As per local and international regulations, the shipper (the entity physically preparing cargo for transport) is required by law to properly classify any potentially hazardous commodities they intend to offer for transport as either Dangerous Goods (DG) or normal cargo. This is regardless of Incoterms®!
Once the classification is confirmed, the shipper is required by law to declare this information to their forwarder and to compliantly pack, label, and document their DG goods. If you’re already tired of reading and would like something more interactive, please check out our FlexU DG 101 video here!
What happens if I do not declare my goods properly?
Mis-declaring your DG cargo as non-DG cargo is a serious offense and may lead to criminal charges and/or civil penalties. A main reason why DG cargo is so dangerous is its ability to dangerously react with other types of DG cargo to create fires, explosions, or worse in transit. It is paramount that transport carriers properly segregate different types of DG cargo from each other to prevent catastrophic incidents from happening. However they can only segregate what has been properly declared to them.
If you declare your shipment to be non-DG but actually contains DG goods, the best case scenario is that the carrier catches it before something dangerous can occur, and their penalty will range from a USD $35,000 per container fine or in many cases, issue an embargo against your company. Worst case scenario is when the carrier doesn’t catch it, and then inadvertently loads your hidden DG cargo next to other DG cargo, that ends up dangerously reacting with each other, which leads to loss of life and/or property damage. This is when you are facing criminal charges…jail time.
When in doubt, please declare.
How to determine if your goods are DG or non-DG?
In reality, most shippers do not have the scientific testing equipment necessary to analyze if, for example, their paint products meet the classification criteria for DG Class 3 Flammable Liquids or if they are considered to be “non-DG.” In these instances, shippers should send their goods to a certified testing laboratory to have a SDS (Safety Data Sheet) generated that will determine the DG classification of the goods (when shipped in bulk), which will be outlined in Section 14 of the SDS. However this is only the first step to determining if your goods are DG or non-DG.
A critical point most people misunderstand is that an SDS can never be relied on to confirm the final DG classification of a product. Continuing with this paint example, an SDS only confirms the classification of the material when shipped in bulk. What an SDS can never confirm is the net volume, per outer package, that the shipper decides to configure and ship each time. Net volume is how final DG classification is determined. Meaning, this SDS can represent both a non-DG and DG shipment, it all depends on how much volume is being offered for transport, per outer package.
For example, if the shipper decided to ship 1mL worth of paint (packing group II) per package, then these goods would be classified as non-DG cargo. If the shipper decides to ship 1L worth of paint per package, then the goods could be classified as DG in Limited Quantities. And only when the shipper packs more than 1 L of paint per package will the goods be classified as fully regulated dangerous goods.
My goods are classified as DG, now what?
First and foremost, by law you must be DG certified to prepare/process DG cargo for transport. For example, the U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) penalty (as of 2023) for shipping/processing DG cargo without proper training is a minimum of USD $582 per employee per day they operate without training. You can only be certified to ship DG goods (by air for example) by attending an IATA approved training provider and completing the full training course.
P.S. Flexport is an approved IATA certified training provider and you can register for our DG courses and services here.
Once you are DG certified and have a DG product to export, you must follow the applicable dangerous goods regulations to properly pack, mark, label, and document the shipment with a shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (DGD). If you are unable to complete these requirements, it is perfectly acceptable to outsource this work to a local DG prep facility, and Flexport can start your DG shipment from their location!