DAFF Notification of Non-compliant Packing Materials – Dangerous Cargo?

The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (“DAFF”) recently issued a notice to exporters and the South African Association of Freight Forwarders that the DAFF is being inundated with notifications of non-compliance by trading partners with ISPM15.  ISPM15 is the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures regulating wood packaging material. 

ISPM15 requires wood packaging to be suitably treated in order to remove or kill pests, such as wood borer beetle. In circumstances where packaging material is found to be infested the authorities at the port of discharge may, depending on the facts; prohibit discharge of the cargo or require the offending packaging to be quarantined and destroyed, or take such other measures as they deem necessary. The costs associated with complying with the authorities’ directions could be significant. 

It is important to bear in mind that where the carrying vessel is detained or delayed at the port of discharge, or (as has happened previously) the carrier is required to sail from the port of discharge with the cargo remaining on board, such cargo could in terms of our law constitute dangerous cargo with the result that the shipper on the bill of lading, whether or not responsible for the provision of the cargo (such as an NVOCC carrier), will be liable to the carrier for any consequences in shipping such dangerous cargo.  This liability will not ordinarily be covered by the terms of any marine cargo policy.