A Dangerous Good Shipped by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

Robert Smith | October 23, 2017 | Dangerous Goods/Hazmat
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A Dangerous Good Shipped by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet | Shipping SolutionsA large international company recently contacted me to review their entire shipping process and propose a solution for complete compliance with domestic and international hazmat regulations.

They were completely frustrated grappling with all the variations that applied to their products of fragrances and perfumes. Their problem was not only interpreting the domestic hazmat regulations, but also the differences that exist when shipping their products internationally.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, the hazmat regulations that apply to a company's domestic shipments don’t necessarily apply to international shipments.

Domestic Hazmat Shipping Regulations

Because they contain various amounts of ethyl alcohol, perfumes are considered a flammable liquid, hazard class 3. There are also three packing groups (PG) that indicate the degree of danger within most hazard classes. PG I is a relatively high danger, PG II a medium danger, and PG III represents a minor danger. Based on their higher flash point and boiling point, most perfumes are considered a Packing Group II or III. In order to ship the finished product, the proper shipping name is chosen from a list of more than 3,000 names. The name selected should be the best description of the article or material you are shipping, in this case its perfumery products, UN1266.

In March 2014, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the rulemaking branch of the Department of Transportation (DOT), published Final Rule HM233-C. This regulatory rule change incorporates a Special Permit 9275 (SP9275) exemption into the hazmat regulations (CFR-49). Special permits provide certain shippers relief from some or all of the hazmat regulations.


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SP9275 is a very popular exemption for shippers whose products contain ethyl alcohol. It gives most domestic shippers of cosmetics (among others) sold as retail products containing not more than 70% ethyl alcohol by volume an exemption from the regulations as long as they identified the package with the wording “contains ethyl alcohol.”

With this exemption now included in the regulations as an exception, specifically §173.150(g), all shippers of liquids with less than 70% ethyl alcohol are no longer required to request exemption party status to use this Special Permit. The new rule provides the shipper an important exception from the provisions of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), including the requirement to mark the package "contains ethyl alcohol."

Bottom line, with certain restrictions related to packaging content and size, perfumes are now excepted from the domestic regulations of CFR-49. Because of that, my client can ship domestically and not pay any hazmat/dangerous goods premium on freight. This was a huge saving for my client. It gets better.

Applying Domestic Hazmat Regulations to International Shipments

Our next step was to take a look at their international shipments. Generally speaking, global harmonization with dangerous goods regulations works for most regulated materials. However, if something is excepted in one country, it does not mean it is elsewhere. Sadly, this is the case with perfumes. They must be shipped as a fully regulated material, which is more expensive.

Certified packaging must be used. Each packaging configuration is tested to stringent UN performance standards. The pressure differential test is one of the key tests required for shipping liquids by air. Each container or bottle must meet the UN pressure standard and be sealed closed. This may involve extra labor costs. Proper cushioning and leak-proof requirements must also be addressed. And because we are now shipping declared dangerous goods, carriers charge more.

Fortunately, there is an alternate option that is available, and there are important savings that can be achieved if you offer your perfumery product as a limited quantity or as a consumer commodity.

As the name suggests, certain dangerous goods shipped in reasonably limited quantities present a reduced hazard and can be safely transported in good quality packaging meeting the UN standards but not necessarily requiring the testing and marking. Just look at any hardware store paint aisle, and you will see the typical size of a limited quantity/consumer commodity. You don’t see any 55-gallon drums.

As long as you have a combination package, which could include an inner bottle or can within an outer packaging or box, and that packaging meets the construction criteria, you are set. The inner packaging limits are fairly generous and allow up to five litres and 30 kilograms per package.

You are required to mark the outer package with the name and addresses of the shipper and consignee, two orientation arrows on opposite sides for liquids, and a simple diamond with black tips, as shown below. No proper shipping name and UN number or hazard label is required.

Diamond Label for Dangerous Goods Shipping | Shipping Solutions

Domestically in the United States, the term Otherwise Regulated Material-Domestic (ORM-D) is used to designate that the product qualifies as a consumer commodity and has been around for years. (This designation will eventually no longer be accepted by 2020.)

Otherwise Regulated Material-Domestic (ORM-D) Label for Dangerous Goods | Shipping Solutions

First of all, if your product meets the definition of a limited quantity, you are relieved of the stringent UN performance packaging standards. If your product qualifies as a consumer commodity, the ORM-D marking applies and provides relief from the regulations including documentation and emergency response.

Remember, this only applies to domestic surface shipments in the U.S. However, there is reciprocity between the U.S. and Canada as long as it is to the primary destination. Once your U.S. product reaches the initial destination in Canada, any furtherance made thereafter must be in compliance with the Canadian dangerous goods regulations. If you needed to mark your packaging for furtherance within Canada, the limited quantity would suffice since these markings were recently included in the Canadian regulations and are now acceptable. The packaging limits are the same.

So what are the possibilities of cost savings for shippers of perfumes? If you are trying to save money on shipping, the key is to ship your freight by surface only. That means trucking to Canada and vessel and truck elsewhere.

Shipping Dangerous Goods by Vessel

Shipping consumer commodities, such as perfumes, by vessel per the International Maritime Organization's (IMO's) International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is a little more complicated than trucking. Shipping a Limited Quantity is the best option because the term Consumer Commodity is not a recognized proper shipping name by the IMO. Documentation in the form of a dangerous goods declaration is still required, and the proper shipping name remains Perfumery Products, UN1266 PGIII.

There are two key additional requirements: (1) the wording, Limited Quantity, must be included in association with the basic description, e.g. UN ID number, proper shipping name, class number, and packaging group number; and (2) the flash point of the liquid in Celsius must be included with the basic description of the item.

If you are shipping dangerous goods, you can’t avoid the inherent costs because dangerous goods always present a possible hazard in transportation and must be declared. Not declaring them is completely irresponsible, and as we saw in one of my recent articles, the fines for violations are getting stiffer.

How you declare your dangerous goods is another issue. We are not trying to hide or avoid the regulations, but a savvy shipper can save a lot of money if they know how the regulations can be used to their advantage. Sometimes it takes an expert who knows where to dig in the regulations to find these advantages.

If you need assistance with any aspect of shipping dangerous goods, feel free to contact me at CARGOpak.


This article was first published in July 2014 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.

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