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Dangerous Goods Shipment: Classes, Packaging, and Regulations

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

January 22, 2024

10 min read

While the shipment companies prohibit the shipping of several items due to the risk involved in the process, they transport certain goods that are categorised as dangerous. Immense caution is taken to ship dangerous goods to ensure their safety as well as the well-being of the carriers. The global dangerous goods logistics market as of 2022 was estimated to be USD 459164.45 million. It is expected to increase at a CAGR of 5.89% in the coming years and reach USD 647288.59 in 2028. The rising demand for certain hazardous items in healthcare, agriculture, and industrial applications across the globe is majorly leading to the growth of dangerous goods logistics.

In this article, you will learn what comes under the dangerous goods shipment category and the shipping regulations of the same. We have also covered the different classes of dangerous goods, the documents needed for shipping them and their packaging guidelines among other things. So, everything you need to know about managing DG shipments across the globe will become clear as you go through this article.

Dangerous Goods Shipment

What Commodities Are Considered Dangerous Goods?

There are several commodities that are considered dangerous goods. The list is long and shipment companies make special arrangements to ship dangerous goods. Let us take a look at some of the commonly transported dangerous goods:

1. Lithium-ion batteries22. Fireworks43. RDX compositions
2. Aerosols23. Detonating cord44. Blasting caps
3. Weapons24. Primers45. Airbag inflators
4. Fuse25. Flares46. Igniters
5. Lighters26. Fertilizer ammoniating solution47. Fire extinguishers
6. Propane cylinders27. Insecticide gases48. Petrol
7. Dissolved gases28. Liquid nitrogen49. Perfume
8. Refrigerated liquified gases29. Hydrogen sulphide50. Essential oils
9. Helium compounds30. Hand sanitiser51. Alcohol
10. Paints31. Zinc particles52. Hexamine solid fuel tablet for camping stoves
11. Activated carbon32. Acetyl acetone peroxide53. Camphor
12. Benzoyl peroxide33. Sodium54. Sulphur
13. Peracetic acid34. Chloroform55. Cyanides
14. Barium compounds35. Cytotoxic waste56. Patient specimens
15. Uranium36. Arsenic57. Pesticides
16. Cesium37. Radium58. Matches
17. X-ray equipment38. Radioactive ores59. Medical equipment
18. Asbestos39. Dry ice60. Corrosive cleaners
19. Magnetised materials40. Battery-powered equipment61. Battery-powered vehicles
20. Hydrofluoric acid41. Battery fluid62. Acids 
21. Formaldehyde42. TNT compositions63. PETN compositions

Classification of Dangerous Goods (List the 9 classes)

Given below are the nine classes of dangerous goods. The classification is recognised by the US Department of Transportation and international regulatory agencies.

Class 1 – Explosives

The items covered under explosives include ammunition, fireworks, igniters, RDX compositions, flares, blasting caps, detonating cords, primers, fuse, and airbag inflators. These items are susceptible to conflagration caused due to chemical reactions and can exude hazardous smoke. They can lead to catastrophic damage.

Class 2 – Gases

The dangerous goods regulations define these as substances that have a vapour pressure of 300 kPa. The items containing these substances come under DG shipments class 2. It includes fire extinguishers, lighters, fertilizer ammoniating solution, propane cylinders, insecticide gases, dissolved gases, compressed gases, refrigerated liquified gases, helium compounds, and aerosols. These items can cause grave hazards due to their flammable nature.

Class 3 – Flammable Liquids

Liquids that contain solids in solution and exude a combustible vapour at temperatures less than 60-65℃ primarily come under this category. These liquids are volatile and combustible and are thus capable of causing serious hazards. Thus, they come under the dangerous goods shipment category. Acetone, adhesives, paints, varnishes, alcohols, gasoline, diesel fuel, liquid bio-fuels, coal tar, petroleum distillates, gas oil, kerosene, and tars are some of the substances that come under this category. Turpentine, resins, carbamate insecticides, copper-based pesticides, ethanol, esters, methanol, butanols, diethyl ether, and octanes also come under class 3 dangerous goods.

