Summer heat highlights hazmat dangers

Much of the logistics news we’ve seen this summer has been about hidden hazmat concerns in both ocean and air freight, and it’s a situation that won’t improve as the heat of summer beats down on ports and tarmacs in the northern hemisphere. Between issues that are literally igniting in containers on ships and the recent air ban on Vivo phones due to lithium-ion battery flammability, there’s a reasonable expectation that carriers and governing agencies will need to take a review period to determine what is causing the recent issues with cargo container and air fires that are occurring. Despite any updated rules that will come from the reviews, we don’t expect any regulations to happen that will ban items from cargo shipments as even IATA doesn’t see a ban coming.

Nowhere is the issue of safety more transparent than the lithium-ion battery debate in the air cargo space. Because the growth of the batteries is expected to be over 12%, it’s a difficult plan to cut that much of the market out of the airfreight space despite the dangers. Instead of a ban, collaboration and accountability are the buzzwords surrounding the lithium-ion battery shipments considering that typically when there’s a cargo fire, there is no criminality assessed for hidden hazmat or for dangerous goods that aren’t on the classification schedule.

Ocean freight hasn’t had a much better record over the last year as the news is full of container fires, explosions and even container collapses have kept insurance providers working overtime to assess troubles coming from improperly marked containers. Everything is always okay if nothing goes wrong, but when there’s an issue and there’s hidden or even open hazmat, fixing problems get exponentially harder. Fires stemming from chemical explosions aren’t always fought in the same way and if there’s no record of hazardous materials in a container, the cure can be deadly as many standard fire suppression techniques deployed for traditional non-haz fires will cause explosions and deadly chemical issues if the suppression team is unaware of what is in that container.

Ships don’t have a way for the crew to escape in the way a building does and any tragedy is compounded infinitely by being trapped on a floating city that’s burning. It’s avoidable and it should be criminal to subvert the rules and cause losses to life and property because you don’t expect to get caught. We cannot stress this enough, no hazmat hoops that shippers need to navigate are worse than the issues you’ll face if your cargo combusts because of hidden, undeclared hazmat.

The very best way to avoid issues is to be absolutely transparent with your freight forwarder and well prepared to take the time needed to appropriately document and protect your cargo. We at Nelson international understand it’s a pain to jump through the hoops, but it’s our goal to make the hazmat and air cargo issues as easy on our clients as possible. We’re uniquely qualified and happy to give guidance and advisement on the best, most cost-effective, safest shipping options that are out there. Use us as the experts, lean into our gleeful acceptance of complicated cargo challenges – we live to create custom solutions that grant clients more peace of mind, savings, and security than they expected. We’re your team, let us play on your behalf.