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Cargo

When shippers go rogue

Occasional movers of dangerous goods will sometimes inadvertently flout regulations that change every year. But others, Martin Roebuck learns, are wilfully ignoring rules designed to protect us all
 

Offences under US hazardous materials regulations are a hot issue for the Federal Aviation Administration. It vigorously pursues shippers and airlines that transgress, imposing hefty five- and six-figure fines as well as publicising its actions in an attempt to deter or educate the air cargo industry.

 

Three cases made public by the agency in June this year related to improper shipments made or attempted in 2013 and 2014, and they make for salutary reading. 

 

Retailer, Home Depot, tried to ship nine cans of flammable aerosol spray paint with UPS from Lincoln, Nebraska. UPS contacted the FAA after some of the spray paint was released into the environment (the proposed civil penalty is $70,000). UPS also intercepted an attempt by battery manufacturer CTC to transport four 12.8-volt lithium ion batteries without declaring them (a $63,000 penalty).

 

Meanwhile, paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams offered two shipments of undeclared hazardous material to FedEx, each containing more than the allowable quantity of primer – classified as paint or paint-related hazardous materials – and epoxy primer – which is also flammable and corrosive.

 

One of the shipments was found to be leaking on arrival at FedEx’s Indianapolis sorting centre. The FAA alleged: the shipments were not marked, labelled or packaged in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations; Sherwin-Williams had not provided employees with the required hazardous materials training; and the shipment that leaked was not packaged to prevent the release of hazardous materials to the environment ($71,500).

 

Earlier in the year, the agency also pursued AmplaChem for sending an undeclared hazardous material shipment from its Indiana headquarters, via FedEx, to Vietnam. The shipment included boron tribromide, a corrosive material which is a toxic inhalation hazard that no aircraft are permitted to carry, as well as two other corrosive substances. When it was unloaded at its the final destination the shipment was smouldering and burning ($227,500).

 

In the biggest case of its kind to date, the FAA in January this year imposed a $1.3 million civil penalty on United Airlines, after carrying out inspections in Boston, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago that exposed 120 examples of failure to comply with hazmat regulations.

 

The materials involved, carried on both domestic and international flights, included lithium metal batteries, dry ice, corrosive liquids, radioactive materials, detonating fuses, compressed oxygen, engines, isopropanol, non-flammable aerosols, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide and ethanol solutions, air bag modules, and printing ink.

 

The FAA alleged that United failed to provide flight crew with accurate information regarding: the hazardous materials onboard; their location on the aircraft; the materials’ type, quantity, weight, proper shipping name, identification number and hazard class; dates of the flights; and confirmation that no damaged or leaking packages had been loaded.

 

On two occasions, United was alleged to have improperly accepted hazardous materials for air transportation and, in addition, had failed to retain copies of shipping papers. United told the FAA it had since made technological improvements to the pilot notification system and would enhance training for employees involved in loading hazardous materials onto its aircraft.

 

Customs rules differ

B&H Worldwide, a specialist in aviation parts logistics, says 10% of all its movements involve dangerous goods (DG). Its headquarters are at London Heathrow, but the company also has operations in Germany, the US, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

 

“Customers include airlines, spare parts stockists, MROs and repair vendors,” says export operations manager Neil Brown. “We have many years’ experience in handling awkward, bulky or hazardous consignments, such as aircraft engines, oxygen generators and delicate avionic components like gyroscopes.”

 

Aircraft parts and maintenance/repair products are included in most DG categories. Oxygen bottles are class 2 (gases), while cleaning fluids and paints are class 3 (flammable liquids). Elsewhere, most current navigation equipment is class 7 (radioactive), while an inflatable escape slide would fall under class 9 (miscellaneous), though some of the individual components for it could be class 1 (explosives).

 

“Some airlines don’t like moving explosives. Most are okay with it, though they may charge a premium. They will apply a DG check fee or add a surcharge on top, for no particular reason,” Brown explains.

 

Customers in this specialist sector are knowledgeable about the regulations, Brown says. “If a declaration says ‘adhesive’, we would rely on that. The sales person you first deal with by email may not be so clued up, but the packers will be, because they know the consequences [of an error].”

 

Many customs authorities around the world have set up specific regimes to facilitate movement of aircraft parts, Brown says. On the opposite side of the coin, however, he quotes three examples (of many) in which countries apply their own restrictions, in addition to the global IATA DG Regulations.

 

All DG shipments to, from, or transiting through the UAE require a document containing a 24-hour emergency response telephone number. This must be monitored by someone who speaks English, knows the nature of the goods concerned and has accident mitigation information. 

 

The Canadian authorities state that fissile radioactive material cannot fly to, from or over Canada without prior permission. In addition to the standard DGR and ICAO Technical Instructions, shippers must abide by the separate Packing and Transport of Nuclear Substances Regulations drawn up by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

 

Brown’s final example relates to Sri Lanka, where “no aircraft operator shall transport dangerous goods without explicit approval in writing from the Director General of Civil Aviation. Application for permission shall be made at least 10 days before the date of the first flight on which the dangerous goods are to be carried.”

 

CEVA Logistics has seen an increase of around 5% in DG shipments this year, according to Rusty McMains, the company’s Houston-based corporate risk analyst and hazmat specialist. 

 

“Our history for shipping hazardous materials has largely been in commodities containing classified chemicals and flammable materials. But we are now seeing new trends developing in pharmaceuticals, with a growing share of movements that involve large quantities of dry ice in the packaging. Also, in the high-tech sector, there has been an increase in lithium battery-related DG shipments,” McMains says.

 

“Recent restrictions on the carriage of certain types of lithium batteries are limiting the choice of air route, forcing more shipments on to freighter aircraft. Shipments containing metal lithium batteries are now excluded from carriage on passenger aircraft. We have even seen some all-cargo carriers either banning them or becoming more restrictive about their acceptance. 

 

“But we, and the carriers we use, are expanding our respective abilities to handle the increased demand through a combination of promoting higher awareness of DG, increased manpower deployment, more DG-trained staff, additional resources and careful reviews of processes,” he adds. >>


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