Handling IMDG Cargo

The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code specifies norms and regulations for ships carrying different types of dangerous goods. The code has been implemented to prevent accidents of fire/explosion and ensure utmost safety/security while handling dangerous cargo. A PFSO who is in charge of the overall safety and security of the cargo while it is being handled on port facilities and transferred from or onto ships, must know the following to avoid any kind of accidents or compromises that can happen when handling sensitive cargo.

  1. Know the cargo groups
    IMDG cargoes are divided into three main groups and each has a specific plan to store, transport and handling in case of accident or spill:

    • Group 1: Cargo which are extremely dangerous
    • Group 2: Cargo with moderate danger
    • Group 3: Cargo with less danger

  2. Know the classification of dangerous cargo
    The dangerous cargoes are segregated into various sub-categories so as to plan the carriage as per the requirements of the cargo. This avoids mistakes and ensures proper preventive actions that can be taken in case of any incidence or accident.

    IMDG cargo is usually classified into:

    • Class 1: Explosives
    • Class 2.1: Flammable Gases
    • Class 2.2: Non-flammable/Non-Toxic Gases
    • Class 2.3: Toxic Gases:
    • Class 3: Flammable liquids
    • Class 4.1: Flammable solids
    • Class 4.2: Spontaneously combustible Substances
    • Class 4.3: Substances that are dangerous when wet
    • Class 5.1: Oxidising substances
    • Class 5.2: Organic peroxides
    • Class 6: Toxic substances
    • Class 7: Radioactive substances
    • Class 8: Corrosive substances
    • Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous substances

  3. Check the labels
    Check that all the labels on the packages are visible and clearly indicate the type and characteristics of cargo. Appropriate labels indicating the hazard (Flammable, toxic, Corrosive etc.) are also pasted over the package. The label must be water resistant such that even in case of immersion, it should be readable for at least 3 months.
  4. Check the cargo documents
    Ensure that before loading any IMDG cargo, the agent or shipper has handed over the Material Safety Data Sheet, stating:

    • The technical name of the cargo carried
    • The declaration certificate saying cargo has been packed as per the IMDG code

  5. Check the cargo for correct packaging
    If the IMDG cargo is loaded in a package, ensure to check:

    • Absorbing or cushioning material is used with the package containing liquid cargo, which must be competent of absorbing the liquid in case of leakage
    • The package is kept with sufficient ullage if liquid cargo is carried
    • All cylinders carrying IMDG cargo are pressure tested and certified ok for use

  6. Check when handling cargo
    While handling IMDG cargo, check the following things:

    • Is the package stored according to the stowage plan
    • No bunkering is going on or it is stopped during the time of loading or offloading
    • The radar is put off (applicable for certain cargoes)
    • The packaging is weather tight
    • There is no damage or leakage
    • Follow port regulation on IMDG cargo

  7. Inspect when handling explosive cargo
    If the IMDG cargo is explosive, ensure to also check that:

    • The package is stored over a wooden pallet
    • All the electrical fittings in that region are disconnected from the source
    • All electrical wirings are sheathed properly
    • The cargo is stowed away from accommodation and hot bulkhead

  8. Know the Emergency Procedure
    It is very important for the PFSO to prepare himself and his colleagues for any kind of accidents while handling such dangerous cargo. The PFSO must read and understand :

    • Emergency procedure for risk when handling IMDG cargo
    • First Aid Guide for accidents involving IMDG cargo
    • Risk associated with cargo by understanding the labels

These are some of the important points that must be considered while handling dangerous cargo. Note that special attention also must be given to the instructions that are provided by the manufacturers and the company.

Special thanks to KaranC – Marine Safety, October 8, 2017