Dangerous Goods

For the safe transport of dangerous goods, international conventions exist for the different modes of transport. They settle classifications of dangerous substances, procedures for handling dangerous goods, emergency procedures and regulations, liabilities and responsibilities.
Transport organizations, such as IMO for sea, IATA and ICAO for air, and OTIF for rail, have developed a number of agreements and recommendations:

  • the IMDG Code of IMO for ocean-going vessels,
  • ADR, the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road,
  • ADN, the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways,
  • regulations for air issued by IATA and ICAO, and
  • RID, the Railroad Dangerous Goods Book of the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF).

These regulations have been developed according to mode, and differences exist between them. Hence FIATA, the International Freight Forwarders Association, has issued a position paper on the need to enhance global harmonizsation of the different modal transport regulations for dangerous goods.

UNECE has published a number of supporting recommendations for implementation of the Dangerous Goods Agreements:

  • UN Model Regulations, which may be used for implementation in national laws, and
  • UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, which contains criteria, test methods and procedures to be used for classification of dangerous goods.

Chemicals are classified through the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) of the UNECE, which classifies chemicals by types of hazard and proposes harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets. It aims at ensuring that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals is available in order to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during handling, transport and use of these chemicals. GHS also provides a basis for harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals at the national, regional and worldwide levels -- an important factor for trade facilitation.

The transport of dangerous goods requires pre-receival of detailed information about its characteristics, especially when arriving at ports and airports or other places where large concentrations of dangerous goods may become critical. Use of the proper standardized information as required in international conventions will lead to a smooth handling of dangerous goods, and hence avoid delays or even refusal to allow entry of the dangerous goods to the planned premises.

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances) is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use. Manufacturers and importers are required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances to allow safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The transport of dangerous goods requires special packaging, special transport equipment, special transport means, limitations on routes and storage, and so is usually done by specialized traders, freight forwarders and carriers.
At transport hubs, such as ports and airports, dangerous goods need to be declared in advance in accordance with the above regulations. Maritime ports follow the IMO Form for declaring dangerous goods. For airports, the shippers declaration of dangerous goods of IATA is used. Through the organization SMDG, European ports have developed a standardized EDIFACT based message for an electronic dangerous goods declaration and manifest.