IMDG Training is Critical to Maritime Safety

IMDG training

IMDG Training and Its Effect on Daily Life

Vessel transport (which depends on proper IMDG training and IMDG code adherence) affects our daily lives.

To quote UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message on World Maritime Day 2016, “Everyone in the world benefits from shipping, yet few people realize it… Maritime transport is the backbone of global trade and the global economy.”

Why do few people realize it?  While it transports approximately 90 percent of world trade, the maritime shipping industry, unlike other modes of transportation, is largely conducted out of public view.  The bulk of goods shuttled by sea include the affordable finished products that we use and consume every day or the raw materials that were used to produce them.  For this reason alone, the integrity of the maritime industry is important to each and every one of us.

As you read this, there are tens of thousands of cargo ships on the sea and several million cargo containers being transported throughout the world.  Statistics indicate that approximately 10 to 12 percent of global container trade now consists of dangerous goods, and the volume continues to increase.  Coincidentally, a large and growing number of containership casualties can be directly tied to dangerous goods being transported that were insufficiently prepared, misdeclared, or not declared at all.  Proper dangerous goods IMDG training may have prevented many, if not most, of these incidents.

But at the same time, despite the occurrence of unfortunate accidents, IMDG training is integral for sustaining the largely unnoticed and underappreciated shipping efforts of approximately 50,000 containership crews around the world at any given time.

The Vital Role of the IMDG Code

As the international regulatory body for an industry that spans the globe, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) can be considered to be the most important governing body when it comes to the safety of maritime transport and the protection of aquatic habitats, establishing international standards, and promoting harmonization wherever possible in an industry that is enormous in size and in revenue.  The IMO regulations regarding the transport of dangerous goods by sea are contained in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), and these regulations are pertinent to all persons involved in the transport of dangerous goods by vessel, from shippers, freight forwarders, port personnel, and even the vessel crew itself. Knowledge, communication, and coordination between all involved parties are crucial to ensure dangerous goods are safely transported.

The regulations regarding vessel carriage of dangerous goods contained in the IMDG Code are more stringent than other modes of transportation because the quantities and overall volume carried are comparatively huge.  These large quantities, coupled with the challenges of responding to a catastrophic incident at sea, pose increasing risks to sea-going vessels, their crews, and the marine environment. The IMDG Code provides strict and specific requirements to shippers in preparing and communicating their dangerous goods shipments as well as to vessel operators in the safe loading and transport of those goods.  Proper IMDG training is necessary to navigate and implement these requirements.

Since its adoption in 1965, the requirements of the IMDG Code for safe vessel carriage of dangerous goods have evolved and will continue to evolve. For example, containerization of non-bulk cargo has revolutionized the intermodal industry and, consequently, the provisions for vessel container carriage over the past 50 years.  Today, widely used and produced dangerous goods products such as lithium batteries present real modern-day hazards and challenges.  Amendment 39-18 to the IMDG Code (2018) contains the most up-to-date requirements and compliance with its requirements when shipping dangerous goods by sea is compulsory for 2020.

Vessel crews have IMDG training and extensive knowledge regarding the proper segregation, stowage and handling requirements specific to different types of dangerous goods – their lives depend on it.  Unfortunately, however, in many instances, the greatest danger of all is the one that they cannot see – dangerous goods that are improperly packaged or improperly declared by the shipper.

The Critical Role of IMDG Training

When it comes to the responsibility to comply with any regulations, appropriate training is key to providing not only awareness of the regulations, but also, for enabling competence when performing one’s specific job.  When followed correctly, the function-specific requirements of the IMDG Code provide a chain of safety designed to facilitate the movement of dangerous cargo; however, as with any chain, one missing link destroys the integrity of the chain.  In many instances, the missing link is a lack of proper IMDG training.

National and international regulations dictate that anyone having job duties that affect in any way the safe transportation of dangerous goods must receive appropriate training in the functions that they perform.  With the myriad of IMDG training choices available today regarding the transportation of dangerous goods by sea – including classroom training, onsite training, webinar training, and online training – there is no excuse for untrained personnel to be presenting non-compliant dangerous goods shipments into the transportation chain, and in doing so, endangering property, lives, and the marine environment. 

Compliance is necessary but is also honorable

It is human nature to want to take pride in one’s job performance, and when the correct performance of those tasks is critical to the safety of an entire industry, competence and compliance should be nurtured and given the highest priority.  Many deadly accidents can be ultimately traced back to an initial error by one person – and nobody wants to be that person. For those of you who have job functions that involve preparing or transporting dangerous goods by any mode of transport – let us remind you that while you may not realize it, everything you do means something to somebody.  Know that the correct performance of your dangerous goods functions is important and appreciated – more than you probably realize.

Kick-Start Your IMDG Compliance With Hazmat University’s Online Hazmat Training

Hazmat University was launched in 2009 by the Bureau of Dangerous Goods (BDG) as a valuable addition to the hazardous materials training and consulting services, which the Bureau has provided since 1984.  Our wide range of online hazmat training offerings can provide you with tools to be compliant and the confidence to know you are doing your dangerous goods job competently. Whether you are shipping dangerous goods by highway, air, or sea, Hazmat University’s online hazmat courses in the requirements of U.S. DOT’s 49 CFR hazardous materials regulations, the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, or the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code can provide a solution to your modal or multimodal hazmat training needs. 

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