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Shipping Hazardous Materials

24 July 2020

Hazardous materials are goods and products that need special management to be packaged, palletized, and loaded. In some cases, they require special machines, equipment, and containers to be shipped safely. In brief, Hazardous materials are products that can present a threat to living creatures.

Hazardous materials are different in form, nature, and size. They can be anything from liquid, solid, and gaseous. For example, chemicals, liquid nitrogen, radioactive material, lithium batteries, etc. Shipping such products require getting the required certification and permits, adequate packaging, and the appropriate documents.

How To Identify Hazardous Materials?

It is difficult for both importers and exporters to identify whether or not their products present a danger to living organisms because many items that we daily consume are considered dangerous. For example, take perfume, paint, and laundry detergent. They are classified among hazardous materials.

To know whether your product is considered dangerous or not, ask your supplier or the manufacturer to provide you with the material safety data sheet (MSDS). The documents include information on the product’s physical and chemical specifications.

In general, most countries consider explosives, gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids, spontaneously combustible, and dangerous when wet, Oxidizer, organic peroxide, Poison (toxic), poison inhalation hazard, infectious substance, radioactive materials, corrosives, and miscellaneous hazardous material.


Shipping and transporting hazardous materials is not simple. There are regulations to conform with. These regulations differ from one country to another. Thus they are regulated by different bodies depending on the mode of transportation.

Internationally, the transportation of hazardous materials is regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) if they are transported by air, International Maritime Organization (IMO) if they are transported by sea. As for land transportation, it depends on the country in which the products are.

For example, in the United States, hazardous materials are regulated by the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR). It is a document issued by the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) that indicates specific instructions on handling protocol, certifications, labeling, training, classes, definitions of hazardous goods, etc.


7 Tips To Transport Hazardous Materials

As we mentioned earlier, hazardous materials contain some daily consumed items such as lithium batteries and perfumes. Therefore, they are handled and shipped on a daily basis. Giving their importance and danger, shippers should be careful handling them. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind when managing such materials.

– Adequate Packaging: Adequate packaging is necessary for transporting normal goods safely and more so for dangerous materials. Therefore, hazardous materials require special and proper packaging so they don’t jeopardize lives. Some hazardous materials are sensitive to temperature, humidity, moisture, etc. These should be shipped in special containers.

– Labeling: Labeling your hazardous goods is as important as proper packaging. These products are dangerous and they cause some catastrophic incidents. The right labels and stickers are necessary and should be visible on the package to warn and alarm handlers. It recommended that you inform the handlers of your hazardous cargo with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code or United Nations (UN) number of the cargo that indicates how dangerous it is.

– Correct Documentation: Obtaining the right documents to ship hazard materials is very complicated and significant. Customs and related bodies manage carefully such materials. Hazardous materials are classified into different classes and each class requires different documents. Therefore, make sure you have the right documents in order for your cargo to be properly declared and cleared for transportation and handling.

– Certificate: In order to be able to ship hazardous materials, you need to have a certificate. You can obtain the certificate after attending training sessions. Certificates for shipping hazardous materials have validity periods. Besides, there are different types of certificates and each class of hazardous materials requires a specific type.

– Insurance: Hazardous materials are dangerous and you don’t want to be responsible for them without having insurance to cover your back. Whatever the mode of transportation is, you need insurance to cover the potential danger.

– Plan In Advance: The process of transporting hazardous materials is complicated and it involves a heavy load of paperwork. Obtaining the document and getting them ready is time-consuming. Therefore, you should plan at least 3 months before the expected day of the shipment. You should also book space for your shipment at least three weeks in advance. Carriers take some time to give their approval on shipping dangerous materials.

We advise you to deal carefully with hazardous materials and to inform all parties involved, of the nature of your shipment.

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