The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), is the maritime authority for all matters affecting the safety of the vessel and crew. They have issued an IMDG code that outlines strict procedures in the movement of dangerous or hazardous cargo. Simply it defines 9 classes each with separate sub sections.
Class 1 - Explosives
Class 2 - Gases - Compressed, Liquified or Dissolved Under Pressure
Class 2.1 - Flammable Gasses
Class 2.2 - Non Flammable Gasses
Class 2.3 - Toxic Gasses
Class 3 - Flammable Liquids
Class 3.1 - Low Flash Point
Class 3.2 - Intermediate Flash Point
Class 3.3 - High Flash Point
Class 4 - Flammable Solids
Class 4.1 - Explosives
Class 4.2 - Spontaneous Combustion
Class 4.3 - Reaction With Contact With Water
Class 5 - Oxidising Substances
Class 5.1 - Oxidising Agent
Class 5.2 - Organic Peroxides
Class 6 - Poisonous and Infectious Substances
Class 6.1 - Poisonous
Class 6.2 - Infectious
Class 7 - Radioactive
Class 8 - Corrosives
Class 9 - Miscellaneous
Any damage to the exterior or packaging should be handled in the same way as if the goods were damaged. Extra special care is needed if the characteristics to its environment have been changed and careful consultation with the IMDG code. Some of the common failings in handling hazardous goods are:
Acid or corrosives are stowed inadequate drums such as steel or plastic.
Drums are not stowed upright.
Drums are not properly braced or crushed because of poor packing.
Container not free of all odours or debris.
Mis-declaration of cargo by shipper/Packing list.
Whilst these checks fall on the shipper, the carrier/terminal also should share a proportion of blame for certain incidents. Whilst moving hazardous containers it is not unknown to sustain shocks. Dropping or tilting, both of which can affect the stowage or even the volatility of the cargo. Stevedores, masters or haulier may choose to ignore such incidents to avoid delays or costs if no leakage/damage is evident, but the cargo may be a sitting time bomb.
The Hyundai Fortune was a notoriously famous case for hazardous cargo, whilst the cause was never exactly known, many felt this arose from mis-declaration of cargo. The explosion originated under deck and if the cargo was indeed of an explosive nature this would have never occurred as also it was apparently placed near a heat source of the engine.
It is only a matter of time before this could happen again. Unfortunately, too much duty/responsibility is placed of the carrier and more should be done by governments to trace and punish shippers who deliberately mis-declare cargo. It is not unknown for shippers to simply disappear and then open up under a new company name later down the track.
Insurance plays an important part for hazardous cargo, but a misconception is cargo insurance covers the clean-up costs. This can run into the tens of thousands of dollars so it is important to check with your service provider whether your cargo policy includes 'debris removal clause' and that the limits are sufficient for your needs.