Class 4 – Spontaneous Combustibles and Flammable Solids

These are highly combustible materials that are known to cause fire through friction. Self-reactive substances, those susceptible to spontaneous heating during transportation, and the ones that heat up after coming in contact with air or water also fall under this category. Some examples of these substances are metal powders, sodium cells, aluminium phosphide, sodium batteries, activated carbon, oily fabrics and iron oxide. Alkali metals, desensitised explosives, phosphorus, nitrocellulose, matches, camphor, activated carbon, sulphur, iron oxide, naphthalene and calcium carbide are some more that fall under class-4. Due to the threat of severe conflagration, these items come under DG shipments class 4.

Class 5 – Oxidizers; Organic Peroxides

Oxidizers may catch fire due to redox chemical reactions. Organic peroxides are thermally unstable. They may burn rapidly and might react hazardously on coming in contact with other substances. They can even damage the eyes. Some of the commonly transported organic peroxides and oxidizers include chemical oxygen generators, nitrates, ammonium dichromate, persulphates, permanganates, calcium nitrate and hydrogen peroxide. Some of the other dangerous goods under class 5 include lead nitrate, ammonium nitrate fertilizers, chlorates, calcium hypochlorite and potassium permanganate.

Class 6 – Toxic or Infectious Substances

Toxic substances are classified as dangerous goods because they can cause serious injury or harm human health adversely if swallowed or inhaled. Some of them can even cause severe harm on coming in contact with the skin. Infectious substances likely contain pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, rickettsiae, fungi and the like, that may cause diseases. Some examples of class 6 substances are clinical waste, biomedical waste, motor fuel anti-knock mixture, arsenic compounds, mercury compounds, and nicotine. Selenium compounds, biological cultures, tear gas substances, cresols, ammonium metavanadate, dichloromethane, resorcinol, cyanides, alkaloids, phenol, chloroform, adiponitrile, and lead compounds also fall under class-6.

Class 7 – Radioactive Material

This includes any item that comprises radionuclides. They emit ionising radiation which is harmful to human health. Some examples of this material are medical isotopes, radioactive ores, density gauges, mixed fission products, thorium radionuclides, Uranium hexafluoride, Americium radionuclides, and enriched uranium.

Class 8 – Corrosives

These are substances that disintegrate other items on coming into contact with them. They are capable of causing severe harm to various materials. Some examples of corrosives are acid solutions, battery fluid, dyes, flux, paints, amines, sulphides, chlorides, bromine, carbolic acid, and sulphuric acid. Hydrogen fluoride, morpholine, iodine, hydrochloric acid, cyclohexylamine, paints, alkylphenols, fire extinguisher charges, and formaldehyde also come under class 8.

Class 9 – Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

This category includes all the other dangerous goods that may pose a threat to other items, the environment or human health during transportation. Some of the miscellaneous dangerous goods are dry ice, expandable polymeric beads, lithium-ion batteries and battery-powered equipment. Fuel cell engines, vehicles, dangerous goods in apparatus, genetically modified organisms, air bag modules, plastic moulding compounds, blue asbestos, castor bean plant products, and first aid kits also fall under this category.    

Packaging Guidelines for Dangerous Goods

Dangerous goods have been categorised into three packaging groups that are as follows:

  • Packing group I – This includes highly dangerous substances. These packages have an X marking.
  • Packaging II – This includes substances with medium danger. These packages show a Y marking.
  • Packaging III – This involves substances with low danger. The packages have a Z marking.

It is important to pack and ship dangerous goods with extra caution to avoid any kind of harm during transport. Performance-oriented Packaging (POP) is needed for most of the dangerous goods’ air shipments. POP must pass a series of tests to ensure that it can withstand shocks and atmospheric pressure changes during the transition. UN marking is done on the packages that pass these tests to certify that they are fit to be shipped.

You must check the segregation table to pack the dangerous items appropriately. The information given in the package closure instructions must be followed diligently for packaging. Deviating from the same can result in non-compliance. 

Shipping Regulations Concerning Dangerous Goods

Shipping regulations for dangerous goods include testing the packages to assess whether they are safe for shipping. As per the IATA list, many dangerous goods cannot be shipped by air. They need to be shipped using surface freight. Statistics reveal that more than 1.25 million DG shipments are shipped via air every year. Out of these the most commonly shipped dangerous goods include dry ice, flammable liquids, and lithium batteries.

