Hapag-Lloyd Imposes Steep Fines for Misdeclared Dangerous Goods

The Yantian Express' cargo on fire, January 2019 (courtesy Midshipman Cameron Brunick, USMMA Class of 2021)

Published Aug 7, 2019 6:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

In response to the growing hazard of container fires, Hapag-Lloyd is implementing a stiff fine of $15,000 per container for misdeclared hazardous cargoes - plus any costs required to mitigate the violation. 

"Failure to properly offer and declare hazardous cargoes prior to shipment is a violation of the Hazardous Material Regulations. Such violations may be subject to monetary fines and/or criminal prosecution under applicable law," Hapag-Lloyd warned in an advisory issued Wednesday. "Hapag-Lloyd holds the Shipper liable and responsible for all costs and consequences related to violations, fines, damages, incidents, claims and corrective measures resulting from cases of undeclared or misdeclared cargoes." 

The ocean freight industry has been affected by multiple container fires over the course of the past year, including the blaze on board the Hapag-Lloyd boxship Yantian Express in January. That fire began in one container and spread to others, leading to extensive cargo damage and months of delays for the vessel. Hapag-Lloyd declared general average to address the high costs, and it required cargo owners to post both a GA bond and a salvage bond in order to retrieve surviving containers. The Yantian Express did not begin to discharge undamaged cargo until late May.

The fire aboard the container ship Maersk Honam was far worse. In March 2018, as the Honam was under way off Oman, a fire broke out in a cargo hold forward of the wheelhouse. The blaze claimed the lives of five crewmembers and the vessel burned for weeks. Salvors brought it under control and towed the Honam to Jebel Ali in May 2018, where the surviving containers were unloaded and the vessel was put into drydock for an assessment. Ultimately, her bow and accommodations block were scrapped, and her stern section was loaded onto a heavy lift ship for transport to South Korea, where it will be integrated into a new hull.