Should shippers who violate DG regulations be criminalized?

Chemical Oil Refinery

And here we go again, talking about Dangerous Goods that caused an accident. It does appear that this is becoming the favorite subject of the press and others, especially when there were several incidents over a short time. Just recently, the insurer TT Club pointed out that most of the time incidents are due to un-declared or miss-declared cargo.

Now, I do not have access to vast data resources as the TT Club does, but I do tend to agree with that statement. Just look at past experiences! Also, looking at today’s e-commerce - that is, in my opinion, a Pandora’s Box that was opened - and we will have a mighty fight on our hands to get this corrected.

Just look as to who is shipping in e-commerce: that could be anyone from a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation all the way down to a homemaker, selling “stuff” online to substitute the household income.  And therein lies the problem: many of these people or companies do not have any idea that the article they are shipping is regulated by national and/or international regulations as Dangerous Goods.

Sometimes I wonder if they do not want to know because that would just make the shipping of this “stuff” harder and more expensive - meaning not profitable. And then, of course, you have those “select few” individuals or companies that believe they are above the law and can do as they please.

To correct this problem, or attitude, it will take a lot of effort and diligence.

Just criminalizing offenses, in my view will not be enough or will not be sufficient.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, there is no real bite to the regulations. If only a few countries take these violations seriously and other countries are not following suit, there will continue to be a problem. Those in our industry that take shipping Dangerous Goods seriously need to step up and push our governments and the UN to get together and start cooperating on making our world safer for everyone. In this case, let’s start with Dangerous Goods, the enforcement of DG regulations and the penalizing of violators.

Another step required to impede this frightening tide of uncontrolled, undeclared or miss-declared Dangerous Goods is to make sure that everyone in the transport chain is properly educated. There have to be checks and controls in place before someone releases a shipment into the world. There are so many e-commerce platforms that will facilitate a transaction and then let the shipment enter the transportation chain without making sure that these shipments are safe for transport. These platforms should, or rather, MUST require their users to provide proof of proper DG training before they can trade on these platforms, NO exceptions.

While we are on this subject, it was pointed out that forwarders play a vital role in the transportation chain, and I do agree wholeheartedly with that notion. However, we do not possess X-ray vision; neither do we have the sensitive nose of a bomb-sniffing dog. Yes, we will do everything we can do to detect any undeclared or miss-declared cargo under our control. But unfortunately, we are limited in what we can do. If the shipper wants to hide something, they will, and it may not be impossible for us to detect this deception. So, the idea of holding forwarders as liable as the shipper is not a sound idea. Hold us liable for those things that are under our control.

We at BDP do everything we can to abide by the regulations - and will even go above and beyond those requirements if it is in the interest of safety and security.

But do take a closer look at the forwarder that you are using or intend to use and ask yourself: “Does this forwarder take the regulations seriously? Are their employees trained not only in DG, but also other requirements, such as FCPA, Anti-Boycott, etc.?” If they are not, or if there is no evidence of training, consider switching to one of those forwarders that take their responsibilities seriously. The result will be that your shipment will be treated with the respect and care it deserves and your freight is more likely to arrive safely, legally and intact.

I do believe that anyone that is non-compliant should be fined and penalized. Maybe we here in the US should take a look at the way things are handled in Germany, for example. In Germany, even a civil penalty will be issued against the individual(s) and the company, and not just against a company as is done here. In Germany, personal responsibility is taken very seriously.

In my view, holding someone personally responsible is a pretty good deterrent, especially if the fines and penalties are high.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or you can reach out to our Hazmat team and either myself, or one of my team members will respond.