The IMO Dangerous Goods Code

Read All About the 2015 Changes to the IMDG Regulations

Ever since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved the initial IMO Dangerous Goods Code, (IMDG), the rules have been consistently updated to reflect new and improved practices regarding the transportation of dangerous goods. The code was a result of the IMO’s decisions to institute a set of international regulations detailing the proper and safe ways to transport dangerous cargo by sea. Many of the changes were orchestrated to keep pace with the changes in the affected industries, but the core principles and intentions of the IMDG regulations have remained the same. The code was made mandatory in 2004, but nearly all international shippers abided by the regulations set down in the previous editions of the codes for the past several decades. There are still certain sections of the code that are merely recommendations, but even they are subject to future revisions, with the possibility that they too will eventually be requirements.

In broad terms, the code breaks down dangerous goods into many different classes. The classes are grouped by the similarity of the items in the class. Each class has its own rules for how items are to be labeled, packaged, and transported. Often, when the code has been amended, the whole code does not change; rather, specific sections of the code are addressed to update shipping practices of various classes of dangerous goods.

By the end of 2014, the IMO will publish the next revision of the IMDG regulations, and organizations should start getting familiar with them as soon as they can. The new IMDG Code amendments will be optional starting on the first day of January 2015, but they will become mandatory on January first of 2016. IMO regulations such as the IMDG Code can be complicated and difficult to skim through in a short amount of time, but affected companies can get their hands on them as soon as the changes are made in whatever format they choose, as the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code paperback and hardcover books will be available once the new regulations are finalized, and they can also be purchased and downloaded as a pdf file. The sooner the new changes are understood, the easier it will be to comply with them.

The New IMDG Code

The new edition of the IMDG Code is not expected to feature a tremendous number of changes, at least when compared to some of the previous amendments. However, many of the issues that are addressed are expected to be of significant importance. There will be clarifications on several issues such as whether lamps and light bulbs are to be considered dangerous cargo or not, the classification of viscous liquids that are flammable, and new input on size and appearance of various markings, labels, and notices including markings that reference limited quantities of items or whether an item is a marine pollutant. There are also expected to be major changes made to the requirements for radioactive substances and extra shipping information about how to package adsorbed gases.

Another change to the IMDG Code will involve the separation of the Dangerous Goods List into separate categories. Stowage and Segregation will now be featured as columns 16a and 16b, respectively. New codes will be assigned for various types of cargo depending on how they fit in these columns. In the same vein, many new revisions are expected on the topic of shipping descriptions, particularly for items pertaining to the automotive industry (many of the formerly separate categories will be combined into a new category known as Safety Devices). Other products will have changes regarding the way they are to be labeled for shipping to better indicate the contents of a given container. Some of the descriptions will create new higher level categories designed to capture more products underneath a large umbrella of cargo, whereas others will have new subcategories added to allow for more descriptive labels to be put on a product during packaging and shipping.

The new IMDG Code will also feature a number of new special provisions. These provisions will include items that clarify the uses of particular shipping names for product categories, standards for items that feature pressure release devices, and procedures for transporting and protecting neutron radiation detectors. Additionally, some existing special provisions are expected to receive modifications to their language. One change that will be forthcoming will involve Special Provision 961, which pertains to many types of internal combustion and fuel cell powered engines.

Where to Find the IMDG Code

Although the changes in the new amendment of the IMDG regulations will not be mandatory until the beginning of 2016, they will go into effect at the start of 2015, and shippers and carriers are expected to treat 2015 as a transition period to learn and adapt to the revisions to the code instead of delaying adoption of the new rules until the last possible moment. Implementing new practices and adjusting existing routines to fit the regulations as soon as possible will benefit everyone, as cargo will be transported more safely and effectively, and shipments will be able to depart and arrive on schedule and without incident.

Of course, in order to know what the new revisions are in full, they need to be read, and it probably behooves all shippers to have a copy or two on hand for reference. The easiest place to find the IMDG Code is the IMO Publication Section on their website. There, buyers have their choice of purchasing the IMDG Code paperback or hardcover books, or purchasing the pdf version and downloading it. The code can also be found at in formats that are supported by Windows or on the web. Finally, the International Code Council (ICC) Compliance Center also can be contacted with any questions about the shipping practices for a particular class of dangerous goods or with questions about the upcoming revisions to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (both before and after the new revisions are published).


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