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Shipping dangerous goods and hazardous materials

When shipping dangerous goods or hazardous materials, you need to know which class your goods fall under and what quantity limits apply. This helps you determine the required documentation and packaging and labelling as well as the right transport modes.

What are dangerous goods?

Dangerous Goods are articles or substances that are capable of posing a hazard to healthy, safety, property or the environment, particularly if they are not handled properly.

Dangerous goods or hazardous materials can be solids, liquids, or gases, or they can be pure chemicals, or mixtures of substances, manufactured products, or individual articles. How can we do the classification or identification? They are classified according to their potential hazard, e.g., flammable, toxic, explosive, radioactive, etc.

The United Nations (UN) has established a universal system for the classification of dangerous goods to facilitate different modes of transport (Air and Sea).

Dangerous goods are defined as those goods which meet the criteria of nine hazard classes, with three packing groups whereas nine classes relate to the type of Hazard and three packing groups relate to the applicable degree of dangerous within the class. Some hazard classes are further subdivided into hazard divisions due to the wide scope of the class.
Dangerous goods

Classes of dangerous goods

Class/ Division  List of Dangerous Goods Examples 
Class 1 Explosives Fireworks, flares, aerial, cartridges, power devices, ammunition, incendiary
Class 2    
Division 2.1 Flammable gas Butane, aerosols, camping gas, lighters, liquefied gas, acetylene, ethylene oxide for ripening fruits, hydrogen, compressed for industrial use
Division 2.2 Non-flammable, non-toxic gases Nitrogen, helium, argon, carbon dioxide, oxygen compressed, fire extinguishers, refrigerant gas, fire extinguishers
Division 2.3 Toxic gases Chlorine, phosgene, oxygen difluoride, ammonia, anhydrous (for industrial use), methyl bromide and ethylene oxide for fumigation
Class 3 Flammable liquids Lighter fluid, petrol, solvents, paints, varnish, perfumery products, adhesives, resin solution, printing ink, cleaning fluids
Class 4    
Division 4.1 Flammable solids, self-reactive substances, polymerizing substances and solid desensitised explosives Matches, sulphur, camphor, naphthalene
Division 4.2 Substances liable to spontaneous combustion Phosphorus, copra, fish meal
Division 4.3 Substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases (Dangerous when Wet) Calcium carbide, sodium, ferrosilicon, potassium
Class 5    
Division 5.1 Oxidizer Calcium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, fertilisers
Division 5.2 Organic peroxides Dilauroyl peroxide, Peroxylauric acid
Class 6    
Division 6.1  Toxic substances Pesticides, Toxic, sodium cyanide, Ethyl oxalate
Division 6.2  Infectious substances Affecting human e.g., Ebola virus, affecting animal e.g., African swine fever virus (culture only)
Class 7 Radioactive material Smoke detectors which containing radionuclides, medical apparatus or equipment where activity concentration and total activity exceed the limit for packaging
Class 8  Corrosive substances Bleach, acetic acid, caustic soda, car and truck batteries filled with acid or alkali, mercury, ammonia solution
Class 9 Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles, including environmentally hazardous substances Lithium batteries, dry ice, magnetized materials

Quantity limits

Some everyday consumer goods – such as food flavorings, perfume, cosmetics, personal care products, soaps, detergents, hand sanitizers with alcohol, or some construction materials, such as dyes, paints, varnishes, etc, they look like nothing special as we use them as usual, however, if they are shipped as cargo, what will it be?

How to classify they are ‘Dangerous Goods’ or ‘General commodities’, there is one point needs to be concerned, which is Quantity limit.

For example, a perfume spray that fits into a travel bag, that may seem harmless, but if a huge number of perfume bottles ship on vessel, on truck or on aircraft, there is a big different.

Refers to the Regulations for different modes of safe transport, there are quantity limits for each package of different classes of dangerous goods.
Determine the class of dangerous goods and the quantity limits involved. The specific class of dangerous goods, and the quantity to be shipped, affects how they must be declared, packaged, labelled and transported.


Rules and Regulations for safe transport of Dangerous Goods by different Modes

The United Nations (UN) Subcommittee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods develops recommended procedures on the safe transport of Dangerous Goods. International Associations and Local Authorities base on these to publish the regulations, to provide guidelines and/or guidance for different modes of transport:

More sources:
  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Model Regulations
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) IAEA Safety Standards
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE): Dangerous Goods
  • Local Authorities or governor parties
Check if your goods may be shipped by all modes of transport and how, especially when planning multimodal shipments, e.g. onward transportation from ports or airports by road or rail.

Trained personnel

Regulations require employees dealing with dangerous goods to complete appropriate training. Employees who deal with dangerous goods include those who:
  • Load and unload or handle dangerous materials/goods
  • Prepare dangerous materials/goods for transportation
  • Operate vehicles used to transport dangerous materials/goods
  • Design, manufacture, fabricate, inspect, recondition, maintain, repair or test packages or packaging components used to transport hazardous materials
If you ship goods internationally, check if you are required to have a dangerous goods safety adviser (DGSA). This may not be necessary if you:
  • Only transport dangerous goods in “limited quantities”
  • Only occasionally engage in the carriage, loading or unloading of dangerous goods posing low risk
Ensure that your employees and the employees of your service providers have completed appropriate health and safety training for the transport of dangerous goods.
Dangerous goods

Documentation and paperwork

We are happy to assist with the documentation that is required for shipping dangerous goods and/or hazardous materials. This may include:
  • Dangerous goods notes/declaration: This is a legal requirement for transporting dangerous goods by air and/or sea. The person responsible for signing the Dangerous Goods Note / Declaration is required by law to have completed the appropriate training
  • Materials safety data sheet (MSDS) if any
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • Shipper’s letter of instruction
  • Certificate of origin if needed

In addition, we may also assist with obtaining overflight permits, landing permits and customs clearance if needed.

Inaccurate information or misdeclared description of goods may lead to serious incidents or accidents, as well as penalty.

Check that you have all the proper documents in place when shipping dangerous goods. Involve the recipient, by giving all details prior to the shipment, to enable them to work with local agencies in the destination country and ensure a smooth process.

Packaging and packing methods, marking and labelling

Packaging means what types of material or component are going to pack your dangerous goods and/or hazardous materials.

UN specification packaging, packaging for refrigerated liquefied gases and test criteria for limited quantity packaging, etc., have been taken into account progress in science and technology, and there is no objection to the use of packaging, provided that they are equally effective, acceptable to the appropriate authorities and able to successfully withstand the tests.

The methods used for packing shall be complied with Authorities’ requirement. When preparing each package of Dangerous Goods and/or Hazardous Materials, following may provide you and your team some ideas:

  • Types of packaging being used
  • Packing instructions in Regulations
  • Quantity limitation in each package
  • Assembled and secured of the contents in the manner intended

All necessary marking and labeling of each package of dangerous goods and/or hazardous materials shall be fully completed. Specification of marks and labels may refer to regulations.

We, DSV, as a freight forwarder and logistics provider, together with a great knowledgeable and experienced team would be happy to serve you and your clients.

We also are an important link between you and carriers, and we play an essential role in ensuring the safe transportation of dangerous goods and/or hazardous materials
If your cargo shipped by different modes of transport to your clients globally, from ports to airports, by road or rail back to airports, our Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) always here to assist.

Disclaimer: this information is provided for convenience only. Please consult International Associations and Local Authorities for more details and latest information.

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