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Prohibited Commodities

You can ship just about anything in a container, but it's nice to know some carriers will refuse to ship at-risk marine life for ethical reasons.

Carrier Restrictions

Published: 9 September 2016

As long as no laws are broken, it must be tempting for carriers to ship goods and let the customer shoulder the ethical responsibility. In recent years, however, shipping lines such as Hapag-Lloyd, OOCL and Maersk, have taken a step beyond legal regulations in an effort to better the environment.

In response to the overfishing crisis facing our oceans, some shipping lines have applied a blanket ban on the shipment of whale, dolphin and shark commodities and products made from them. Policies vary between carriers, with some transport bans including...

By preventing the transport of these goods, carriers help to sever the global supply, limiting access to markets and demand. That's good news for at-risk marine life which might otherwise be fished and hunted to extinction.


In the case of Hapag-Lloyd, they even refuse to ship genetically modified microorganisms and hunting trophies (i.e. lions). In their own words, 'Whenever such requests are made, they are met with a simple but friendly: "Sorry, but that doesn't come on board our ships!"'.

Hapag-Lloyd uses special software, called 'Cargo Patrol', to help the company maintain its blacklist, monitoring shipment declarations for anomalies and prohibited goods. In 2014 the program raised more than 162,000 red flags with approximately 2,600 proving to be well-found.

'Whether deliberately or inadvertently, customers sometimes make false declarations about their cargo', Hapag-Lloyd said, '...a recent incident involving a shipment of leather boots shows just how well this blacklist works across the world: Although the shipment seemed rather innocuous, it emerged from the cargo documents that a care product would be enclosed with every pair of boots - and that this product contained an oil extracted from mink carcasses.'

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