Up-to-date knowledge is vital as the volume of dangerous goods being shipped and the regulations covering them continue to grow.
As demands for rapid delivery keep growing, air cargo volume increases. And that means shipment of dangerous goods will increase correspondingly, according to industry experts.
The already sizable dangerous goods market is reflected in figures from the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations Agency for Aviation which sets global industry rules.
More than half of the cargo carried by all modes of transportation in the world is dangerous cargo-explosive, corrosive, flammable, toxic or even radioactive, says the ICAO. And although it does not have exact percentages, the ICAO says a great deal of dangerous goods cargo is carried by air.
Not unexpectedly, most dangerous goods air shipments, around 75 percent, move by all-cargo planes. The remainder is shipped by passenger aircraft, according to Thomas Kenny, dangerous goods specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, D.C.
By either mode, the rapid growth in technology is generating new entries into an already crowded dangerous goods category, making it more important than ever for shippers and carriers to be knowledgeable about the rules, Kenny points out.
But keeping up-to-date is no small task because of the size and scope of the dangerous goods roster, determined by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
There are nine hazard classes, which include approximately 65,000 dangerous chemicals and other substances, says Richard Elbourne, manager of dangerous goods for the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA). (See "The nine hazard classes.)
Altitude and cargo effects
Many shippers may not realize that substances which are benign at sea level can exhibit damaging properties at flight altitudes. Included are such common household items as perfume, which can become flammable, strike-anywhere matches, paint, aerosol sprays, camping gas and dry ice.
The latter, for example, gives off carbon dioxide and can create a problem in a confined cargo hold. Liquids, especially, are affected by differential pressure, temperature extremes and turbulence. For example, a light dent in a can of paint could result in a leak caused by the reduced air pressure at 40,000 feet.
The new or occasional dangerous goods shipper enters a world where there is literally no margin for error, and the phrase "tight regulation" is almost an understatement since regulations concerning what can be shipped--and how--abound.
As the global rule-setting body for hazardous materials, the ICAO has developed …