Shipowners, charterers or agents may arrange for fumigation in the ship’s hold. In–transit fumigation is often preferred by shippers and charterers because it reduces time in port. If transported as part of a sea journey, fumigants must be transported in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation’s Dangerous Goods Code which is given force by the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods and Marine Pollutant) Regulations.
Fumigation may affect the safety and health of crew and other persons on board. Inhalation of fumigation gases may cause respiratory problems, nausea and ultimately suffocation. Incidents causing illness and death has occurred where phosphine– generating fumigants have been used.
By law, the ships Master must inform the receiving ports that a fumigation process has taken place.
This was not the case at the Port of Liverpool recently. A vessel carrying sweet potato pellets from China arrived, and on preparing to discharge the bulk bags, stevedores noticed that partially empty cannisters were distributed within the holds.
On investigation, these were confirmed to be fumigation cannisters (aluminium phosphide) and it was confirmed that the cargo had been recently treated in three holds.
All operations were immediately brought to a halt and the MCA, MAIB and HSE were informed. The MCA has since taken enforcement action against the vessel’s Master and are continuing with their investigation.
Whilst there is a legal duty on the Master to inform the receiving port of a fumigated cargo, it cannot be relied upon. Ports must positively establish for themselves, that no fumigants have been employed.
Date: 14th December 2021 Ref: Group SB 21 012
Fumigated Cargoes, Liverpool Incident
Cannisters retrieved from the ship’s hold.
Fumigation is the process of releasing toxic gases (pesticides) into a cargo hold or compartment
for the purpose of eliminating or avoiding infestation by insects or other pests that may cause the
cargo to deteriorate.
HSE guidance on the subject of fumigation can be found within HSG251 on the HSE’s website
We are grateful to Peel Ports for providing details of this incident and to PSS for drawing it to our attention. We acknowledge their commitment to sharing learning to benefit others. If you have similar operations, please share this information with managers, operatives and any potentially affected third parties as appropriate. Please also review any of your relevant operations for similar hazardous conditions, risks, and controls.
Learning content like this is highly valuable as it is based on real-world experience. We encourage everyone with publishable information about incidents to send it to us, so that we can raise awareness across the whole industry. Please contact us at [email protected]; sharing your insight could save a life or prevent injury.