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Transporting dangerous goods for the sake of international trade is highly specialised as it puts all involved parties at risk. International customs authorities work on the principle that “ignorance is no excuse” when it comes to mis-declaration or incorrect packaging of these goods. The onus of knowing everything about the nature of a shipment and the packaging requirements thereof therefore lies solely on the trader. This includes knowing how to properly declare a shipment as dangerous,

Mis-declaring cargo, especially when this puts the crew, the vessel, and other cargo at risk, means facing hefty fines and/or the shipment being destroyed.

Identifying dangerous/hazardous goods

Dangerous or hazardous goods are identified and classified by a four-digit UN number system with each classification having assigned requirements for packaging and labeling.

There are nine types of dangerous goods, namely:

Type 1: Explosives

Type 2: Gases

Type 3: Flammable liquids

Type 4: Flammable solids

Type 5: Oxidizing agents and organic peroxide

Type 6: Toxic and infectious substances

Type 7: Radioactive substances

Type 8: Corrosive substances

Type 9: Miscellaneous dangerous goods*

*Which includes (but is not limited to) dry ice/cardice / solid carbon dioxide, expandable polymeric beads/polystyrene beads, ammonium nitrate fertilizers, Blue asbestos/crocidolite, lithium ion batteries, lithium metal batteries, battery-powered equipment, battery-powered vehicles, fuel cell engines, internal combustion engines, vehicles, magnetized material, dangerous goods in apparatus, dangerous goods in machinery, genetically modified organisms, genetically modified micro-organisms, chemical kits, first aid kits, life-saving appliances, air bag modules, seatbelt pretensioners, plastics moulding compound, castor bean plant products, polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated terphenyls, dibromodifluoromethane, and benzaldehyde.

To confirm whether goods are classified as dangerous, traders can use the UN Dangerous Goods List which can be viewed or downloaded here:

Packaging dangerous goods for transport

The UN and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) have set packaging requirements involving a series of protocols to guarantee safety during the transportation and storage of dangerous goods. This involves rigorously testing packing material to ensure suitability in the case of each type of hazardous cargo and certifying packaging that is proven suitable.

Using UN-certified packaging is therefore a requirement in the shipping of dangerous goods. Different packaging requirements exist for each class of hazardous cargo and are referred to in column 8 of the UN Dangerous Goods List.

Interpreting UN packaging requirements

Packing instructions are classified according to the following types of packages:

IBCxx – Intermediate bulk containers

LPxx – Large packaging

Pxxx  – Packages other than IBCs and large packaging

For each type of package, it is also very important to know the special provisions as found in column 9. These can be classified as follows:

Bxx – Intermediate bulk containers

Lxx – Large packaging

PPx – Packages other than IBCs and large packaging

In the example below the requirements of a shipment containing UN-0434 would be P130 for single packages and LP101 for large packaging. The special packaging provisions for this shipment are PP67 in the case of single packages and L1 in the case of large packages.

The interpretation of each of these codes can be found in the UN’s Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations Volume II which can be downloaded here.

To ensure the packaging used is in line with the requirements of a UN packing group, consult the UN specification mark printed on the packaging material or container.

The box or container used must also clearly display the appropriate label according to the applicable hazard. Click below to download our printable library of dangerous goods labels.

In addition to establishing the UN packaging requirements, UNECE has published an outline of the criteria for establishing the relevant category of dangerous goods, accompanied by a detailed description of each category. This is noted in Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations Volume I which can be downloaded here.

It is however important to note that the final say lies with the freight provider. Whether or not a product is listed in the UN Dangerous Goods List, they have the right to refuse transportation service on goods they deem too high a risk.

We know navigating your way around importing and exporting can be a challenge. For assistance in the complicated world of international trade, as well as quick and easy customs registrations, permits, and foreign payment solutions, our consultants are just a phone call away. Get in touch today and let us help you make a success story for every shipment.

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