The process of hazardous cargo approval, acceptance and shipment

All about hazardous cargoOn this blog there are many articles relating to hazardous goods or dangerous goods, various types of hazardous cargoes and other information..

In this article, I will explain how the hazardous cargo approval process works between the customer and the shipping line..


Pre Hazardous Approval

The process starts when the client approaches the shipping line for hazardous cargo approval.. Most lines have their specific templates for the hazardous cargo request..

Here is a “generic” format of the hazardous cargo request and an explanation on how the hazardous cargo request must be filled in..

The client is required to fill up ALL fields in this sheet and send to the shipping line..

The shipping line, most of whom have a specialised haz desk or haz cargo centre these days, will check if all the information provided by the shipper is correct..

IMDG Code 38-16The shipping lines would use the IMDG Code to verify the correctness of the information submitted..

The IMDG Code, 2016 Edition Amendment 38-16 which is the current version came into force on 1 January 2018 and is valid for two years..

The IMDG Code, 2018 Edition (inc. Amendment 39-18) will come into force on 1 January 2020 for two years but may be applied voluntarily as from 1 January 2019..

Once the information provided by the client has been verified and found to be correct, the DG Desk will check for hazardous cargo space on the vessel that is nominated to carry this haz cargo..

Generally each vessel has a fixed quota of how many and what type of hazardous cargoes can be carried on board a ship.. This could vary from ship to ship, line to line, port to port and depends also on the cargo that is already on board..

If the haz desk in conjunction with the ops desk ascertains that there is enough capacity on the ship to carry the specific type of hazardous cargo, and that this cargo is allowed to transit through the various ports that it might call, it will give the go ahead to the export desk/client that the haz cargo is acceptable..

It is necessary for the shipping line to check for acceptance of the hazardous goods at transhipment or ports that the vessel calls because some ports do not allow ships carrying high risk cargoes like Class 1 or Class 7 to enter their ports or enter without taking safety precautions..

Imagine the consequences if this was not checked and a particular calling port along the liner route does not allow the ship to enter because of the presence of these hazardous goods on board……………. Wow..!!

Only after these processes are done and confirmation is received from all quarters, the hazardous booking can be accepted by the shipping line and client will be given the booking and empty container release..

So to all the shippers and forwarders out there, the next time you complain about the delay in receiving a hazardous goods acceptance from the shipping line, pls consider the process that goes into this verification and acceptance..

When a shipping line says that it can’t carry the haz on a specific vessel but confirms to carry same cargo on the next vessel, this is the reason.. Each ship is different in terms of stowage and carrying capacities..

Also remember it is not just 1 or 2 hazardous containers that are being loaded on a ship.. There are several hundreds of various types of hazardous cargoes that may be loaded on a single ship..

hazardous cargo approval process - shipping and freight resource

Post hazardous approval

Once the container is packed according to the haz specifications, the container is moved to the container terminal within the stack period as usual..

Some ports may require special documentation to be filed for all hazardous cargoes entering its gates/stacks.. This is for the port to identify that this container is a hazardous container and move it to the designated hazardous stacking area within the port area..

Client must also ensure to affix the CORRECT hazardous labels on all 4 sides of the container WITHOUT FAIL.. Port and ship will NOT accept any hazardous container into the port without the labels.. Some examples of the labels below..

hazardous class labels

Before the container is loaded on board the ship, the hazardous packing declaration must also be filled up by the client and sent to the shipping line..

Simiar to the haz cargo request, each line may also have its own template of haz packing declaration..

Here is a “generic” format of hazardous packing declaration and also an explanation on how the hazardous packing declaration must be filled..

This haz packing declaration is a VERY VERY IMPORTANT document for the ship, the shipping line, the client, the transporter, the ports, as it details all the information relating to the hazardous product being carried..

The shipper must take due care and diligence while filling up the same as misdeclaration of hazardous goods has serious consequences on the lives of many of the people in the port, ship and transporters who handle this container along its route from Point A to Point B..

All the fields in this declaration play a vital role and none of it must be excluded for the benefit of all concerned.. Many would remember the tragedy on board the MSC Flaminia and its causes..

The shipping line personnel also verify that the details provided in the haz packing declaration is the same as the details provided at the time of hazardous cargo acceptance..

