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How to handle IMCO Class 1 cargo..

In my previous article Hazardous Cargo, we had a brief look into Class 1 cargoes.. Below is a guest post by Bentley Cook about how to handle IMCO Class 1 cargo and dispel the taboo surrounding this cargo..

Who is Bentley Cook..?? Bentley Cook is a veteran of 37 years in the shipping industry having worked for the likes of Ellerman & Bucknall, Nedlloyd Lines, AEL Mining Services etc.. He has now opened up his own professional freight management, broking and consulting service which entails sourcing shipping space from anywhere to anywhere in the world for break-bulk , containerized , charter or project business for all types of cargo , including hazardous (excluding only Class 7 – (that is a different taboo on its own)).. For more on Bentley Cook, read his profile..

So what does Bentley have to say about handling Class 1.. Read on..


Whist many may argue that a box is a box is a box, there are various nuances associated with Class I containers.

Many lines too are unwilling to accept Class I because they don’t have a full understanding of the products involved and have other horrible visions of their “ship blowing up”. The truth could actually not be further from this perception.

I personally am not aware or any incident at sea resulting from the carriage of commercial Class I shipments.

Firstly , I will start with a brief clarification of what exactly we are talking about when referring to Class I cargo.

Basically this refers to all cargo of an explosive nature. This can further be split into Military and Commercial products.

The IMDG Code further splits these into 6 divisions and 13 compatability groups, which are intended to be mutually exclusive , except for Group S which is compatable with the majority of other groups due to its inherently safe nature , mostly governed by its packaging.

By their nature , military explosives can be called DESTRUCTIVE explosives and Commercial explosives CONSTRUCTIVE explosives.

In the “ old days” pre 1994 , the majority of packaged commercial explosives were in fact nitroglycerine based eg dynamite , watergels  etc but , after this all manufacture of nitroglycerine based explosives in South Africa ceased and todays new generation explosives are mainly ammonium nitrate emulsion based which means that they are infinitely safer all around. (the reader can google these for themselves as they are well documented).

All Explosives in South Africa are governed principally by the Explosives Act (15 of 2003 as amended) and The Explosives Act 1956 as amended – I won’t go into the legal technicalities here, as well as a number of other Acts, depending on which aspect you are looking at.

Military explosives are additionally governed by the Defense Act and National Conventional Arms Control Act among others.

As soon as explosives have to be transported , a number of other Acts come into play, such as the Railway Safety Regulator Act ,  OHS Act, Road Traffic regulations,Harbour regulations , Merchant Shipping Act to name a few.

When a container of  commercial explosives is being packed (stuffed) , in order to comply with IMO regulations, a SAMSA representative has to be present to ensure compliance with the IMDG code – ie  in the case of detonators , that the wood lining of the container is correct and for all shipments , that the packaging is correct , the cargo is packed , lashed and dunnaged correctly and that the correct labls and plackards are affixed to the container. In addition , the plate rating (ie the CSC safety plate)  is correct, the container is fully seaworthy and either less than 5 years old or is subject to an ACEP (continuous examination) program.

In terms of the Explosives Act, a representative of the carrier (in most cases Transnet but where road carriage may be involved,  a qualified representative of the trucking company) also has to be present at the packing. Packing always has to take place in a licenced explosives are and of course , the manufacturer also has qualified personell present to ensure that quality, correct stowage procedures are followed and that the correct products are being packed.

In other words , by the time the container is placed on rail to be moved to the ship, it has had at least two independent observers as well as internal personell checking it for safety.

Containers of explosives may only be exported from 2 of South Africa’s ports viz Durban where there is a fully fledged , dedicated explosives rail siding and Cape Town where only limited quantities are allowed to be handled.

All Explosives exports , and in fact any movement at all of explosives, may only take place if there is a permit in place , issued by the Chief Inspector of Explosives – a branch of the SAPS.

Referring back to the Explosives Act, Class 1.1D (the majority of packaged explosives) may not be railed on the same day, let alone on the same train , as Class 1.1B (the majority of detonators , detonator systems etc)

This always means having to rail out containers for a single shipment over 2 to 4 days. Transnet Freight Rail (TFR as the old Spoornet is now known) nominate specific days on which these may be railed and they also fall under the “next weeks business” system and , even though they do not physically sit in the ships stacks at the terminal, are still governed by the same stack dates as general cargo. This means very little flexibility and a great deal of accuracy and precision is required when handling the logistics of moving these products.

Naturally , the usual Hazardous Goods Packing Declarations have to be completed (often referred to as “the multimodal” by C&F agents. The balance of the documentation is pretty much the same as for other shipments.

Always . the principal concern  is the security aspect of these products and they are therefore watched very closely at all stages of the movement.

So , with these “hassles”, why would you want to ship explosives?

The truth of the matter is, without explosives, you wouldnt be shipping anything !

The very steel from which ships , cars trucks , containers  and a myriad of other everyday things around us are constructed comes from iron ore , nickel , chrome and other minerals which have to be mined. The gravel for roads and other concrete construction has to be quarried. The gold in your wedding ring had to be mined. The rock or your rockery in the garden had to be blasted.

Buildings and bridges all needed some sort of explosives for their raw materials or foundations and , when they have to come down at the end of their lifespan, explosives are required again.

A great percentage of all cargo have to be extracted from the ground in one form or another.

Coal for heating and foundries , power stations etc also had to be mined.

Is it worth the “hassle”?

I think so!

Bentley Cook


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..



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