Are Ocean Carriers Refusing Hazmat Shipments?

Posted on 9/21/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

Today, hazardous materials shippers face a dearth of cargo containers, long delays for ships waiting outside of ports for loading and unloading, a disruption in schedules, and rising transportation prices. Now, chemical distributors have expressed concerns about systemic reductions for transporting hazardous materials by vessel and the possibility of carriers refusing to book chemical shipments.

These distributors purchase chemical products from foreign manufacturers and sell them to customers in the US. Many of these chemicals are not manufactured domestically. The chemicals are used as ingredients, intermediates, catalysts, reagents and more to produce a wide variety goods. 

At a recent meeting of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), Commissioner Carl Bentzel responded to shippers concerns: 
“Given the potential implications of systemic refusals by shipping lines, I am urging that we broaden the scope of the Vessel-Operating Common Carrier Audit Program to include review of whether there have been any systemic decisions by ocean carriers to discriminate against hazardous materials transportation. Such a review could be conducted within the existing audit program and will make FMC oversight more focused and thorough during this volatile time.”

Full Statement (September 2, 2021) 

The FMC plans to address the ability of shippers, truckers, and other stakeholders to seek reparations for violations of the Shipping Act–including conduct related to demurrage (i.e., payment to the owner of a ship when loading or unloading is delayed) and detention.

FMC will develop a policy statement to serve as guidance for industry stakeholders and plans to request input on a potential rulemaking to address the issues.   

Full Statement (September 15, 2021) 

Why Would a Carrier Refuse Hazmat?

Why might vessel carriers prefer not to carry hazmat? There may be several reasons:
  • Hazardous materials require cautious handling that can slow loading and unloading operations;
  • They may wish to avoid the strict separation, segregation, and stowage requirements associated with hazmat;
  • If their employees are not handling hazmat, they can eliminate DOT hazmat training and documentation mandates; or
  • They may be prioritizing preferential clients while space and sailing frequency are limited.

What Does the Law Say?

The Common Carrier Code in 46 U.S.C. §41104 prohibits carriers from unreasonably refusing to deal or negotiate (see paragraph (a)(10)).

The General Prohibitions at 46 U.S.C.§ 41102(c) state: A common carriermay not fail to establish, observe, and enforce just and reasonable regulations and practices relating to or connected with receiving, handling, storing, or delivering property.

Complete Multimodal Hazmat Training

Lion delivers hazmat employee training designed to simplify compliance with the latest 49 CFR, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code regulations that shippers must know.

Train online, join us for an instructor-led webinar, or attend the Multimodal Hazmat Shipper Certification Workshops in 2021. Get your certificate and be confident that your shipments will be accepted for transport by ground, air, or vessel.  

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Tags: chemicals, hazardous materials, hazmat vessel shipping, IMDG Code

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