The London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO), in partnership with SPC, is running a workshop this week in Suva to assist Pacific Island member governments to meet their obligations with regard to national regulations concerning the safe transportation of dangerous goods and bulk cargoes by sea.

Delivering his opening remarks to the delegates, Alfredo Parroquín-Ohlson of IMO said, 'As the world becomes increasingly industrialised and the industry itself becomes ever more complex, the transport by sea of dangerous cargoes will continue to rise and the lists of products classified as 'dangerous' will grow, too. It is essential, if shipping within the global world trade is to improve its safety record, that these cargoes are handled, transported and stored with the greatest possible care.

'Accidents caused by inadequate stowage and carriage for the rigour of a sea voyage are not only costly in terms of loss of life and damage to the environment and property, but they also tarnish the image of shipping,' he added.

The workshop focuses on raising awareness on the IMO-developed International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code and the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code.

The latest edition of the IMDG Code (Amendment 34-08) entered into force on 1 January 2012 while the IMSBC Code came into effect on 1 January 2011.

According to John Rounds, the Shipping Adviser at SPC, accidents on ships and in ports involving dangerous goods in containers still take place, despite having mandatory international instruments, such as the IMDG Code, in place.

'Among the major reasons for these casualties are that dangerous cargo intentionally or unintentionally are not declared properly, and the required packaging, segregation and stowage requirements are not followed. Also the lashing and security of cargo is not properly practised. Hence the IMDG Code is now mandatory, including the section on training,' he said.

The IMDG Code is intended to protect crew members and to prevent marine pollution in the safe transportation of hazardous materials by vessels. It is intended for use not only by mariners but also by all those involved in industries and services connected with shipping.

The aim of the IMSBC Code is to facilitate the safe stowage and shipment of solid bulk cargoes by providing information on the dangers associated with the shipment of certain types of cargo and instructions on the appropriate procedures to be followed.

Maritime administrations or regulators have the responsibility of ensuring that ships under their flags comply with these important requirements.

As dangerous cargo is transported through ports, the port authorities also share the responsibility of ensuring that proper documentation is submitted by shippers.