Shipping Hazmat by Military Conveyance
When you talk of military shipments; the thought of moving soldiers and military equipment are brought to mind. Shipping hazardous material (hazmat) in today’s military by air, land and sea has become as common as soldiers saluting the flag. The classification of hazmat includes a number of materials and substances considered a health hazard in case of their spillage. These include chemicals such as carcinogens, neurotoxins, nephrotoxins, reproductive toxins, irritants and corrosives among other chemicals. The US government additionally classifies combustible liquids, explosives, compressed gases, reactive and water reactive chemicals, organic peroxides and flammable solids as hazmat. The US government further categorizes items or chemicals, which on transportation or movement, are a risk to the public safety, and are therefore under the regulation of one of the government agencies including Department of Transportation, International Air Transportation Association and Air Force among others.
For the US military, conveyance of hazmat over the years has followed the regulations set through the Defense Transportation Regulation. According to the Defense Transportation Regulation (2015), it is a prerequisite for all DoD personnel participating in the transportation of hazmat to adhere to the rules and regulation set by the governing bodies. Compliance is necessary to ensure the avoidance of any environmental or human hazards caused by spillage of the hazmat.
From the individual shipment to the different DoD’s departments, the current conveyance of DoD hazmat has evolved into the management of the shipment by a singular entity. The Government Accountability Officer (2014) informs that that the DoD uses TRANSCOM as its solitary manager for transportation. TRANSCOM is responsible for shipment for the different arms of military and is composed of the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Sealift Command for the Navy and Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (Government Accountability Officer, 2014).
In its capacity as the Army’s transportation and distribution manager, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is responsible for providing global common-use ocean terminal services and traffic-management services for the army. Additionally, the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is responsible for conducting port operations at sealift terminal, with its additional responsibilities including planning, transporting and tracking shipment under transportation by road and rail (Government Accountability Officer, 2014).
For the Navy, the Military Sealift Command takes the responsibility of shipping material over water. This, the Command undertakes using a diverse range of ships including both government-owned and commercial ships (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). Using military and commercial carriers, the Air Mobility Command ships items for the Air Force to destinations across the world. The Command serves as the single port manager for aerial ports (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). The C-17 Globemaster III has especially acquired a reputation for its size, payload and flight range in transporting items for the military (Baglole, n.d.). The Air Force can therefore easily one of the C-17 in its fleet of 120 for the transportation of hazmat over the air. The sheer size of the aircraft means that the Air Force can ship tons of hazmat safely from one destination to another, without unnecessary stoppages, which may be a cause of spillages and hazards.
To ensure timely, quick processing and shipment of the hazmat, DoD installations and bases have personnel who assist with the traffic-management of shipments (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). The responsibilities of the personnel include offering assistance in the labeling, handling, and packaging of the hazardous materials and shipment, before passing them to carriers for transportation.
At the center of hazmat transportation is the 1975 Hazardous Material Transportation Act, which stipulates the modes of transportation for hazardous material in the US (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). Although the Act has since been amended in light of new developments, its purpose remains the protection of individuals, property and the environment against inherent risks posed by the transportation of the hazardous material. DoT’s Hazard Materials Regulations also govern the handling of hazmat in issues such as labeling, handling, packaging and transportation, as well as guidance regarding the different classes of the materials in relation to the hazmat’s composition, level of danger and mode of transportation (Government Accountability Officer, 2014).
Over the years, DOD has developed regulations to its unique circumstances, especially for those not covered in the regular hazmat transportation framework. These regulations include the Defense Transportation Regulation for hazmat transportation via military aircraft and Air Force Manual 24-204, which stipulates exceptional procedures during tactical, contingency or emergency airlift (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). The additional regulations also encompass transportation of ammunition, arms and explosives, which the regulation stipulates that they should not be transported in ready-to-fire mode, especially during transportation over rail, a vessel, aircraft or public highway (Defense travel Regulation, 2015).
Even with TRANSCOM’s efficiency in the shipment of hazmat, the DoD has met challenges in its transportation of the hazardous material. Among the challenges that the military has had to deal with include improper documentation and packaging, which have resulted in transportation delays (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). Other challenges have included instances when the military did not provide the transportation carriers for arms, ammunition and explosives, situations that posed great danger to public safety and national security repercussions. An additional challenge is the military’s process for the selection and evaluation of eligible and current carriers for the transportation of hazardous material including arms, explosives, and ammunition as well as sensitive and classified shipments (Government Accountability Officer, 2014). Such documentation challenges, apart from jeopardizing public, environmental and national safety, also cause delays in shipment and delivery of the materials to their points of destination. Such delays may constitute a few hours or weeks, and in so doing causing a backlog of shipments, as well as creating a jam at the points of shipment.
The military has also had to deal with the problem of inexperienced and untrained commercial shippers and DOD personnel. These personnel therefore, make mistakes on the documentation and packaging of the hazmat. Even more is that some of the commercial shippers were unfamiliar with the hazmat packaging and documentation standards required by the DoD (Government Accountability Officer, 2014).
Proper holding for sensitive arms for commercial carriers was also a challenge that the DoD has had to deal with in the shipment of hazmat. The proper and secure holding for such sensitive arms and ammunition is important given the risk such arms and ammunition poses to public safety and national security (Government Accountability Officer, 2014).
The sensitivity of hazmat requires proper conveyance of the shipment for the safety of the public and environment, and ensure national security. The DoD has evolved in its shipment of hazmat, making it the sole responsibility of TRANSCOM through its different arms supporting the Navy, Army and Air Force. Although TRANSCOM has done a commendable job, it has had to face several challenges, which have not only threatened the national security and public and environmental safety, but also caused several hours, and sometimes weeks of delay. The military has however been at task to ensure improvement in its shipment of hazard.
Baglole, J. (n.d.). The c-17 globemaster iii – record payload. Retrieved from http://usmilitary.about.com/od/cargo/a/c17.htm
Defense Travel Regulation (2015) Chapter 204 Hazardous Material Retrieved from http://www.ustranscom.mil/dtr/part-ii/dtr_part_ii_204.pdf
USAF. Department of the U.S. Air Force, (2012). Afman 24-204: Preparing hazardous materials for military shipments
Government Accountable Office (2014) DEFENSE TRANSPORTATION
DOD Needs to Take Actions to Improve the Transportation of Hazardous Material Shipments Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662906.pdf