Guidelines to handle fragile and hazardous cargo

Guidelines for Handling Fragile and Hazardous Cargo Safely

Shipping companies face multiple challenges while trying to handle fragile and hazardous cargo as there are many risks linked to cargo damage during their transportation. Working with dangerous goods requires specially trained workers to ensure safe cargo handling. Since countries import and export a significant portion of fragile and hazardous goods, companies are adapting newer methods of cargo handling to avoid risks and overcome the challenges in shipping. Let us go through the process of handling dangerous and fragile cargo.

What constitutes fragile and hazardous cargo?

The shipping industry transports a significant amount of fragile and hazardous cargo daily. The transported cargo aids the pharmaceuticals, construction, and electronics industry immensely. Such type of cargo requires the shipping company to adhere to specific guidelines while handling the cargo. This includes loading them onto the correct type of container, monitoring them during transit, and safely unloading them. Fragile cargoes are goods vulnerable to shocks, falls and pressure during transit. They include-

  • Glass articles
  • Ceramics
  • Tiles, bricks and marble
  • Furniture
  • Paintings and antiques
  • Scientific devices
  • X-ray equipment
  • Musical and optical instruments.

Hazardous cargoes are dangerous cargoes that may be flammable, poisonous, explosive or corrosive in nature. These goods are capable of causing health hazards and harming the environment if not handled correctly. They aid the pharmaceuticals, science and defence sectors. Some examples of hazardous cargoes:

  • Chemicals, fuels, compressed and liquified gases
  • Radioactive such as uranium
  • Explosives such as detonators, ammunition or goods composed of TNT and RDX

How are fragile goods handled?

The fragile items need to be appropriately secured in place before being sent for transit. When internationally shipping fragile goods-

  • Look for a durable and feasible shipping container to store goods inside it securely.
  • Use multiple layers of bubble or foam wrap to cover the item entirely. It makes the goods efficient in absorbing shocks, jerks and falls.
  • Store your cargo in small boxes and stuff the empty spaces to avoid the goods from moving inside the box.
  • Use proper equipment to place the cargo boxes inside containers. If loading containers manually, the workers must take appropriate precautions.
  • Use pallets to prevent the boxes from being unsteady or shifting from their place.
  • Correctly label the boxes and containers for warnings and instruction signs for handling the cargo.

How are hazardous goods handled?

Hazardous goods need more precautions while handling. If handled manually, workers must wear safety kits to avoid health risks. When internationally shipping dangerous goods-

  • Identify the cargo and choose an appropriate container, such as dry bulk or tank container.
  • Use proper equipment or resources required for cargo loading, such as pipelines.
  • Companies should load different types of hazardous cargo separately and store them in isolation.
  • The containers must be labelled appropriately with warning or instruction signs for handling.
  • Monitor the internal and external conditions of the container using IoT sensors.

Challenge to handle fragile and hazardous cargo

  1. Packaging and handling risks – If the cargo is not handled in a proper manner following the requirements of the goods, chances of cargo damage increase. It is necessary to employ well-trained staff to minimise the chances of human errors.
  2. Health risks – Exposing workers to hazardous chemicals for longer might risk skin or lung diseases. Tripping or falling of fragile goods can also cause injuries or, worst cases, worker fatalities.
  3. Transportation – Only some companies offer to ship dangerous and fragile goods since it requires more care and procedures. It limits the shipping options raising transit costs and time.
  4. Cargo Damage – Transporting fragile and hazardous cargo can be risky. It may be due to multiple reasons, including thefts, misplacements, lost packages, and accidents that may cause falling of containers while loading due to equipment failure leading to cargo damage.
  5. Costly – Since transporting fragile and dangerous goods requires special equipment and only a few companies make these deliveries, the shipping cost becomes higher. Insurance of goods and passing clearance checks are also standard procedures that require investment.
  6. Threats – Hazardous cargo is of great economic value. Fragile artefacts and paintings from years ago also hold significance. Such shipments attract unwanted attention from terrorists or thieves.
  7. Environmental damage – Shipping causes an immense impact on the environment. Accidents such as oil or chemical spills destroy marine flora and fauna, and companies bear the high costs of clearing them.

How to minimise risks caused due to fragile and dangerous goods

The shipping industry finds it difficult to handle fragile and hazardous cargo due to a number of risks involved. But with time, various measures have been carved out to reduce the chances of any serious mishappenings.

  1. PPE or HAZMAT suits must be worn by workers at all times while cargo handling.
  2. Companies must hire skilled and trained workers to handle and securely place goods in and out of the containers.
  3. It is better to insure your package with the transport company or third-party insurance to minimise losses due to cargo damages.
  4. Shipping companies must confirm to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Customs- Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C-TPAT) standards to help ensure a secure cross-border trade and prevent terrorist or illicit intrusions.
  5. Adherence to SOLAS conventions helps secure the safety and integrity of human, marine and cargo life at sea.
  6. An emergency team should always be ready for damage control in case of any accidents that can cause significant environmental damage.

International trade utilises all sorts of cargo, including dangerous goods. It is vital to securely handle fragile and hazardous goods to ensure the safety of life and cargo & increase the profitability of shipping companies. The guidelines, challenges, and solutions to handle cargo will help you reduce the risks of cargo damage while shipping.

LOTUS Containers is a leading provider of shipping container services. We provide all types of containers to aid your requirements at reasonable prices. If you want to buy or lease containers to transport fragile and hazardous cargo, contact us.

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