Tons of cargo shipment is carried throughout the world in shipping containers. This cargo shipment doesn’t only encompass perishable and non-perishable goods, but also transports and ships dangerous goods with due care and safety. The different types of shipping containers are used for carrying such detrimental cargoes. But still sometimes due to some or other mistake it renders in spillage and leads to huge mishappening.

One of the heartrending examples of this is the Beirut explosions from August 4, 2020. The careless storage of a large amount of ammonium nitrate led to a series of explosions rendering approximately 200 people dead and causing heavy destruction to the place. The ammonium nitrate is classified under dangerous goods by UN Recommendations of Transport of Dangerous Goods.

Every time anyone listens to dangerous goods they get alarmed, but let’s see what they are and how to handle them.

What are dangerous goods?

Dangerous goods can be defined as merchandise that is stored and transported in the quantity that can lead to disaster as they pose threat to humans, the environment, and property. They are also known as hazardous or harmful goods and can exist in solid, liquid, or gaseous form. They can vary in their states by being hot, cold, colored, uncolored, odorless, and pungent. Though the transportation of them may seem a risky affair, the liquid and gaseous substances can easily be shipped in tank containers and vaccines and such cargo can be shipped in reefer containers as they both provide perfect shipping and storage container solutions.

You might be thinking about when they are so harmful, why they are transported or stored. They are vastly used in daily items like home cleaners, perfume, hairspray, liquor, and cigarette lighter in small amounts and that usage doesn’t harm any. They are harmful only when they are stored or shipped in large amounts without proper safety measures by flouting the UN Recommendations of Transport of Dangerous Goods.

What are the different categories of dangerous goods?

According to the hazard they pose, the UN has classified dangerous goods into different classes. Let’s see them all.

There are many categories that differentiate between hazardous cargos so that handling and shipping can be made safer to avoid any type of destruction. There have been many cases when the goods belong to two or other different class criteria, at that time, then the class that is dominant is categorized. Let’s see the classes listed below.

Class Cargo Division Examples
Class 1 Explosives Gunpowder, TNT


Class 2



2.1-Flammable Gases

2.2-Non-flammable Gases

2.3-Toxic Gases

Acetylene, aerosols,

Helium, oxygen


Class 3 Flammable Liquids Kerosene, acetone

Class 4


Flammable Solids

4.1-Flammable solids

4.2-Spontaneously combustible substances

4.3-Substance that emits flammable gases when in contact with water

Red Phosphorus



 Class 5 Oxidizing Substances 5.1-Oxidizing agents

5.2-Organic peroxides

Ammonium dichromate

Ethyl methyl ketone peroxide

 Class 6 Toxic Substances 6.1-Toxic Substances

6.2-Infectious Substances

Cyanide, arsenic


 Class 7 Radioactive Material Uranium oxide
Class 8 Corrosive Substances Hydrochloric acid, acid batteries
Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods Dry ice, asbestos

Safety procedures tips to be steer clear of the risks

1. Proper Training

With proper training and following safety measures, a big mishappening of spillage or destruction of harmful elements can be avoided. The person handling the objects should get proper training and TDG certificates. TDG is the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations that sees the handling and transport of hazardous cargo. And the newbies should be made to work under experienced and certified persons or supervisors so that they know how to handle it.

2. Cargo Classification

By following the above-given table of class classifications the handlers can dexterously handle the cargo without getting or inducing any harm to the environment or humans.

3. Get in Touch with the Shipper in Advance

It is mandatory for the distributor to get in touch with the shipper in advance as they can tell them about all the handling guidelines. After knowing the handling guideline, the shippers will instruct the handlers to follow the given measures while opening the freight containers containing the harmful goods, and thus with proper handling, the situation can be avoided.

4. Proper Shipment packaging

It is an important step to properly pack the cargo shipments as one misstep in packaging can be ruthless. The shipment packaging should be done by following the international transport protocols and standards. The packaging of the shipment depends on different factors like:

  • Type and Quantity
    Different types of goods require different packaging and quantity that also plays the role as the harmful cargo that is less in amount will need certain packaging and a large amount will need another type. Some hazardous substances are not allowed to import and export after a certain quantity level. With some standard quantities the Emergency Response Assistance Plan is attached as without it the shipment cannot be passed for transportation.
  • Transportation Method
    Every transportation method is different from others. If the goods are transported by air, they will have to follow certain standards and with water different, same applies to by road or train. Every time such goods are shipped, it is mandatory to be well-versed with the guidelines in order to avoid any chaos. Transport liquid cargo in tank containers and bio-chemical or pathogens in reefers.
  • Domestic or International
    Sending the harmful materials within national borders, one has to follow the national transport guidelines and if the distributor wishes to send the shipment off to international countries then they have to comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. If they try to shy away from the guidelines by ignoring them, then the distributor is liable for penalties. There are three groups in which packaging is differentiated:
  1. Packaging Group I- Most Hazardous Goods
  2. Packaging Group II-Hazardous Goods
  3. Packaging Group III-Moderately Hazardous Goods
5. Proper Labeling

Where with proper labeling the shipper can avoid any risks, with one missed label comes huge destruction. Let’s see what the labels should include:

  • Proper Shipping Name
    The cargo shipment should be labeled carefully with the proper shipping name in capital letters or uppercase, for example, FLAMMABLE GAS, TOXIC.
  • Class Label
    The class label should be in uppercase so that the person handling it knows beforehand the nature of cargo stored in the freight container.
  • UN Identification Number
    Each harmful cargo shipment is given a special UN Identification number so that it can be classified and segregated easily. A label identifying the cargo must be placed near UN Number so that it cannot be lost by getting in folds.
  • Liquid Orientation Labels
    There are separate orientation labels for harmful liquid cargo as liquid cargo needs a different level of handling.
  • UN Certification
    With the UN Certification label, it is understood that the shipment going to be transported is meeting all the details and standards set by United Nations. It is necessary to stick to the UN guidelines for transporting goods and attaching all the needed correct labels in order to avoid any mishappening.
6. Pay Attention to Details

It is not a bad thing to be over precautious while handling and transporting the cargo shipment comprising of malignant cargo as there is no such thing called too much checking. It is necessary to check, recheck and recheck again the packaging and labels many times to be assured so that any human error destruction can be avoided. Just by following certain standards and paying attention to details, the big harm to human civilization and the environment can be avoided.

Thus we see that following the above-given tips and going by the rulebook any type of bad incident can be shirked off. Such destruction is not good for any, whether it’s human, environment, or shipping industry. One disastrous incident gives a big jolt to the global supply chain. Keep a check on packaging details, labeling, get all the codes and classes specified, undergo cargo classification, and with proper handling, the dangerous cargo shipment can easily be stored and shipped.