Professional Advice on Shipping Dangerous Goods by Vessel

Expert Advice on Shipping Dangerous Goods by Vessel Title Image
If your work involves the handling of dangerous goods and hazardous materials for sea transport, you need to know and abide by certain regulations to guarantee safety. This means shipments to, from, and in transit within the United States of America and American territories must comply with the relevant regulations found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Anyone involved in shipping must also comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, which the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, created specifically to protect workers, ships and the environment at sea.

It may seem like much to learn, so here is some condensed professional advice on shipping dangerous goods by vessel.

Packaging Hazardous Materials

The General Packing Requirements, found in 49 CFR Part 173, provide regulations for the packaging of all hazardous materials (except for certain instances listed in other parts of 49 CFR). Packages must be designed, packed, filled, and sealed to prevent damage or leakage of the materials while transported in commerce.

You must account for factors that could threaten the ability of the package to contain its contents, such as pressure, temperature and especially reactions from potential contact with other elements.

You can find the necessary information for packaging in the Hazardous Materials Table column 8 in Part 173 and additional requirements in Part 178 of 49 CFR.

Additionally, supplementary packaging beyond the given requirements is permissible, just as long as the overall packaging still complies with the requirements for packaging of the given hazardous material or article.

Labeling of Packages

Properly labeling packages containing hazardous materials is vital for preventing accidents, so everyone involved in every step of the shipping process knows the content of the cargo, unless exceptions apply. This means knowing which “class(es)” the materials have been classified into according to hazardous materials regulations such as the IMDG code. There are nine in all, with Class 1 being explosives, Class 2 being gases and Class 9 being “Miscellaneous Dangerous Substances and Articles.” You will need to determine an item’s class by reading the specifications in the code.

49 CFR Part 172.200 also dictates that shippers must have shipping papers for hazardous materials, unless exceptions apply. Required information includes a description of the materials (proper shipping name and UN/ID No.), the quantity, the number and types of packages, and emergency response information such as an emergency response phone number, to name a few.

Segregation of Substances

Sometimes, a vessel will carry different substances that, due to the nature of their chemistry, can react dangerously when they come in contact. 49 CFR Part 176 prescribes regulations for the segregation of hazardous materials from other classes of hazardous materials and from non-hazardous materials. It also lists exceptions to segregation rules, such as materials of different classes “that do not react dangerously with each other.”


This is only a brief summary of the many rules and regulations that shippers need to comply with for shipping dangerous goods by vessel. Anyone involved in the shipping and handling of hazardous materials must make the effort to learn them. This is not an option and is subject to legal penalties if not complied with.

It is for this reason that federal law requires shippers to undergo training for handling hazardous materials, and that is why Hazmat University provides both initial training for beginners and refresher training for more seasoned professionals. Sign up for our IMDG Shipping by Vessel courses today.