A quarter of all liner fires reported to the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) relate to mis-declared cargo, particularly hazardous materials. It is an age-old problem that has blighted shipping for too long, rogue shippers willfully breaking the rules to avoid freight rate and insurance premiums on dangerous goods, or committing customs fraud by declaring high value goods as more common items. The invention of the steel container made it even easier to conceal such fraudulent activity, leaving shipping lines with an uphill challenge to combat it.
With the number of container fires rapidly escalating, a few carriers recently announced that they would levy penalties on shippers for mis-declaring cargoes. These fires come at great expense to the carriers and put all on-board cargo at risk, as well as the integrity of the ship. Hapag-Lloyd, which last year shipped nearly half a million dangerous goods, effective September 15, 2019, fine shippers $15,000 for undeclared or mis-declared hazardous cargo. HMM will fine the same amount, while Evergreen announced a penalty of $35,000.
While more carriers are likely to follow the lead, the question of will the threat of financial punishment help to correct the behavior of the less willfully negligent shippers. It is unlikely to change the attitude of any rogue shipper who will still bet on evading the proper shipping regulations. It is hoped that most law-abiding shippers will welcome any measure that will help reduce the risk of their cargo being delayed or destroyed by the irresponsible action of others.