Non-declaration of hazardous containers

MV Rena off New Zealand Coast of TaurangaIn this age of heightened security it remains remarkable how carriers still willfully take custody and/or load ‘goods’ for which the contents thereof are unclear. True, carriers and intermediaries (fowarders/brokers) will correctly point at the ‘shipper’ (exporter) for not disclosing the details correctly. It also needs be mentioned that the cargo handler (packer of the container) is really key in all of this. It is this entity who has knowledge of what is being stuffed into the container. There is much debate on this matter, and a whole lot more work to be done in ultimately pinning down the responsible party. Given this state of affairs, most Customs administrations are happy to lay the responsibility and liability for lawful clearance on the party responsible for cargo reporting, i.e. the entity which ‘cuts’ the manifest. I dare say that the terms of sale (incoterms) also have an influence in terms of risk and liability here which adds some complexity to decision-making in time of misfortune. Take for instance the recent grounding of the M/V Rena off New Zealand earlier this month, where it has recently come to light that the wreck contains at least 21 containers which were not properly recorded on the ship’s manifest. Read articles below.