Seoul developing IT system to uncover undeclared dangerous goods

Fire on a container ship. Credit: Daniel Bockwoldt/DPA/PA images

South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) is designing a computer system that identifies dangerous goods in containers that may be undeclared in order to minimise the risk of fires and explosions.

MOF said on 13 February 2020 that joint inspections with Korea Customs Service will be carried out to eliminate undeclared dangerous goods that are placed in containers.

“The volume of dangerous goods that is imported in containers has increased by 6.3% annually in the last five years. It is, therefore, necessary to strengthen safety management,” a spokesperson for MOF said.

The computer system will be established by April and identifies undeclared dangerous goods by scanning for inconsistencies in the information submitted to the port authorities.

The MOF and customs will then jointly inspect the cargoes.

Typical declarations of dangerous goods include a description of the goods and the flash point of the cargoes concerned.

MOF said, “We will share information with the government agencies of exporting countries to prevent shippers from misdeclaring dangerous goods as general cargoes.

“Containers holding dangerous goods should be kept in a humid and well-ventilated place or spaced at a certain distance between dangerous goods, depending on the nature of the cargo. However, if dangerous goods are falsely declared as a general cargo and safety management is not properly implemented, fire and explosion accidents may occur through chemical reactions.”

The fire on KMTC Hongkong at Thailand’s Laem Chabang port on 25 May 2019 may have caused the MOF to design the IT system. The vessel was a 1,585 teu container ship owned by South Korean feeder operator Korea Marine Transport Company. It was built in 1998.

Undeclared cargoes of calcium hypochlorite and chlorinated paraffin wax are thought to have caused an explosion.

An inspection of 35 containers in the centre of the flames showed that more than half of the boxes contained chemical cargoes. KMTC Hongkong was declared a total loss and scrapped in July 2019.