There are many different regulations that you and your business must follow if you plan to ship dangerous goods internationally from the UK.
Shipping dangerous goods internationally from the UK requires you to follow specific rules and regulations as are dictated by UK law as well as law from the destination country.
As the shipper, it is your responsibility to make sure that you have packaged all goods correctly and that they are safe to be shipped. Failure to do so can result in you receiving a fine, with the possibility of you also receiving a prison sentence.
For clarification, when we use the term ‘shipping’ we refer to the transport of goods by road, sea, and air. This is in line with the industry standard vocabulary following advancements from when shipping referred to purely transport by sea.
If your business requires that you ship dangerous or hazardous goods internationally, then here is some guidance on what you must follow in order to do so legally and safely, and what you should do to avoid receiving any penalties from regulatory bodies.
Shipping dangerous materials by sea
The regulations that dictate what can be transported by sea and how are set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). They use the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDGB) guidance when setting their own regulations, and do so with the aim of keeping all parties safe during sea transportation.
To that end, you can ship dangerous goods by sea as long as they abide by the latest updates to IMOs packaging and labelling regulations. As well, you will need to declare what goods are being shipped by completing a dangerous goods notification.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency also have additional guidance that can be of help to any UK business looking to ship dangerous items overseas.
Shipping dangerous goods by air
The regulations that dictate what can be transported by air and how is set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Specifically, if the dangerous goods are to be shipped by plane, then they must be packed by staff that are trained and can declare goods appropriately to the safe transport of dangerous goods by air.
One of the biggest considerations when goods are shipped by air is the pressure that aircrafts experience when they reach high altitudes. Of course, this is on top of the packaging requirements that are dictated by the goods that are being shipped themselves.
Finally, there must be a completed declaration for dangerous goods for air transport.
How to transport dangerous goods
The first thing that you need to do when preparing to transport dangerous goods internationally is check with your shipper that they can transport your chosen goods. Some shipping providers may not have the facilities to ship certain items, especially if they are particularly hazardous.
Your shipping considerations begin before even packaging your goods. These considerations are:
What are the regulations that apply to your specific goods being shipped?
You can find this out by researching what dangerous goods class your packaging falls into according to the United Nations Model Regulations.
These regulations will dictate how your goods must be shipped, and what packaging materials must be present to do so safely.
All individuals involved in the handling of dangerous goods for transport must be trained to relevant up to date standards.
If your staff do not hold any training qualifications and they are unable to, then there are companies that can perform training or package your goods for you.
Classified and declared
One of the most important steps involved with international shipping is completing dangerous goods notes. This must be filled in according to the specific items being shipped and their UN dangerous goods class.
The notes must be completed by a qualified consignor. This is to ensure that all parties involved in the transport and receipt of dangerous goods are aware of what is being shipped and how to handle it safely.
The transport of dangerous goods relies on the sender using fully UN compliant packaging. This packaging must have been tested and deemed safe for a specific classification of dangerous goods.
You can see some examples of UN approved packaging materials for international shipping here.
Labels and documentation
The packaging is of course important, but it is also important how the packaging is labelled.
Labels make it immediately obvious what is being shipped without having to interact with the packaging itself.
Dangerous goods labels and placards warn people about the dangers of handling goods incorrectly, such as if the materials are corrosive or explosive.
International shipping of dangerous goods from the UK requires a complete customs documentation as well.
Transporting in limited quantities
For companies that only rarely ship dangerous goods, or regularly ship specific dangerous goods in small quantities, rules may apply to you slightly differently and you may be exempt from certain regulations.
Please see here for more information limited quantity shipping.
Are dangerous and hazardous goods interchangeable?
If you are in the business of international shipping, then you may have seen people refer to dangerous goods as hazardous goods instead.
In the UK, we tend to refer to dangerous goods as just that – dangerous goods. Whereas in some other countries, such as the USA, they refer to dangerous goods as hazardous.
Shipping and packaging restrictions will apply to both dangerous and hazardous goods, and you should check your destination country’s regulations before shipping any goods so that you can be confident in the knowledge that you are following the latest best practices.