Rejected shipment, but nothing is wrong

Have you ever been in a situation where you understand “it” clearly, but the person you are explaining “it” to just does not get it? Frustrating, eh! Well I recently had this fun experience.

We did a repackaging job for one of our clients a couple of weeks ago. He was shipping a switch, which had a very small amount of mercury inside it. He told us maybe 0.5 kg of mercury – if that – and this shipment needs to go via air transport. Since he isn’t certified for air transport, he needed our services.

We classified the switch as UN3506, Mercury contained in manufactured articles. We packaged the shipment according to packing instruction 869, and as per special provision A191 since the article contained less than 5 kg of mercury. We did not add the subsidiary hazard label (class 6.1), and included “A191” in the authorization column of the shipper’s declaration.

We sent out the package. This was on Friday.

On Monday we got the package back. If there is something to note about me it is that I don’t take rejected packages lightly. It hits close to heart that I made a mistake. Took a look at the checklist, and it was rejected because the carrier’s DG Agent took the weight on the shipper’s declaration as the net weight of the mercury inside the package, and claimed SP191 doesn’t apply, and a class 6.1 label must be applied. Going back to PI869 in the IATA regulations “the “net quantity” shown on the shipper’s declaration is the net weight of the manufactured articles in each package”; therefore, I had put “1 Fibreboard box x 15 kg” under the quantity and type of packaging section of the shipper’s declaration. The net weight of the switch was 15 kg. To me, this was very clear but clearly the DG Agent was misinterpreting SP191 or did not read PI869 thoroughly.

I called the carrier, but I couldn’t get a hold of the DG Agent who rejected the shipment. So, I called the customer service line and spoke with a DG person. I walked her through the steps and she agreed with me. Her comment to me was, “In my 4 years of doing DG no one has explained a DG issue so nicely, and clearly”. She said she’ll call the station, and explain what we had discussed. I asked her to call me back if there are any issues as this shipment needs to go out. She said she will, and didn’t call me back. So, I assumed all is good.

It’s Thursday late afternoon now. The package comes back. Now I am just flabbergasted. It left our office on Monday, and 3 days later it comes back. To me that was unacceptable. This time the DG Agent had highlighted special provision A191. So now I am fuming. Not only are they rejecting something that has no errors but delaying it.

So, I personally took the package to the carrier’s station the next day. Our client paid us to do a job, and we can’t afford to delay it any longer. Again, I couldn’t speak to the DG Agent directly, but explained it all to the front desk agent, and left my number to call me.

It’s 1:30 and I get a call. Not from the DG Agent, but her colleague who is also DG certified. He tells me it’s incorrect. So again, I calmly (it’s important to stay calm in these types of situations) walked him through the steps. But, he insisted that the weight should be of the mercury on the declaration. Then I gave him the analogy of shipping an engine. I asked him when people ship “engines, internal combustion, flammable liquid powered” whether they state the quantity of flammable liquid inside the engine or do they state the weight of the engine. He said they state the weight of the engine. Then all of a sudden, it’s like the light went on! He understood what I was explaining. He said they will accept the shipment as is, and will get it out that day. It was a week from the day that I first tried shipping this shipment out; the shipment arrived at the destination on Monday. It took explaining 3 times, and a week to get the shipment out!

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