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Planning to export dangerous goods overseas by ship? If your cargo contains flammable, corrosive, explosive, or poisonous materials, it is mandatory to fill out a Dangerous Goods Container Packing Declaration.

According to South African law, cargo ships may not transport or take any packaged dangerous goods on board unless the shipowner or shipmaster is first given a Dangerous Goods Container Packing Declaration form.

Note: You can read more about the South African legal requirements for shipping dangerous goods in the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods) Regulations, 1997, as set out in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1951 (Act No. 57 of 1951).

What are dangerous goods?

For shipping purposes, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) defines dangerous goods as  “…substances, materials and articles covered by the [International Maritime Dangerous Goods] (IMDG) code”.

The (IMDG) code was first adopted in 1965. The code’s main aim is to prevent all types of sea pollution and ensure human and marine safety. It stipulates how goods must be packaged and transported. The code is universal and contains several mandatory stipulations. This means that all cargo-carrying vessels worldwide must adhere to the majority of requirements set out in the code.

The IMDG code classifies dangerous goods according to their properties. Table 1 provides a summary of these classifications.



Class 1


Class 2

Gases compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure, subdivided into three categories:
• Class 2.1 Flammable gases
• Class 2.2 Non-flammable gases, being compressed, liquefied or dissolved, but neither flammable nor poisonous
• Class 2.3 Poisonous gases

Class 3

Flammable liquids, subdivided into three categories:
• Class 3.1 Low flashpoint group of liquids having a flashpoint below -18 °C, closed cup test
• Class 3.2 Intermediate flashpoint group of liquids having a flashpoint of -18 °C up to but not including 23 °C, closed cup test
• Class 3.3 High flashpoint group of liquids having a flashpoint of 23 °C up to and including 61 °C, closed cup test

Class 4

• Class 4.1 — Flammable solids
• Class 4.2 — Substances liable to spontaneous combustion
• Class 4.3 — Substances that, in contact with water, emit flammable gases

Class 5

• Class 5.1 — Oxidising substances (agents)
• Class 5.2 — Organic peroxides

Class 6

• Class 6.1 — Poisonous (toxic) substances
• Class 6.2 — Infectious substances

Class 7

Radioactive materials

Class 8


Class 9

Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles that pose a danger not covered by other classes. Where there is doubt as to the appropriate classification of dangerous goods, such goods must be classified by an approved classification authority.

What must I indicate on my Dangerous Goods Container Packing Declaration?

Your Dangerous Goods Container Packing Declaration must contain the following information:

  • The correct technical name of the dangerous goods, followed by the words “Marine Pollutant” if appropriate.
  • Universal UN number* (if any) for each good.
  • The class each good belongs to (see Table 1).
  • The number and types of packages.
  • The total quantity of packaged dangerous goods (gross mass or volume).
  • Any additional information required by the IMDG code.
  • A statement to indicate that the goods are packaged in accordance with the regulations set out in the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods) Regulations, 1997.

*UN numbers are four-digit numbers that classify dangerous and hazardous goods in the international transport framework. UN numbers are assigned by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

Additional requirements:

  • You must provide the shipowner, shipmaster, or freight forwarder with the declaration. If you make use of a freight forwarder, it is the forwarder’s responsibility to deliver the declaration to the shipowner or shipmaster.
  • If you fail to provide a declaration or provide false or misleading information, you will be guilty of an offence.

Figure 1 below is an example of a Dangerous Goods Container Packing Declaration form.

If you would like peace of mind about your dangerous goods cargo, visit our website or contact us on 087 550 1038 to find out more about our freight management solutions.

Tracy Venter

Tracy transitioned from industry to founding Import Export License in 2011, aiding importers and exporters with customs compliance. In 2014, she launched Trade Logistics, focusing on supporting startups and SMMEs in international trade. Since then, Tracy's team has assisted 35,000+ businesses, reaching 32,000 traders monthly through newsletters. She's contributed to publications like Entrepreneurs Magazine and SME Toolkit, spoken at trade events, and participated in customs forums. Import Export License helped with the pilot trial to launch customs' new online registration platform (RLA). Through Trade Logistics she has launched 3 online import-export training courses. She holds an Honours degree from Stellenbosch University and a Cum Laude Masters from Middlesex University. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys running, mountain biking, playing piano, and cherishing moments with her husband and four children.