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Accidental Class 7
Originally published:  01/05/2012
The export to China and India of scrap metal contaminated with cobalt-60 is coming back to haunt US importers. The UK P&I Club has recently issued an alert to its members regarding the detention of a number of containers arriving at US ports due to unacceptable levels of radiation in their contents, particularly ‘bath products’. The irradiated scrap has apparently been used in the production process.
This is not the first time that this phenomenon has been reported. A few years ago there were reports of high-end handbags and other fashion items whose clasps and other metal items were radioactive.
For the shipping line, the issue can prove expensive. US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has processes in place to detect radioactive items at the port of discharge and has the power to prevent them entering the US. Any such containers carrying radioactive goods will be ordered to return to their origin, meaning in practice that the carrier will have to accept the box back onto the ship.
The UK P&I Club has provided some guidance to its members on what to do in such an event. Firstly, the container must be isolated at the terminal until such time as it is ready to be loaded onto the vessel. It will need to be properly placarded according to the provisions of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code as Class 7, Radiation Level III, and ‘Do Not Open’ signs should be placed on the container doors. The container should be stowed within the hold and away from the accommodation block, to minimise the potential for crew exposure. No vessel should carry more than 100 radioactive containers.