Safety in ports


General rules for the protection of health and safety of workers at work are laid down in OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 and in a large number of supplementing Directives on specific aspects such as the workplace, the use of work equipment, personal protective equipment, machinery, chemical agents, asbestos, carcinogens and mutagens, physical agents, etc... As a rule, all these EU regulations equally apply to the port sector. They contain no specific provisions on port labour.


BLU Code and safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers

Directive 2001/96/EC - EU requirements and procedures for safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers requires, inter alia, that terminals in EU ports where solid bulk cargoes are loaded or unloaded only accept bulk carriers that can safely berth alongside the loading or unloading installation, taking into consideration water depth at the berth, maximum size of the ship, mooring arrangements, fendering, safe access and possible obstructions to loading or unloading operations (Annex II, Art. 1).

Terminal loading and unloading equipment shall be properly certified and maintained in good order, in compliance with the relevant regulations and standards, and only operated by duly qualified and, if appropriate, certified personnel (Annex II, Art. 2).

Terminal personnel shall be trained in all aspects of safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers commensurate with their responsibilities. The training shall be designed to provide familiarity with the general hazards of loading and unloading of solid bulk cargoes and the adverse effect improper loading and unloading operations may have on the safety of the ship (Annex II, Art. 3).

Terminal personnel involved in the loading and unloading operations shall be provided with and use personnel protective equipment and shall be duly rested to avoid accidents due to fatigue (Annex II, Art. 4).

The above described Directive implements the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers (BLU Code) on the EU level. The BLU Code, which was adopted in November 1997 by resolution A.862(20), was developed with the aim of preventing accidents or loss of ships carrying solid bulk cargoes as a result of improper loading and unloading practices. 

The BLU Code provides guidance to ship masters of bulk carriers, terminal operators and other parties concerned for the safe handling, loading and unloading of solid bulk cargoes and is linked to regulation VI/7 (Loading, unloading and stowage of bulk cargoes) of the 1974 SOLAS Convention, as amended by resolution MSC.47(66).  Further amendments to the BLU Code were adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee by resolutions MSC.238(82) and MSC.304(87).



Terminals have since many years been committed to increasing the environmental performance of the industry and are already exceeding the 2020 EU GHG reduction targets.  

One way terminal operators ensure their environmental performance is by applying for internationally recognized certification schemes such as ISO 14001 of the International Standards Organization or the EMAS Eco-Management and Audit Scheme which has been developed by the European Commission. Terminals also have certification schemes in place to ensure compliance with, for example, safety and labour standards. 



Over 600 million freight containers are shipped throughout the world annually. Freight containers are sometimes treated with chemicals (fumigants) in order to kill any potential pests inside the freight container before shipping. The objective of this process is to ensure that products are not damaged or destroyed during the shipping process and to keep pests out of receiving countries

These chemicals have potentially harmful effects on human health. In gas form, these chemicals can be extremely dangerous, if not fatal, upon inhalation. In many cases, the gases are also difficult to detect by humans. Solid residues can be harmful as well.

Given that most of all freight containers transit through ports, it is important that port operators and workers ensure there is a proper training framework in place to ensure that health risks from fumigated containers are minimised.

International law requires the marking of containers under fumigation, however unfortunately, information regarding the atmospheric status inside a container cannot always be relied upon. 

If you want to know more, please read the Social Partners' Agreement on Training for port workers in relation to fumigated containers.