This article will guide you through the unique requirements and key differences to be aware of if your hazardous cargo is headed stateside.
A Guiding Hand
Behind the scenes, the transport of hazardous materials is a complex process that requires a skilled navigator to chart a course through the intricate regulatory landscape as deftly as a pilot does through the physical one. These waters are further muddied when intercontinental cargoes are concerned, requiring adherence to USA-specific legislation and procedures in addition to their European counterparts.
These requirements are not static, either: political changes can have a huge impact on aviation transport and shipping, and the past few years have seen transformations both in Europe and across the pond. Kim Borgaard, general manager of Chapman Freeborn in Scandinavia, confirms that this increased complexity has also led to increased demand for specialist dangerous goods shipping services: “We have seen a surge in requests for cargo into the United States from across Europe.”
To the novice, this can seem like a daunting, faceless maelstrom of red tape. Fear not, however – help is at hand. An experienced IATA-certified shipper will serve as a lighthouse, guiding you through the regulatory fog, away from the jagged rocks of non-compliance, and towards the welcoming shores that await after having your cargo packaged, shipped, and transported by the experts.
Roles and Responsibility
Reading through the American legislation, it’s apparent that in the transport of HAZMAT materials, more emphasis is placed on the responsibility of the individual sending the items. As the CBP notes, there is in fact no legal requirement to hire a licensed customs broker, suggesting that the need to adhere is shared throughout the shipping process.
This level of personal responsibility is further enhanced by the CBP’s observation that “the importer is ultimately responsible for knowing CBP requirements and for ensuring their importation complies with all federal rules and regulations.” The FAA adds to this, pointing out that “the Hazardous Materials Regulations require YOU, the shipper, to properly classify, package, mark, and label the package to identify the hazard.”
Whilst one might prefer a fire-and-forget style of client-shipper interaction, the American system mandates an element of individual oversight of the entire dangerous goods shipping process. Whoever you chose to handle your hazardous goods, then, you’ll need to be personally aware of some of the key differences when transporting dangerous goods to, from, or within the USA.
It’s crucial to be precise at all stages when shipping dangerous cargo, and this begins with quantities. This isn’t specific to the USA, and is good practice whatever the nature of your shipment, but there are unique facets of the American regulation that make this question especially pertinent.
One can begin by determining the authorized quantities permitted to be shipped, the labels required, and the acceptable packaging via the FAA’s guide. It might seem that, having adhered to these requirements, you’re now good to go, but in truth we’re only just getting started…
If you thought you were already adrift on a raft in a regulatory ocean, allow me to introduce you to the Hazardous Materials Table. This really is an Olympic-level piece of bureaucracy – a personal favourite being Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter I, Subchapter C, Part 172, Subpart B (Nobel-worthy in its number of headings alone), containing perhaps the most redundant and cyclical sentence ever written:
“The Hazardous Materials Table (Table) in this section designates the materials listed therein as hazardous materials for the purpose of transportation of those materials.”
The banality of this document aside, it does in fact contain a lot of pertinent information for the would-be shipper, providing microscopic detail on every aspect of your dangerous goods shipment. The Hazardous Materials Table even goes as far as to specify the acceptable spellings of certain HAZMAT substances on labels, noting that, for example, “aluminum” may be spelled “aluminium” and “sulfur” may be spelled “sulphur” – the word “inflammable”, however, may not be used in place of the word “flammable.”
For a guarantee of compliance, then, one need to look no further than the Hazardous Materials Table and its infinitesimal permutations. It’s highly unlikely that any one individual would be able to fully digest all of the information that it contains within a human lifetime, so when selecting a shipping provider it’s crucial to ensure that they have an encyclopaedic knowledge across their relevant team.
Being Clear on Cargo
The American system is one of split responsibility, where different governmental departments concern themselves with different forms of goods. There are no doubt key advantages and disadvantages to this approach, but from the shipper’s perspective it’s important to consider the issue of jurisdiction when importing dangerous goods. This means that it’s crucial to understand which category of hazardous material your cargo falls into, and to then seek out and adhere to the relevant legislation as provided by the responsible authority.
These authorities are as numerous as the goods that they govern, but as an example one might look to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s responsibility for the import of toxic chemical substances via the Toxic Substances Control Act. Similarly, cargo that relates to plants or animals would concern the Fish and Wildlife Service, whilst the import of Lithium batteries falls under the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
If this seems unapproachable to the novice, that’s because, put simply: it is. Despite the implication that specialist shippers are not necessary, the sheer complexity of the American system seems to warrant assistance. When selecting a shipping partner, though, it’s crucial to ensure that they’re not similarly bewildered by the environment discussed above. Instead, you want a steady, experienced hand that can navigate this process with ease, ensuring that your cargo gets where it needs to be and complies with every requirement along the way.
Choosing a Provider
If you were book a taxi in your city, you’d prefer a driver that knew the roads. Familiarity with the locale in which the job takes place is always beneficial, but when it comes to shipping dangerous goods within the USA, it tends towards the essential. The potential consequences of mishaps with packaging, labelling, or transport are too severe to entrust this job to all but the most experienced shipping providers, and only those that are specialists in solutions within the USA will do.
You can see where we’re going with this. Ideally, you’re looking for a provider with established roots and premises within the USA – one that builds on them by continually re-investing into their North American operation via the opening of new offices. It’s also beneficial to enlist a provider with USA-specific business departments, as you don’t want your cargo to be handled by teams with a European focus that are working outside their comfort zone.
Finally, you need a shipping partner with a history of importing cargo from around the world into America. This might include potentially hazardous pharmaceutical goods and medicines shipped from India for the launch of a new asthma treatment product. It could also include unique, almost bizarre shipments – such as a 28-tonne milling machine arriving from Belgium. A shipper that can handle time-critical cargo, such as a rotor turbine needed for critical repairs, should be your go-to if time is of the essence, ensuring that your dangerous goods get where they’re needed with minimal delay.
Chapman Freeborn’s experience in USA-specific cargo transport is renowned for good reason, and we have even been responsible for providing solutions to global events that have shaped the industry. If you want to take the stress out of your next American dangerous goods shipment, there really is only one place to look.
Time to Decide
Now that the plethora of regulations governing the carriage of hazardous materials within the United States is apparent, the would-be shipper has two options: go it alone or enlist help. The steely determination, obsessive eye for detail, and broad knowledge of legislation required to accomplish the former might not be to everyone’s taste, but opting for the latter and working with Chapman Freeborn guarantees that all of these attributes come as standard.
Any opportunity to add to our already broad portfolio of unique shipping solutions is relished by our highly experienced team. Get in touch today to hear what we can offer you to facilitate the transit of your dangerous goods shipment – whatever the nature of your cargo!