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Ports in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere are having trouble keeping up with the growth in trade driven by Asia, especially China. And that could lead to an increase in the number of accidents on the waterfront, according to the TT Club. The global provider of insurance and risk management services to the transportation and logistics industry said the surge of new port facilities in China poses a huge challenge for ports in other parts of the world. That's because facilities in the West aren't growing proportionately, to handle the resulting increase in volumes from Asia. Speaking at the recent Global Liner Shipping Conference in London, sponsored by Containerisation International, TT Club chief executive Paul Neagle noted that China has 639 new deepwater berths set to come on line by 2010. The facilities are needed to support increases in the country's foreign trade. But there isn't comparable growth in port facilities elsewhere in the world, to accommodate the wave of bigger containerships being built to carry China's burgeoning exports and imports. Issues of congestion, planning permissions, dredging and waste disposal have "sunk or stalled" proposed expansion projects. As a result, ports outside China will be under growing pressure to alter their work practices to manage the additional freight. And that could lead to more accidents at terminals. In 2006, TT Club saw a spike in personal injury and handling-equipment claims, most of them the result of human error. "In the absence of capacity expansion," the Club said, "operators must move risk management even further up the boardroom agenda or expect to suffer a surge in accidents and claims."
TT Club also painted a gloomy picture of the dangerous-goods situation in global transport. Addressing a branch of the Nautical Institute in the U.K., risk management director Peregrine Storrs-Fox predicted that an incident caused by the mishandling or misdeclaration of dangerous goods eventually will lead to "a catastrophic loss of enormous proportion." Between 5 and 10 percent of worldwide containerized cargoes consist of dangerous goods, and the proportion is rising, he said. A limited sample by the International Maritime Organization of dangerous goods shipped over the last decade uncovered an average deficiency rate of 30 percent-and that was just for declared shipments moving under the rules of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. An increase in ship size threatens to make the problem even worse, Storrs-Fox said. To combat the problem, he urged all parties in the supply chain to know their customers' business intimately. In some cases, carriers, terminals and even forwarders should take inspections into their own hands, he said.
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