing their lives as a direct result of dangerous goods that are transported but are not prepared adequately, are not declared, or have not been declared at all. These incidents may have been prevented if IMDG dangerous goods training had been performed properly.
Meanwhile, IMDG training provides an invaluable means of supporting the globally dispersed, but largely unnoticed, efforts of around 50,000 crewmembers aboard containerships at any given time.
IMDG Code’s Vital Role
With an industry spanning the globe, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) can be considered to be the most important international regulatory body when it comes to the safety of maritime transport, the protection of aquatic habitats, the establishment of international standards, and promoting harmonization in a huge and highly profitable industry. IMDG Code contains the IMO regulations regarding the transport of dangerous goods by sea. These regulations relate to all parties involved in bringing dangerous goods to port and even the crew of the vessel. It is imperative that all parties involved know what to do, communicate, and coordinate with one another so that dangerous goods can be transported safely.
According to the IMDG Code, regulations for vessel carriage of dangerous goods are more stringent than those for other modes of transportation due to the large quantities and volume of dangerous goods transported. Sea-going vessels, their crews, and the marine environment face increasing risks due to these large quantities and the challenges of responding to a catastrophic event at sea. In addition to shipping companies communicating and preparing their shipments of dangerous goods, the IMDG Code also provides guidelines for the safe loading and transport of those goods. Training in IMDG is necessary to navigate and implement these requirements.
IMDG Code requirements continue to evolve since its adoption in 1965 but have evolved considerably since then. Containerization of non bulk cargo has, for example, revolutionized intermodal transportation and, consequently, vessel container carriage as well, over the past fifty years. A common type of dangerous goods product today is lithium batteries, which poses a definite modern-day threat and challenge. As of 2020, shipping dangerous goods by sea must comply with Amendment 39-18 to the IMDG Code (2018). This amendment contains all current requirements for shipping dangerous goods.
Their lives depend on knowing how to segregate, stowage, and handle dangerous goods properly – they have IMDG training and extensive knowledge. Often, however, the greatest danger of all lies behind the shipper’s poor packaging and incorrect declaration of goods – dangerous goods.