Dangerous goods are products or materials with hazardous items in them. If they are not properly stored, controlled or transported, they may become a potential hazard to human health and safety, infrastructure and their means of transport. Therefore, dangerous goods require special safety focused handling and transportation and most of the time they are subject to chemical regulations. In the past, and even today, carriers are experiencing the consequences of not properly controlled or handled hazardous materials loaded on their vessels and they end up paying high prices for that dangerous cargo.

The transportation of dangerous goods is controlled internationally and nationally by various regulatory authorities. Some of the most common frameworks for the transportation of hazardous cargo include: the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, the IMO’s International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, IATA’s Dangerous Goods Regulations and ICAOs Technical Instructions. These are the authorities set requirements on how dangerous goods to be handled, packaged, labeled and transported.

Dangerous goods are divided into nine different classes as following, on the basis of the specific chemical characteristics producing the risk and for each of them specific safety requirements have to be met. Hazardous material which could be classified as more than one class takes on the highest applicable class level.

1. Explosives
2. Gases
3. Flammable Liquids
4. Flammable Solids
5. Oxidizing Substances
6. Toxic And Infectious Substances
7. Radioactive Materials
8. Corrosives
9. Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

In order to guarantee safety and environmental protection, carriers must examine each dangerous goods transport inquiry on a case-by-case basis for its compliance with statutory regulations. If the product meets all safety and environmental requirements then it could be accepted on board the vessel by the carriers.

When the hazardous cargo is shipped the carriers will ask for a Material Safety Data Sheet, which is know as MSDS. This data sheet must contain full information regarding the product being shipped. MSDS is very important for the carriers to consider acceptance of the product on to the vessel. It basically provides the instructions and the full requirements for handling this dangerous cargo and it must be created by the manufacturer of the product as they would have full information on the item.

MSDS is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, flash point , boiling point, etc.) , disposal , toxicity, reactivity , health effects, first aid , protective equipment, and spill handling procedures. Most developed countries have similar regulations and requirements however MSDS formats can vary from source to source within a country depending on national requirements.