An Introduction to Shipping Dangerous Goods | FlavorCloud

Running an ecommerce business involves a lot of moving parts. There’s the obvious stuff, like choosing the right products, marketing, site design, accounting, payment processing, packaging, and shipping. And then, each of those aspects breaks down into smaller subsections, like nesting dolls of necessary knowledge.  

So, at first glance, you need to decide about shipping your goods. Sounds easy enough, right? Sure, people do it every day. But do you know about cross-border shipping, duties, tariffs, taxes, trade barriers, and the rules and regulations about what commodities you can ship to which country? You probably know that shipping dangerous goods would require some research, but do you know that anything from perfume to smoke detectors can be classified as a dangerous goods?  

There’s a lot to learn as an ecommerce merchant but becoming an expert on everything from site design to international trade law and beyond isn’t exactly practical.  

Let’s cover the basics of shipping dangerous goods and talk about how to mitigate the potential danger, liability, or stress of not knowing every single frequently changing detail about everything that goes into the logistics of running an ecommerce business.  

What Are Dangerous Goods?  

Dangerous goods include any item or material that poses an unreasonable short or long-term risk to health, safety, or property and, consequently, requires proper identification, packaging, or protocol during shipping or handling.  

The idea that shipping hazardous materials is risky seems like common sense, but what qualifies as dangerous varies based on location or shipping vendor, and some of the items don’t seem all that dangerous. For instance, dry shampoo? Not exactly your weapon of choice in battle, but if it’s an aerosol, it’s on the list. Acne cream? Surprise! It’s corrosive. The definition of dangerous isn’t always obvious. 

A fairly comprehensive (but not exhaustive) list of Dangerous Goods would include items that are:  

  • Explosives 
  • Gases 
  • Flammable liquids 
  • Flammable solids  
  • Oxidizing agents 
  • Toxins and infectious substances 
  • Radioactive material  
  • Corrosives 
  • Miscellaneous regulated materials  

So, you may correctly assume that shipping radioactive material is a no-go and therefore decide not to carry uranium in your online marketplace. Still, even something as seemingly innocuous as a smoke detector contains low levels of radioactive material and requires appropriate labeling 

Understanding what qualifies as a dangerous good and learning how to maneuver the maze of shipping rules and regulations can feel like an intimidating endeavor.   

What is a Dangerous Goods Declaration? 

A Dangerous Goods Declaration is a form submitted by the shipper that certifies that the items in the shipment have been packed, labeled, and declared in accordance with the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). The most current version of the form may be used until December 31, 2024, but since regulations change frequently, it’s best to always check with your shipping partner for the most updated guidance.  

The merchant is legally responsible for compliance, and carriers require merchants to be pre-approved in order to ship dangerous goods. The merchant or their 3PL provides the form to the carrier responsible for transportation of the shipments, and the form confirms that all national and international laws regarding the packing, labeling, and shipment of dangerous goods have been followed.  

Rules and Regulations Regarding Dangerous Goods  

There are national and international laws and regulations that apply to shipping, handling, and declaring dangerous goods.  

The transportation of dangerous goods is regulated by the United Nations using a system known as the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) to establish uniformity in defining, classifying, and appropriately identifying hazardous materials and to create homogeneity among labels and safety data sheets.  

The International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) is another agreement that legislates transport. The most up-to-date legislation and regulations about transporting dangerous goods can be found on the UNECE website. 

The UN Dangerous Goods list can help you determine if the items in your shipment qualify as dangerous goods and is a reference point for packing and correctly labeling the shipments. However, your shipping vendor may also have specific requirements regarding what can and cannot be shipped and how the shipment must be packaged, so seek confirmation from them, as well.  

Some carriers allow merchants to send dangerous goods in Limited Quantities (LQ), with the maximum size determined by the ADR for each substance. All dangerous goods must be marked and labeled in accordance with ADR regulations and require pre-authorization from DHL Parcel.  

Some prohibited items cannot be shipped at all, either due to restrictions imposed by your shipping carrier or because they are banned goods that will be seized at customs. Carriers will not ship dangerous goods that contain one or more hazard labels because those items are not covered by the Limited Quantity regulations under the ADR; they also have a list of items that cannot be shipped due to safety reasons.  

The moral of the story is: when in doubt, check with your shipping provider. 

How FlavorCloud Can Help  

As with many areas in life, sometimes it’s more about who you know than what you know. Partnering with an experienced third-party logistics provider like FlavorCloud can eliminate the stress and potential liability of misunderstanding the nuances involved with cross-border shipping, landed costs and transporting dangerous goods.  

As the largest cross-border shipping carrier network, FlavorCloud uses our expertise to help you work on what you know with confidence while we take care of the rest.  

FlavorCloud is the total package. Learn more about the largest cross-border carrier network