Shipping Container Certifications Demystified

There is much to consider when selecting a shipping drum, regardless of the type of goods you are transporting or whether the destination is domestic or international. Barrels and drums meant for the transport and storage of goods require various levels of certification. Sometimes the required forms, labeling, and the rest appear overwhelming.

If you’re a company or an individual that ships materials that are hazardous or dangerous, or if you are interested in learning more about the process, we’ll help to demystify the process for you.

Shipping Containers Defined

A shipping container, also known as a drum or barrel, is a container used for shipping bulk cargo. There are many options out there—different types and sizes and made of a multitude of components: steel, poly, and plastic. Certifications are required to transport hazardous liquid or solid material by air, land, or sea, and must match the make of the container to adhere to certification standards.

Shipping drums are versatile and used for other, non-shipping applications. Examples of other applications include storage for farming, construction, horticulture, environment, and business services.

blue storage barrel standing alone

UN Certifications

Containers that bear a UN marking are required for dangerous goods packaging and transportation. The ones that boast the UN marking show the UN has approved and certified the packaging. It’s an internationally recognized system, and each certified drum is labeled with a UN mark and rating.

The UN rating specifies the container’s allowed use. It’s critical consumers select the appropriate rating for the goods they are shipping. It is the responsibility of the shipper to choose the correct packaging, and they will be held accountable if incorrect.

DOT Protocols

The Department of Transportation is a US-based agency that has individual requirements for shipping and transporting hazardous materials. DOT is in addition to UN certification. Their primary focus is drums shipped domestically—via vehicle or freight container. Their guidelines include class and division of the hazardous material, packaging, marking, and handling of shipments.

The United States Department of Transportation has a long-standing commitment to improving the availability, reliability, and performance of the United States transportation infrastructure. Their goal is to grow our economy while protecting our nation’s interests.

200 liter fuel tanks in black and white

IATA International Air Transport Association

IATA works with ICAO and individual governments to develop international transportation regulations. Their dangerous goods regulations manual is the only worldwide reference for shipping drums via air and the only standardized regulation acknowledged by airlines.

IATA has taken the technical rules created by ICAO and developed it into an accessible, readable manual. It is called the DGR manual, focusing on ease of reading for consumers interested in shipping. Make sure to review the dangerous goods regulations manual for compliance before shipping anywhere across the globe.

ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization

ICAO is a United Nations specialized agency that focuses on international transport and sustainable growth across the world. They are recognized and used internationally.

ICAO is the technical side of aviation—pilots use ICAO codes to communicate with flight control. Their focus is the safety, economic, and environmental side of civil aviation by developing policies and standards, conducting audits, and performing studies and analysis to enable trade and affluence.

IMO International Maritime Organization

Shipping hazardous goods by boat or vessel is managed by the International Maritime Organization. IMO is another UN specialized agency. They develop international safety regulations for international shipping and use the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Regulations Code to enforce proper transportation of goods internationally.

Each type of transport has its own dangerous goods shipping forms. These forms are filled out by the shipper in advance to declare shipped contents.

Understanding Shipment Drum Markings

shipping dock equipment

All parties that certify the packaging meets regulations will be included in the UN marking on the shipment drum. Ultimately, you’ll want to purchase a UN-approved shipping drum that has been tested and which is in compliance with IATA, ICAO, IMO, and DOT protocols to ensure it’s acceptable for Hazmat shipping. The marking on your shipment container will reflect the symbol of the manufacturer or agency’s code certifying compliance.

The Difference Between Transporting Solids and Liquids

If shipping solids, it is necessary to pay attention to the maximum gross mass that the package can weigh when filled. This weight includes the packaging, in addition to the contents, and it is marked by a capital “S.”

Liquids are measured by hydrostatic pressure. Each container is tested and certified to a maximum pressure. Markings on the outside of the drum will specify the gravity allowed. When dealing with hazardous liquid materials, it is important to take proper precautions and equipment to safely transport the liquid into your drum.

As you can see, there is much to consider when selecting a shipping drum. There are many regulations, requirements, and certifications in place to ensure the safety of your shipment and those handling it. We recommend choosing a UN Certified Shipping Drum that has been tested to meet all regulations under IATA, ICAO, IMO, and DOT CFR-49 protocols to ensure it is suitable for Hazmat shipping.


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