Dangerous materials – Correct transportation

After talking in our blog about the dangerous goods classifications and the correct way to store them, to wrap up our “hazardous materials series” today we are talking about how to transport hazardous cargo safely.

Transporting Dangerous Goods

As we’ve been saying, dangerous or hazardous goods are items or substances that could pose risks to health, safety or the environment, especially if they are not handled or packed properly, that’s why correct transportation of dangerous cargo is so important.

Before shipping dangerous materials there are two things to know: which class your goods fall under and what quantity limits apply.

You can find this and much more information for most of the dangerous materials in the UN Dangerous Goods List.

As we saw in our first post about the dangerous materials classifications, in our day to day we use lots of products that can be classified as hazardous (like food flavourings, perfume, soaps and detergents, cosmetics, dyes or paints…) which on their own they may not pose much of a danger but they do when certain quantity limits are exceeded, or if specific packaging is used.
With this information you’ll be able to determine the required documentation, packaging, labeling and the right transport method for each dangerous product.

Documentation for hazardous materials

Correct documentation and labeling help ensure that hazardous cargo is handled appropriately and in a way that reduces potential risks.

The product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) will help you get all the information you need. It comes from the manufacturer of the product and it contains all kinds of information, like the transportation hazard classification for the item, the proper shipping name, the hazard class and the packing group for the product (see below).

An important document for the transport of dangerous materials is the Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD), a declaration given by the party that organizes the transportation of dangerous goods to the carrier certifying that the cargo has been packed, labeled and declared according with the Dangerous Goods Regulations, national and/or international.

Other important documents that are used in international shipping and are needed for hazardous materials transportation are:

  • The shipper’s letter of instructions (SLI): a document prepared by the exporter instructing the freight forwarder on how and where to handle the export shipment.
  • The certificate of origin (CO): an important international trade document certifying that goods in a particular export shipment have been obtained, produced, manufactured or processed in their entirety in a particular country.

Packing of hazardous cargo – Classification and labeling

As stablished above, how you pack your dangerous goods will depend on the hazardous class your goods fall under and the quantity of them you are shipping.

UN Packing Groups & markings

Hazardous materials can be assigned into three packing groups (also known as UN Packing Group) depending on the degree of danger they present: Packing Group I for high danger, Packing Group II for medium danger and Packing Group III for low danger. Each packing group needs a different degree of protective packaging. For example, the packaging requirements for Group I will be higher than for those that fall on Group II and III.

Packages and containers for dangerous goods should have passed rigorous performance testing, if they do they bear a UN specification mark like the one shown below.

This mark helps understand which kind of dangerous substances is being shipped, as it specifies:

  • Type and material of the packaging.
  • Packaging Group.
  • Maximum gross mass in Kg.
  • State of the substance.
  • Year of manufacture.
  • Approval country.
  • Manufacturer identification.
Example of a UN specification mark

Along the UN marks the packages for dangerous cargo also include the Proper Shipping Name. It refers to the standard technical name that describes the hazardous properties and  composition of the goods. As seen above, it’s made out of a UN number (usually 4 digits) and a name from the Dangerous Goods List that most accurately describes the cargo.  The name must be included in the Dangerous Goods Declaration. Some substances are well defined and it’s easier to chose a name for them, that’s why it is so important correct training and knowledge when managing dangerous goods. When it is accompanied by N.O.S it means “otherwise not specified”. Example: UN 1987 ALCOHOLS, N.O.S.
The UN number can also be seen in the label classifying the substance.

Other important markings can be orientation arrows or excepted quantities mark.

Classification and labeling

Classification and labelling are also used to identify hazardous chemicals and inform users about their dangers through standard symbols and phrases, easy to see and understand, to ensure good worldwide understanding and facilitate the free flow of goods. As we saw in our previous post, each classification (explosives, corrosives, toxics, etc.) has a pictogram associated and if a product falls into more than one category you should show all of them on the packaging.

Different methods of transports and their regulations

Each method has its own regulations you need to know before choosing one or the other, depending on the materials you are shipping, as well as its own advantages and disadvantages. Remember to check that your cargo can be shipped by all modes of transport you are planning on using and how you should prepare!

  • Sea freight and inland waterways – Sea freight is regulated by the IMO and their International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. It is on of the safest methods of transport but also one of the slowest. Its slowness, especially when shipping long distance, can mean dangerous substances can start degrading while en route.
  • Rail transport – Along with sea freight it is one of the safest methods but it can also be slow. As a ground method of transportations it also has the benefit of cost and convenience. It is regulated by the Appendix C of the Convention covering International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) – Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID).
  • Truck transport – As with rail, truck transportation of dangerous materials is one of the most popular methods due to cost and convenience, but it is important to note that it also is more dangerous than rail. In Europe it is regulated by the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR).
  • Air freight – The International Air Transport Association (IATA), with their Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR), is the regulation body for air transportation of hazardous materials. It is the fastest method but it also is the one with more downsides, like the problems changes in air pressure and temperature can create as well as the enclosed space concerns. It is, usually, also the more expensive option.

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TransGlory, 25 years of experience with dangerous goods transportations

In TransGlory we have ample experience in managing dangerous cargo, offering various specialized services, like our licensed Hazardous Cargo Storage in our Barcelona warehouse and an Only Dangerous Cargo Import Service from China (Shanghai) to Spain.

In TransGlory we are well versed in the transportation of dangerous goods as almost 75% of our export services from Spain contain dangerous materials.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have!