Who knew we had so many hazards in our lives?

Hazardous shipments come in a lot of different forms, from the obvious, like chemical compounds and paints to the maybe not-so-obvious like perfumes we spray in our faces and the alcoholic spirits we drink.

If you’re shipping an automobile or motorcycle, you MAY avoid calling it hazardous, but only if you follow the strict guidelines, such as draining enough gasoline before packing it up. Do you remember our blog article about specialty shipping services where we touched on the race car we helped ship? They had to separate everything to avoid dealing with one large hazardous sea freight shipment.

Yeah, but what about my Tesla? There’s no gasoline in there, so does it qualify? Actually, electric vehicles are most DEFINITELY treated as hazardous cargo because of the self-contained lithium ion batteries.  So, although it may not seem intuitive at first, when you’re shipping something overseas, you’ll want to ensure you’re following the proper guidelines, so you can avoid any unnecessary complications.

Even shipments having only a very small quantity of hazardous contents need to follow the proper regulations.

So, what does this mean for you? Many shipping lines have their own, self-imposed regulations outside of other governing agencies, and if your’e not careful, your shipment could be rejected by the port itself. So, rather than deal with the woes as they happen, here are some things to consider and take care of prior to pulling the trigger.


Shipping hazardous materials doesn’t have to turn your life upside down.

Let me help you prepare for your shipment, so you aren’t caught off guard or overwhelmed by the process. Here are 5 tips to keep you on track and happy:

1. Nuts & Bolts of Hazardous Cargo Compliance

Regulations typically consist of bulkheads to be nailed down on the container floor between each pallet or package.  Tiers of stacked hazardous cargo of different classifications, whether they be pails or boxes, may need to be separated by plywood layers.  Shrink wrap applied to outer packages must not obstruct the visibility of hazardous labels. 

Rejected containers due to non-compliance of steamship line hazardous loading requirements results in additional drayage costs which can be very expensive to bring back the container to the loading site to be re-loaded, not to mention the additional labor required.

Unfortunately, hazardous loading requirements are not standard across the board for all steamship lines, and each steamship line should be consulted directly to determine the applicable hazardous loading requirements.

2. Shipping To and Through China

Customers in the market for shipping hazardous less-than-container-load (LCL) shipments from the USA to Ho Chi Minh can anticipate delays in the transit time.

No, that’s not China… But shipments to Ho Chi Minh often trans-ship through Singapore which is notoriously strict on approving hazardous shipments for on-forwarding.  This means that hazardous shipments to Ho Chi Minh may be delayed in Singapore until they have been approved to be laden on the feeder vessels. 

3. US Regulations, Delays, & LCL

Since LCL hazardous shipments are consolidated with other customer’s hazardous cargo within the same ocean container, the likelihood is great that there will be incompatibilities between two different customers’ cargo.  This means that one customer’s hazardous shipment is forbidden to be transported within the same container as another customer’s hazardous cargo for safety reasons. What if breakage occurs and dangerous compounds are mixed together?

Shipping specialists are be able to determine compatibility based on classifications and classes assigned to each.  In these cases of incompatibility, one will have to be rolled to the following vessel, which ever customer has less priority in the loading of their shipments.  Priority is established on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Delays are likely to occur in the United States, which start with the booking process itself.  It may take two or more days to get a confirmed booking from a USA co-loader since hazardous bookings to places like Ho Chi Minh and Hong Kong require overseas approval.  In the case of Ho Chi Minh, approval is usually required at the trans-shipment point of Singapore.

Depending on how prepared you are, the processing and transit time of the shipment will be varied accordingly.  It takes extra time to prepare the hazardous declaration, re-package and label the boxes and packages, and to find hazmat driver availability to transport the cargo from the shipper’s facility to a certified hazardous packer.  Certification and labeling is typically not a long process, but it can add a couple days or more to the total shipment processing time.

4. FCL

FCL’s present a whole range of challenges.  A reliable shipping specialist and freight forwarder needs to keep on top of logistics schedules and steamship line hazardous requirements.  Availability of hazmat drivers is a key concern to getting an FCL loaded and delivered to the port of export in time.  Quite often, the container drayage of a hazardous FCL must be pre-arranged a least one or two weeks in advance of the actual drayage date to secure the availability of a hazmat driver. 

Port congestion can also cause difficulty in organizing the logistics of a hazardous FCL to the port of export.  The steamship lines require a container number and seal number to be listed on the hazardous declaration prepared either by the shipper or the shipper’s forwarder using a third-party certified hazardous packer, but of course the container number would not be available until the hazmat driver has pulled an empty container from the port.

Steamship lines usually have strict deadlines to receive the completed hazardous declaration with the container number and will automatically roll a shipment if this requirement is not satisfied in the allotted time limit.  If you have strict deadlines, you may want to utilize the services of freight forwarders and shipping specialists that have a demonstrated history of expedited shipments delivered on time with little or no delays.

5. Expected Cost & Equipment Variations

You should expect higher rates for hazardous cargo than for non-hazardous cargo. Of course, shipping companies and freight forwarders can take care of the of the hazardous requirements, but they will need additional required items in order expedite hazardous shipments. 

The first thing you may be required to provide to a freight forwarder or shipping specialist besides a commercial invoice, packing list, and shipper’s letter of instruction (SLI) is a shipper’s hazardous declaration.  If you do not have one, the forwarder can arrange to have a hazardous declaration prepared, but the Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) will be needed in addition to the commercial invoice in order to prepare a hazardous declaration. 

Typically, you can look to spend from $50 to $100 for this hazardous declaration.  In addition, if the hazardous cargo is not properly labeled with the required labels, you could be looking at spending from $10 to $30 per box or package to have it corrected. You also want to make sure you have the right type of packaging per the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) regulations and International Air Transport Association (IATA).  Co-loaders will also impose hazardous fees usually ranging from $15 to $30 per cubic meter which is a surcharge in addition to the ocean freight.

Full-container-load (FCL) hazardous shipments typically have less frequency of schedule setbacks due to incompatible cargoes as this type of hazardous cargo generally speaking sources back to a single supplier, rather than a co-loaded container that contains many different hazardous shipments from many different suppliers.  That is not to say that incompatibility does not happen with a single shipper shipment for an FCL, but the frequency is less than a co-loaded container of many different LCL’s.  In the case an incompatibility does occur for an FCL shipment involving only one shipper or supplier, the incompatible cargoes would need to be segregated in two or more different shipments, depending on the degree of incompatibility.  Depending on the customer’s requirements, the segregated cargo, if much smaller than the rest of the FCL, could be shipped separately by air or by a co-loaded LCL.  It is good for prospective buyers of international freight services to keep this in mind in regards to their hazardous cargo shipments.


Unfortunately there are no guarantees in international shipping.  Shipment delays, though they are not pleasant for customers with critical timelines, do occur for any combination of the reasons described above.  Furthermore, hazardous shipments have a greater risk of incurring additional charges not originally accounted for due to non-compliance, the lack of availability of hazmat drivers, port congestion, and vessel delays.  A reliable freight forwarder can typically shield you from these speed bumps by maintaining due diligence in hazardous compliance and the effective handling of all variables involved in shipping logistics. 

Interested in some expert guidance and a quote for your hazardous materials shipment? Call today!

GET a quote






Tell us a little about your project, we’ll respond same day (Monday – Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm).