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Moving goods between countries can be confusing. Somewhere between preparing your goods, getting appropriate declarations signed and choosing the route of transit, you might get a bit lost. 

And that’s just regular, innocent goods. 

Shipping dangerous goods can be even more daunting. And it’s surprising exactly what is considered to be dangerous… 

The transportation of hazardous materials, or hazmat, between countries is governed by a tirade of regulations. Not only is knowing your stuff vital to keep people and places safe, but it will also prevent your business from breaking any rules.

What Is Classed As Hazardous?

Dangerous goods are classified as any product capable of putting health, safety and property at serious risk when being transported. Understanding which items fall where in the classification table is the first step in shipping hazardous materials. 

The International Maritime Organisation (or IMO) has classified all hazmat into nine categories which you can see in our hazardous goods guide here, some with subdivisions. 

The nine categories run as follows:

  • Class 1: Explosives. These materials are deemed most dangerous because they have the ability to detonate, for example, fireworks and flares.
  • Class 2: Gasses. Gasses are commonly flammable, toxic or corrosive in nature. This category covers anything from your everyday-use deodorant aerosol to fire extinguishers.
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids. Compared to other liquids, these need only a very low temperature to ignite and are commonly found in household products. Flammable liquids form the majority of hazmat transported by road, train or ship. 
  • Class 4: Flammable solids. These materials are easily combustible, some spontaneously. Examples of flammable solids include sodium batteries and matches.
  • Class 5: Oxidising agents & organic peroxides. This class contains material which has a high oxygen content and is therefore very reactive, such as hydrogen peroxide.
  • Class 6: Toxins and infectious substances. Toxic substances such as acids can cause serious harm to our health if swallowed, inhaled or in contact with our skin. Medical waste and specimens fall under the infectious substances category.
  • Class 7: Radioactive material. These products host unstable atoms that give off radiation, and it’s that radiation that can be damaging to our health. Smoke detectors are on this list.
  • Class 8: Corrosives. Paints, dyes and batteries can all be found here. Corrosives cause serious damage when in contact with human skin, or damage and destroy their surroundings in the event of a leak.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous goods. This part covers any substance or product which could cause danger or damage during transport that doesn’t fit into the other categories. Here you’ll find things like dry ice, asbestos and vehicles!

As you can see, plenty of items we use on a daily basis seem harmless but are actually classed as hazardous. Even your laptop and mobile phone are considered hazmat because of their lithium batteries.

Rules and Regulations

The moving of hazardous goods from one country to another is governed internationally by regulations, agreements and directives. The three main regulations are: 

  • ADR, covering the international carriage of dangerous goods by road
  • IMDG, covering the international carriage of dangerous goods by sea
  • And lastly, IATA, covering the international carriage of dangerous goods by air.

It is imperative that all personnel involved understand their duty to make sure the carriage of hazmat is being executed properly. Anyone involved in any part or process of the movement of hazardous materials must be trained before taking up their role, and this training should be refreshed every two years. 

Dangerous Goods Notes And Declarations

All goods need to be declared, packed and labelled according to their classification, and must travel with the correct documentation for each country they will be passing through.

Not only does failure to advise the hazardous nature of goods you’re shipping put people and property at potential risk, but it can also be met with serious fines.

A Dangerous Goods Note is often required to be shipped or transported alongside any hazardous materials. This is because it carries detailed and accurate information about the safe and legal handling of the goods. 

How To Ship Hazardous Goods

The logistics of organising the carriage of hazardous goods can take time, but for good reason. Extensive documentation needs to be checked, packages travelling by air will be x-rayed, and the compatibility of multiple types travelling together analysed.  

Planning on shipping hazardous goods? Follow these steps:

  • Check you’ve got the MSDS. If you ship or receive dangerous goods you should have a Material Safety Data Sheet. This extensive legal document contains information about any potential hazards and how to work safely with the product. Class number, UN number and Proper Shipping Name are all pieces of information on the MSDS that will be essential in labelling your product.
  • Package the goods. Check any regulations that might apply to your product and package the product correctly against the requirements specified. Special packaging might not be required if the quantity is small.
  • Label and mark the packages. Remember the MSDS? The UN number and Proper Shipping Name, at the very least, will be required to be displayed on the packages and the marks made should be permanent to the point of being able to withstand extreme conditions.
  • Inform the freight forwarder. No matter how your goods will travel, you must inform the forwarder involved of the nature of the cargo. A dangerous goods note will be needed for carriage by air and sea, but not necessarily by road.

Does Shipping Hazardous Goods Sound Like A Minefield? 

Having a good understanding of the current transport rules, which are subject to change, is vital to shipping hazmat correctly. 

There are plenty of regulations and considerations to be aware of and as the shipper, you are liable if anything goes wrong. 

Want to take the stress out of the process? Speak to Millennium Cargo. We know everything about moving dangerous goods, so you don’t have to.