30 years ago

A look back at the news in November 1981

Back in 1981, HCB published a joint November/December issue, bumper in size for the time – although the 44 pages looks pretty slim when set against today’s magazine. Was it filler that made it so big, or the prospect of a couple of weeks’ holiday with plum pudding?

HCB November 1981 - CoverWith 20/20 hindsight, some of the contents now do look like filler. There were, for instance, two whole pages on the HNS Convention, written by an anonymous “concerned shipper” who wondered why it was taking so long to develop but who also said it had “many shortcomings” and “must be regarded ... as unacceptable”. If that unknown writer is still around, he or she must be pleased that, 30 years on, it is still no nearer entering into force.

Another frustrated idea covered in the issue was the Texas Offshore Port (TOP), a proposed crude oil receiving facility to be sited off Freeport, along the lines of the existing and very successful Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) facility off the Mississippi Delta. Even in 1981, it was noted that the TOP idea was around 10 years old but little action has been forthcoming since. The 1981 proposal went very quiet and was subsequently forgotten; a completely different proposal was made in August 2008 involving three new companies, but two of those have since pulled out and, two years on, there has been no further activity reported.

‘HJK’ had his work cut out following the process of revising and harmonising the provisions in ADR and RID covering Classes 3, 6.1 and 8. To anyone who has joined the business in the past few years, his report would be difficult to understand, dealing as it did with “inflammable substances”, substances of Classes 6.1(a) and (b), and Appendices B.5, B.1b and B.1a to ADR. Even now it is hard to look back and see what the regulators were trying to do, other than to promote harmonisation and allow the effective classification of substances that displayed two or more separate hazards. In any case, all this work became moot once the European regulations were restructured into the format of the UN model regulations, and all mention of Appendices and marginals went out of the window (although the latter word is still heard from the lips of some of the older members of the DG fraternity).

Speaking of which... Desmond Waight gave readers in 1981 his views on “the thorny old problem of ullage”, illustrated by tables and graphs. He concluded that “the physical behaviour of a product/package combination varies with temperature and cannot be readily calculated”. This lesson needs to be remembered by regulators, some of whom quite recently drew up provisions that ignored ullage completely and expected shippers to be able to deliver a litre of product in a bottle no larger than 1 litre in capacity.

We will return to this double issue of 1981 in next month’s Bulletin, perhaps with some more useful observations.

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