This is also a vital point because the acceptance of this hazardous cargo on board was given basis the hazardous request submitted and therefore it cannot vary from the hazardous packing declaration..

process of hazardous goods approval - shipping and freight resourceIf by any chance there was a difference between the cargo details at the time of application and at the time of packing, it is the shipper’s obligation to ensure that the shipping line is notified of this change IMMEDIATELY..

It may be possible for the reapplication of hazardous approvals before the vessel arrives for loading.. If not, it will need to wait for the next vessel..

After all, SAFETY FIRST – you see this on all ships..

The ship planners both from the shipping line and port may also discuss the hazardous cargo earmarked for loading on the ship with the cargo officer and any specific stow position that may be allocated for different hazardous cargoes.. Segregation of dangerous goods on board is extremely important..


Post Loading

One copy of the hazardous packing declaration is always available on board the ship.. The shipping line also submits a separate hazardous cargo manifest detailing ALL hazardous cargoes that are on board each of which will have its own hazardous packing declaration..

It is important to realise that there is a difference between stowage and segregation and this can be effectively done only once all information is correctly provided to the shipping line, port and transporter..


Points to remember and consider with hazardous requests, approvals and acceptance process

Sometimes clients may get agitated and aggravated when the shipping line rejects their hazardous cargo request because they didn’t fill up the outer packaging and inner packaging of the cargo..

It is very important for the line to know what the cargo is and how it is packed not just to know that the cargo is well protected for transport but also to ascertain what type of actions to take should anything happen on board.. This type of action could depend on what materials are involved..

The shipper also has a moral obligation to ensure that the correct hazardous labels are present on the container as that is the only way a port worker or a ship’s crew can identify if a container is hazardous and take necessary precautions in case of any emergencies..

hazardous cargo - toxic - class 6 - shipping and freight resourceImagine you are a crew member on a ship at mid-sea and see smoke or fumes coming out of an unlabeled container..

Imagine trying to look through the manifest of thousands of containers to ascertain what may be inside the container as opposed to instantly recognizing it is a “toxic substance” from the hazardous label on the container.. 



Summary of the hazardous cargo request and approval process

  • haz cargo request sent to shipping line
  • shipping line verifies the details provided
  • shipping line checks haz space on the vessel
  • shipping line confirms acceptance
  • client packs the container and affixes the correct haz labels
  • haz documentation is passed and container goes into the port/terminal
  • client fills up the haz packing declaration and gives a copy to the shipping line
  • shipping line provides the haz packing declaration to the ship along with haz cargo manifest

*** End of Article ***

10 thoughts on “The process of hazardous cargo approval, acceptance and shipment”

  1. Very informative article, sir. I have a question: A container that has previously been used for carrying hazardous items (say, radioactive materials) is used next time for carrying other items. Is it not so? How do they ensure safety?

    • Anil, it doesn’t matter the mode of transport or where in the world it is moving, a container with hazardous good should at ALL TIMES have the hazardous stickers from the minute it is packed and before it leaves the packing warehouse.. The repercussions will be same in whichever mode it is transported..

  2. the rot that goes on in our industry is also part of the problem..
    where people who know better because of their selfish interest will intentionally commit or omit certain information vital to the transaction. corruption is the deadliest cause of a lot of the accidents in our industry.

  3. After a long span of 44 years in accident investigation &marine Cargo survey and superintendence -I give below some points for study .24th Oct 2018
    This DG Check process is on Paper only as accidents will tell.
    Most of the container fires and explosions at Sea on Container ships have occurred due to many factors –viz:
    1) Non Declaration of DG item vide Code inc Labels
    2) Misdeclaration- (intentional) as Chemical names not shown fully.
    3) Sheer Ignorance by Untrained Booking clerks in Bulk Consolidation.
    4) Wrong Name of Hazmat Cargo given to “Pass off” and Ship out and Avoid paying DG Freight.No checks and Balances in this recession condition and Risks taken . See records of Explosions &Fires esp in SE Asia Trade
    5) Shipping line lulled into false sense of security by FCL –SLAC Clause .

    Without Prejudice
    Trust this may help to improve Container Ship Safety.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.