International Distribution Standard Receives Positive Foreign Response

April 1, 1999
When Chevron began es-tablishing the Responsible Distribution code related to the shipment of hazardous materials in Europe and the Far East, managers

When Chevron began es-tablishing the Responsible Distribution code related to the shipment of hazardous materials in Europe and the Far East, managers anticipated at least several potential challenges, said Dennis Ashworth, manager of Chevron's hazardous materials transportation center. They expected barriers to arise because of different languages, cultures, country-specific code requirements, and time-distance variances.

"We thought the 'ugly American' syndrome might be present, but we didn't find that," he said. "Our international locations seemed to welcome our guidance. There was very little resistance to implementing a code similar to those here in the United States."

In order to encourage worldwide code acceptance, Ashworth suggested to the chemical shippers in the audience that they select an individual country and help the companies in it to develop a program. "We didn't receive a lot of resistance to the idea of getting a code adopted," he said. "We need to be sure that countries around the world are using it properly. The United States must take a leadership role."

Ashworth discussed the 1997-1998 project at Chemical Week's 4th annual Chemical Transportation and Distribution Conference January 11-13 in Houston, Texas. The distribution code management practices are based on those established by Responsible Care that is administered by the Chemical Manufacturers Association. The codes commit chemical companies to continuous improvement in safety programs, and addressing public concerns.

The distribution code addresses risk management and incident reporting; regulatory monitoring, communication, training, and internal compliance reviews; carrier safety; and packaging, loading, unloading, storage, handling, residue disposal, and external compliance reviews.

"Chevron wrote a broad, worldwide company document with procedures and prepared templates that countries could use to develop their own, or use it as a guide," he said. "We also met face-to-face with Chevron personnel in the regions to talk about suggestions."

Several concerns were found in each of the regions involved in the project. "We learned that there is a lot of marine transportation in Europe and the Far East, rather than ground," he said. The code implementation effort also discovered that numerous container transfers between small ships can make cargo tracking difficult.

Taking a look at safety aspects, the group found additional problems. "We couldn't find population data in international locations that would assist us in calculating risks based on the number of people along distribution routes."

In addition, when there were transportation incidents, they weren't always reported.

Ashworth voiced concern about emergency response capabilities in Europe and the Far East. "Who do you call for response and cleanup, especially if the spill involves chemicals?" he asked. "If it was oil, there are a lot of people who can handle that."

The Chemical Transportation Emergency Center (Chemtrec), an around-the-clock service, can assist with access to initial response organizations within the United States and can handle calls in many languages, he said. Venezuela and Belgium have organizations similar to Chemtrec, and other countries are currently forming similar organizations.

Where European regulations were in effect, they seem to be similar throughout the region. But the regulations were often interpreted differently by various companies, which causes confusion. To make things even more difficult, each port authority has its own regulations. As a result, there can be confusion about which regulatory authority is in charge or has jurisdiction.

European and Far Eastern transportation training requirements, or lack of them, are another concern. "There appears to be none, for the most part," Ashworth said.

But in the compliance review category, things are more positive. He pointed out that European chemical associations are doing a good job at developing protocols. International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements are in place, and companies are required to show documentation.

Ashworth said he believes there should be strict evaluation of carriers moving products throughout the world. "There is a database in Europe that keeps up with the quality of ships (Chemical Distribution Institute), and another group (Safety and Quality Assessment Systems) is developing protocols for trucks," he added.

Regardless of the requirements set in each country, a shipper must establish its own carrier requirements that have to be met, he said. Once consistent standards are applied, they can be established not only in the United States, but worldwide.