It is only because of the strict shipping regulations drafted by IATA that dangerous goods can be shipped safely by air. IATA works closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization to identify the potential risks involved in shipping and creates/ revises the regulations accordingly. The regulations are revised and updated every two years.

Transporting Hazardous Goods by Air: Accessible Vs Inaccessible Dangerous Goods 

Accessible dangerous goods are those whose packages must be accessible for security reasons during transit. The items included under this category are: 

  • Explosives such as fireworks and igniters
  • Flammable gases such as camping gas and aerosols 
  • Non-flammable or non-toxic gases like carbon dioxide and helium
  • Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide
  • Flammable liquids like petroleum crude oil and paints
  • Flammable solids such as matches
  • Substances susceptible to spontaneous combustion such as phosphorus
  • Substances that emit flammable gases upon coming in contact with water, such as calcium carbide
  • Oxidizers such as fertilisers
  • Organic peroxides like iodoxy compounds
  • Corrosives such as acids and amines

Inaccessible dangerous goods containing packages need not be accessed during transportation and hence can be mixed with other shipments. The items included under inaccessible dangerous goods are:

  • Toxic substances such as pesticides and nicotine compounds
  • Infectious substances such as patient specimens and medical cultures
  • Radioactive materials like Uranium isotopes and smoke detectors
  • Miscellaneous dangerous goods such as lithium batteries, chemical kits, and dry ice

Documents Required for Shipping Dangerous Goods

DG shipments must always be accompanied by relevant transport documents like the following:

  • Dangerous goods IATA form
  • Certificate of origin
  • Bill of lading
  • Documents containing details about each dangerous item being shipped. This includes their technical name, shipping name, and UN number among other details.
  • Transportation Emergency Card – A document that includes emergency instructions so that the driver can take necessary action in case of emergency
  • Airway bill

Tips to Ensure Safe Shipping of Dangerous Goods

  1. Follow the Regulations

It is important to follow the shipping regulations when transporting dangerous goods to avoid hazards, delays and inconveniences.

  1. Proper Classification of Shipments

Proper classification of shipments is necessary as it helps determine suitable packaging and mode of transport for your dangerous goods.  

  1. Right Packaging of Shipments

Choosing the right type of packaging material and following the packing guidelines is crucial to shipping dangerous goods.

  1. Get the Right Labelling and Documentation

Your shipment must be labelled appropriately to avoid confusion and delays. All the required documents such as duly filled dangerous goods IATA form, bill of lading, and transportation emergency card must be complete and sent along with the shipment. 

  1. Hire Trained Shipping Agents

Hiring trained staff helps in the careful packing and smooth shipment of dangerous goods.

  1. Choose a Proper Container

Choosing the right type of container for dangerous goods shipment is imperative as it ensures your goods remain safe during the transition and does not cause any harm to the surroundings.


DG shipments are on the rise. Shipping companies follow the necessary guidelines for the smooth transport of dangerous products. DHL is among the major players in the dangerous goods logistics market. It held a market share of 5.25% in the year 2022. These goods have been classified into nine different classes and each of them is packed specially to ensure safe shipping. Explosives, toxic substances, radioactive items, flammable gases, oxidizers, flammable solids, flammable liquids and corrosives come under different classes. Dangerous goods under each category are accompanied by relevant documents and extra caution is taken while transporting them.

How are IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations related to ICAO Technical Instructions?

IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations is the ICAO Technical Instructions’s field manual. The Dangerous Goods Regulations share the DG shipment requirements for shipping through air in a user-friendly manner. It also includes additional information to help complete the shipment formalities with ease.

Which regions lead in the DG shipment logistics market?

The United States, Canada, and Mexico in North America lead the DG shipment logistics market followed by European countries such as Germany, France, the UK, Russia, and Italy. Next in line are the Asia Pacific countries including India, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Where is the packaging material specified for dangerous goods shipment available?

Many companies around the world provide dangerous goods packaging material. Appendix F in the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations includes an exclusive list of these companies.

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