Hazardous cargo refers to merchandise that can pose a serious risk to lives, health, environment, and property when transported in bulk. Hazardous cargo aka dangerous goods can come in several forms including solid liquid and gas. Not only explosives, chemicals, or inflammable substances but even items of everyday use like batters, perfume, liquor, aftershave, and hair spray fall under the dangerous goods (DG) category. Shipping these items only pose a threat when transported without the right safety measures as suggested by the UN Recommendations of Transport of Dangerous Goods. In this blog, we are going to focus on shipping dangerous goods and all the precautionary steps that independent freight forwarders need to take before moving them.
The importance of safety in the transportation of dangerous goods
The Beirut explosions in 2020 injured over 5000 people, took 200 lives and ravished several parts of the city. The blasts took place because around 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a warehouse under unsafe conditions. Ammonium Nitrate has been designated as a hazardous substance by the UN and several countries recognize it as an explosive. The Beirut disaster and similar ones have further demonstrated the importance of safety in the movement and storage of hazardous materials. Although shipping dangerous goods can be extremely profitable for the independent freight forwarders, this is a highly specialized sector that is regulation-heavy.
The various classes of dangerous goods
The UN Committee of Experts of the Transport of Dangerous Goods categorizes dangerous goods according to the threat they constitute. To begin with, Class 1 DG consists of explosives like TNT gunpowder, etc. Class 2 DG consists of flammable, non-flammable, toxic, and non-toxic gasses such as helium, oxygen, chlorine, acetylene aerosols, etc. Class 3 DG includes flammable solids, spontaneously combustible materials, and materials that catch fire on coming into contact with air. Some examples of this kind of DG include phosphorous, sodium, and red phosphorous.
Class 5 DG consists of oxidizing substances like ammonium dichromate, ethyl, methyl, ketone, peroxide, etc. Class 6 DG includes toxic and infectious items like cyanide, arsenic, vaccines, etc. Under Class 7 DG we have radioactive material such as uranium oxide. Class 8 DG includes corrosive items like batteries and acid. Lastly, Class 9 DG consists of miscellaneous goods including asbestos, dry ice, etc.
However, there are times when cargo can be hazardous in more than one class. In such a case the class posing the highest level of risk is declared as the primary class and the class posing lesser risk is declared as the secondary class.
Regulatory bodies for moving dangerous goods
Both independent freight forwarders, as well as multinationals, are subject to regulations by various bodies for moving hazardous cargo. However, the regulating body depends on the mode of transportation and the country. Hazardous materials moved by air fall under the jurisdiction of IATA. On the other hand, IMO is responsible for all dangerous cargo moved by sea freight. The regulatory body for DG moved by road freight is dependent on the country.
Tips for independent freight forwarders for moving dangerous goods
This is the first and foremost thing freight forwarders dealing with DG need to focus on. This highly specialized sector requires a lot of training. This is the most important factor that can prevent disasters from happening. The person in charge of handling the goods needs to obtain a TDG (Training in Dangerous Goods) certificate. This certification determines that the person has knowledge and experience of all topics related to DG and has gone through extensive training regarding the movement of hazardous cargo.
Contact the carrier in advance
Logistics companies need to get in touch with the carriers ASAP to avoid letting the hazardous cargo sit in the warehouse for a long time. Moreover, they also need to communicate all the handling guidelines to the carrier. This will allow the carrier to follow all the required measures while opening and loading the containers containing DG.
Proper packaging is crucial for avoiding any mishap. The slightest misstep in packing could lead to potential disasters. For this reason, the freight forwarder needs to follow international standards and protocols for moving dangerous goods. The packing of DG depends on the following factors:
- Type of the cargo
The packaging largely depends on the kinds of dangerous goods as well as its quantity. For example, the regulating bodies don’t permit the movement of some DG if they exceed a certain quantity. A few standard quantities also require the Emergency Response Assistance Plan. Without this, the cargo is not permitted to move.
- Mode of transportation
The rules of moving DG varies according to the mode of shipment. Therefore, independent freight forwarders need to have a solid knowledge of the shipping guidelines for each particular mode of transportation.
- International or domestic cargo
The forwarder needs to abide by the national transportation guidelines for the domestic movement of DG. Shipping DG to foreign territories involves complying with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Ignoring this could result in hefty penalties for the distributor.
The storage of toxic materials is yet another area that requires special attention. Companies that specialize in moving DG should ensure that the storage area comes with warning signs. Additionally, the storage area should not have any obstructions, and should only be accessible to trained and authorized personnel. Before storing DG, a proper inspection of all the incoming containers is required. This should be done to ensure that all the boxes are intact and labeled.
Globalia Logistics Network’s member in Sydney, Australia, has been stocking up dangerous goods in its warehouse since 2014. They have been storing Class 2, 3, 5, 6 & 8 as packaged products. To quote Paul Petrovsky, the Managing Director of PCFS, “This is a value-added service we offer our customers who don’t operate their own warehouse facilities, and who choose to use our 3PL D.G handling services as a distribution arm of their own operations. However, it is not easy and not every agent can do this. We need to follow strict guidelines for labeling and documentation in accordance with Australian and international standards.”
Labeling of DG shipment requires special care on the part of the independent freight forwarders. Improper labeling or a missed label could entail a lot of risks and even a threat to life and property. The labels for DG should come with the following:
- The label should come with the proper shipping term in uppercase. For example, FLAMMABLE GAS.
- The class label should also be written in uppercase. This will allow the handler to know the nature of the content in the freight container.
- Another important component of the label is the UN identification number that allows for easy segregation of the cargo. This number should ideally be placed close to the label identifying the shipment.
- There is a different class of orientation labels for dangerous liquid shipment since they involve another kind of handling.
- The UN certification label is yet another crucial component of the packaging of DG. This label proves that the shipment has met all the standards set by the UN. This is why the logistics company needs to abide by the UN guidelines and provide all the required labels for smooth and safe transportation of the cargo.
Take care of all the details
Paying special attention to detail is crucial for the seamless movement of hazardous materials. It is always good for the logistics company to be over-cautious so as to prevent the slightest mistake. Therefore, it is extremely important to double-check everything to avoid the chances of human error. Being a little more attentive to the transportation process of hazardous goods could prevent potential disasters, loss of lives and property, damage to the environment.