5 Important Steps for Shipping Dangerous Goods by Sea

1. Classify dangerous Goods

First step is to classify the goods under the criteria of IMDG Code. Chapter 2.0 of IMDG Code lays down general provisions of classification, chapters 2.1 to 2.9 are specific criteria for classification of goods under Class 1 to Class 9 and chapter 10 for marine pollutants.

Classification includes assignment of UN Number, Proper Shipping name and Packing Group. Most commonly transported substances and solutions are already assigned to specific UN Number and packing group which can be found in the Alphabetical index.

For the selection of appropriate packaging dangerous goods substances are divided into packing groups

  • Packing Group I: high danger
  • Packing Group II: medium danger
  • Packing Group III: low danger

Classes 1, 2, 5.2, 6.2, 7 and self-reactive substances of class 4.1 and articles are not assigned to packing groups.

UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, 6th edition sets out the test procedures for determining whether the goods are dangerous, packing groups and compatibility groups for explosives. Further these criteria meet the classification and assignment of packing group as set out in Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

A mistake made in classification may change the packing group or proper shipping name or even a wrong class which can cause wrong stowage on board ships and wrong application of emergency response thus endangering lives at sea.

Personnel involved in classifying dangerous goods and assigning proper shipping name shall be trained in:

  • –     the structure of the description of substances
  • –     the classes of dangerous goods and the principles of their classification
  • –     the nature of the dangerous substances and articles transported (their physical, chemical and toxicological properties)
  • –     the procedure for classifying solutions and mixtures
  • –     identification by proper shipping name
  • –     use of Dangerous Goods List

    2. Pack dangerous goods

Options of packaging are listed through Packing, IBC and Tank instructions. These instructions provide a wide range in size and types of packaging from smallest to largest, IBCs and tanks. Depending on the packing group maximum quantity permitted in specific packages or type of IBCs may differ. Certain goods when packed in plastics packages will differ in stowage category on board vessel. Requirements for testing of packages are laid down in chapter 6 of IMDG Code.

Personnel involved in packing of dangerous goods shall be trained in:

  • –     Classes
  • –     Packaging requirements
  • –     type of packages (IBC, large packaging, tank
  • –     container and bulk container)
  • –     UN marking for approved packaging
  • –     segregation requirements
  • –     limited quantities and excepted quantities
  • –     Marking and labelling
  • –     First aid measures
  • –     Emergency response procedures
  • –     Safe handling procedures

3.   Mark, label or placard dangerous goods

Every package of dangerous goods must be marked and labelled. Marking includes UN Number, Proper Shipping Name, Technical name (when assigned with special provision 274), Marine Pollutant mark. Labels of Class and Subsidiary Risks must be affixed next to the marks. Special provisions may require additional label or dispense a label which need to be considered. Consignment of dangerous goods in Limited Quantities or Excepted Quantities have different marking requirements which are laid down in chapters 3.4 and 3.5 respectively.  There may be additional marking requirements or exemptions for specific goods stipulated through special provisions.

Personnel involved in marking Labeling of dangerous goods packages or Placarding the cargo transport units shall be trained in:

  • –     Classes
  • –     Marking, labelling and placarding requirements
  • –     primary and subsidiary risk labels
  • –     marine pollutants
  • –     limited quantities and excepted quantities

4.   Load/ Unload Cargo Transport Unit

Chapter 7.3 of IMDG Code contains the provisions appropriate to those responsible for the consignment operations in the dangerous goods transport supply chain, including provisions relating to packing of dangerous goods into cargo transport units. Segregation provisions of Chapter 7.2 must be adhered to when multiple dangerous goods are packed into same container. When liquid dangerous goods are filled into tank containers degree of filling as prescribed in chapter 4.2 must be taken in to consideration. Guidelines for packing a container can be found in UNECE CTU Code. Personnel involved in packing of container must be trained in performing this function. Most of the cargo damages and fires are originated by dangerous goods poorly packed in containers.

Personnel involved in Loading/unloading cargo transport units shall be trained in:

  • –     Documentation
  • –     Classes
  • –     Marking, labelling and placarding
  • –     Stowage requirements, where applicable
  • –     Segregation requirements
  • –     Cargo securing requirements (as contained in the
  • –     CTU Code)
  • –     Emergency response procedures
  • –     First aid measures
  • –     CSC requirements
  • –     Safe handling procedures

Exis Technologies online training for safe handling and packing of CTUs is an effective training tool for same.

5.   Prepare Transport Document

Once the doors of container are closed no one can see what is inside the box. No one knows what’s inside the box other than the party packed it. Information contained in dangerous goods declaration is the final words which determine correct stowage and segregation on board ships.  Incorrectly prepared dangerous goods declaration can end up placing the container in wrong stowage location jeopardizing safety of life at sea.

Chapter 5.4 of IMDG Code lays down the criteria for declaring dangerous goods to carrier. Shipper and packer has different responsibilities which will be combined when shipper himself is packing the container.

Below are the legal declarations of Shipper and Packer of dangerous goods.


I hereby declare that the contents of this consignment are fully and accurately described below by the proper shipping name, and are classified, packaged, marked and labelled/placarded and are in all respects in proper condition for transport according to the applicable international and national governmental regulations.


I hereby declare that the goods described above have been packed/ loaded into the container/vehicle identified above in accordance with the applicable provisions.

Personnel involved in preparing transport documents for dangerous goods shall be trained in:

  • :–     transport document
  • –     container/vehicle packing certificate
  • –     competent authorities’ approval
  • –     waste transport documentation
  • –     special documentation, where appropriate


Further readings

Marking and Labeling of Dangerous Goods

Packing of Dangerous Goods in Containers

IMDG Code 37-14 : Worked Examples of Segregation

How to Fill Dangerous Goods Declaration



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