Asia Maritime Presents: Hazardous Cargoes

Bright and early on the morning of 3rd May at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, four experts participated in a debate and panel discussion on the topic of Hazardous Cargoes. Speakers (pictured from left to right below) included:

  • Jan Otto de Kat, Director of Research and Development at ABS
  • Dimitris Seirinakis, Managing Director of Shanghai Shipowners Claims Bureau Inc
  • Dr John Allum, of Hawkins’ Hong Kong Office
  • Andrew Ridgen Green, Partner at Stephenson Harwood
  • Panellists at the Asia Maritime Breakfast

    Mike Grinter, of Asia Maritime, hosted the event. Dr Sophie Parsons and Ms Jessica Ng, both of Hawkins’ Hong Kong Office, also attended to listen to the discussion.

    The debate sought to illuminate what aspects of shipping could be behind the increase in containership fires, as well as debate who is liable after damaged cargo contaminates a coastline as a result of an incident. The TT Club, which insures and provides risk management services to the transport and logistics industry, has reported that cargo-related fires have recently begun occurring as often as every 60 days.

    The event had approximately 50 delegates in attendance to listen to the discussions. Most of the delegates were from ship management companies, P&I, or marine law firms. The event started with a cooked breakfast, after which each of the panellists gave a 15 minute presentation on precautionary measures that should be taken with dangerous cargoes, and the subsequent management when it all goes wrong.

    Dr John Allum gave the first presentation on the different types of incidents that occur from either the mis-declaration, or general mis-management, of dangerous cargoes, including calcium hypochlorite, lithium batteries, and even scrap steel, which reacts adversely to both cleaning agents and water. Hawkins has previously investigated fires on board containerships, as well as cases of degradation of bulk agricultural cargoes such as maize, wheat, soybeans, palm kernel expeller and copra. Hawkins investigators often find that a cargo’s moisture content, temperature and age are the three factors that most affect its degradation during transportation.

    Jan Otto de Kat’s presentation focused heavily on mitigating fires on board, and the technology associated with the latest fire-fighting methods. Dimitris Seirinakis spoke about how to best ship cargo items in order to avoid incidents, as well as how to best educate interested parties along the way. Andrew Rigden Green finished off the discussion with a lawyer’s take on the management of dangerous cargo, and how to best communicate with all the relevant parties involved.

    The panellists then answered questions from the audience. There were excellent discussions in particular focusing on the difference in the cargo information received by customs and the Master on board. There was also an acknowledgement of the life of seafarers and how important their safety is in general, given how dangerous it can be on board when the cargo is not managed properly. The panellists came to an agreement that fire-fighting methods should be a last resort, and that in the first instance, the cargoes should be declared appropriately and casualties should be avoided.

    Dr Sophie Parsons said of her experience at the discussion, “all in all, this was a very successful event and John Allum was commended for discussing how potentially dangerous any cargo can be, regardless of its nature.” 

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