Shipping companies to surcharge shippers over under-declarations from Sept. 15

Following the latest fire outbreak onboard the APL Le Havre off the Indian west coast, foreign shipping companies from September 15, 2019 will start introducing surcharges and penalties for rogue shippers who mis-declare or under-declare the content of their cargoes in-order to beat the system or pay less Customs duty.

“While the cause of the APL Le Havre  fire outbreak is still being investigated, the latest incident is the eighth this year alone involving a ship carrying containers.

“With the number of container fires rapidly escalating, a few carriers recently announced that they would levy penalties on shippers for mis-declaring cargoes. Hapag-Lloyd, which last year shipped nearly half a million dangerous goods, will from 15 September 2019 fine shippers $15,000 for undeclared or mis-declared hazardous cargoes. HMM will fine the same amount, while Evergreen announced a penalty of $35,000. OOCL said that it is tightening its dangerous cargo acceptance with an additional verification step.

“More carriers are likely to follow the lead, but while the threat of financial punishment might help to correct the behavior of the less willfully negligent shippers, it is unlikely to change the attitude of any rogue shipper who will still bet on evading the net.

“Over a quarter of all liner fires reported to the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) relate to mis-declared cargoes, particularly of the hazardous kind. It is an age old problem that has blighted shipping for too long; rogue shippers willfully breaking the rules to avoid freight rate and insurance premiums on dangerous goods, or committing customs fraud by declaring high value goods as more common items.

“The invention of the steel container made it even easier to conceal such fraudulent activity, leaving shipping lines with an uphill challenge to combat it.

“Numerous initiatives have been tried, but the problem persists. For example, Hapag-Lloyd’s ‘Cargo Patrol’ software program has since 2011 searched all bookings made with the company to identify potentially dangerous or suspicious items, while Maersk Line has introduced a random container check pilot, following the tragic fire on the 15,000-teu Maersk Honam in March 2018 that claimed the lives of five crew members,” Drewry Shipping Consultant stated in its latest container insight weekly report.