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Correct information can reduce accidents

08 February 2021

As the transport of dangerous goods increases in the world, the risk of accidents, especially fires, also increases. A new Pre-study within the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Sustainable Shipping, which Lighthouse runs, takes a closer look at how information management can be improved to reduce accidents.

The number of fires on ships is increasing. In 2019, for example, several container and ro-ro vessels were ravaged by fire, which meant losses in both goods and human lives. Most of the fires started in the hold. Exactly why and how it happened in these cases is not proven, but reports on older accidents have shown that containers that have caused fires have contained goods that have not been declared correctly. It can be due to negligence and mistakes or in the worst case to a deliberate action and cheating.

"The goods go through several stages and pass several different actors. Then it is important that the information is accurate and correct", says Marta Gonzalez-Aregali, researcher at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg.

It is also important where dangerous goods are placed in the cargo area. To avoid what researchers call a snowball effect, it is usually not appropriate to leave dangerous goods at the bottom of containers. With batteries, it can be the other way around - they should not be left in the sun.

"A key to solving the problem is to reduce paper handling and switch to an open and transparent digital system which follow the goods through all stages of the transport process. Such automation and digitization processes are relatively easy to establish in large ports such as Gothenburg, but more difficult in smaller ones where resources are limited."

In addition to the information management itself, the study will also delve into other issues that may affect; for example, whether and to what extent transport costs do so, if any party benefits from incorrect declaration of goods, and whether the logistics for loading have an impact on the cost of different types of goods.

The project includes both literature studies and interviews with several different actors - including APM terminals, Stena Line, the Coast Guard, the Port of Halland, the Port of Trelleborg and the Port of Karlshamn. The pre-study will be completed in April.

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