IATA: “Dangerous Goods Shipment Abuse Must Be A Criminal Offence”

15th April 2015

Members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have called on to the government to impose criminal acts on those companies and individuals who are misdeclaring their shipment of dangerous goods.

The move was made after the shipment of dangerous goods has been commonly misdeclared when transported. IATA’s cargo committee head James Woodrow called the attention of the government and the entire industry to unite to combat the misdeclaration of dangerous goods during the 9th World Cargo Symposium held in Shanghai last March 12, 2015.

Meanwhile, IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler outlined the significance of transitioning to a paperless freight. He also stressed the necessity of following international handling standards when it comes to pharmaceutical goods shipment. Furthermore, he talked about the matters concerning the safe transportation of lithium batteries.

The seriousness of Tyler’s last point in his speech was given highlight by IATA Cargo Committee head and Cathay Pacific Cargo chief James Woodrow. Woodrow urged his fellow transport companies to stop people and organizations from shipping their non-declared dangerous goods by air.

Woodrow said, “Flagrant abuses of dangerous goods shipping regulations, which place aircraft safety at risk, must be criminalised, as are other actions which place aircraft safety at risk.” He also added, “Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating producers and exporters.”

Non-declared dangerous goods pose threats to air transportation

The air cargo industry has seen an increasing number of misdeclared shipments including mislabelling of batteries. The shipment often comes from e-commerce websites that make use of normal postal services when shipping items bought by customers online.

The speech of Woodrow also echoed IATA CEO Tony Tyler’s comments. Tyler noted that a supplier on Ali Baba has misdeclared the wattage of batteries to be able to send the shipment without getting air restrictions. The batteries were actually 300-watts but were relabelled as 100-watts.

The relabelling of batteries can cause potential harm according to a latest study conducted by US FAA. The research concluded that batteries that are not properly packaged can threaten aircraft safety as this can cause fires.

Tyler said, “Disappointingly, we are seeing some wilful non-compliance in the area of lithium batteries.” He also added, “The rise of e-commerce and the ability of small businesses to export to a global audience have created a significant new market of shippers who are not necessarily familiar with the rules.”

IATA has made a guideline written in Chinese regarding lithium battery shipping. This was to raise awareness among the Chinese people as well as the government officials regarding the issue.

Tyler said, “Regulators need to step up. The industry is doing what it can, but without oversight, surveillance and where necessary, enforcement, compliance at the source of the shipment will be limited.”

Move to combat non-declaration and mislabelling of dangerous goods

IATA said it has been working with e-commerce sites like Ali Baba. The association aims to help educate shippers from the potential harm that is caused by non-declaration of dangerous goods. It furthers the campaign by calling on post offices to initiate labelling of dangerous goods. Furthermore, IATA has called on other shipment companies to disseminate the information widely for the benefit of the public.

IATA Cargo head Glyn Hughes said, “The problem is not with the regulations, but with people who don’t conform to regulations.”

Meanwhile, Woodrow said that widening the awareness of potential risks is a must. He also added that non-declaration of shipped items should be regarded as criminal offence. He also said that counterfeit batteries should be regulated heavily as they are also causes of potential risks and harm.

Woodrow also added that shippers who comply with the rules are ensured that they will not be affected by stringent measures. “We must increase the level of shipment assessments and trusted shipper programmes, in order that those who comply with the regulations are not unduly impacted, and call upon reputable manufacturers in the hi- tech sector to join us in this demand,” he said.

Risk Mitigation Strategies author and Cathay Pacific airline ground safety manager Peter Hunt also talked about the risks airlines are confronted with regards to shipping batteries. Hunt said lithium ion batteries are potential risks that are deliberately disregarded by some while others have no idea about.

Ironically, battery banks were handed out for the delegates during the symposium. IATA warned that these battery banks must be inside a hand luggage and not to be placed inside aircraft holds.

Shippers Survey conducted to assess shipment satisfaction rates

IATA conducted Shippers Survey from among 336 respondents. Out of this number, 74% said they were satisfied with the cargo experience they have encountered. The respondents were also asked why they have selected air shipment over other cargo modes. A total of 33% of the respondents said they aimed for faster transportation time making them choose air cargo services. On the other hand, an increase for value proposition was called out by a panel for shippers.


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