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IMCO Guide



The Carriage of dangerous goods and marine pollutants in sea-going ships is respectively regulated in the International Convention for the Safety of the Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Relevant parts of both SOLAS and MARPOL have been worked out in great detail and are included in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, thus making this Code the legal instrument for maritime transport of dangerous goods and marine pollutants. As of 1st January 2004, the IMDG Code became a mandatory requirement.



  1. The shipper of dangerous goods should provide a dangerous goods declaration embodying the relevant details listed in section 9 of the general introduction to the IMDG Code and the original or a copy should be placed aboard the ship. Without such a declaration the dangerous goods shall not be accepted for shipments.
  2. Those responsible for the packing of dangerous goods into a freight container or vehicle should provide a signed dangerous goods container or vehicle packing certificate, stating that the provisions of paragraph 5.4 of the IMDG Code have been met, and the original or a copy should be handed over to the vessel operator. Without such certification the container or vehicle shall not be accepted for shipment. Note : A Container packing certificate is not required for portable tanks
  3. The documents referred to in 1 and 2 above may be combined into 1 form!

Classification of dangerous goods
For all modes of transport (sea, air, rail, road and inland waterways) the classification (grouping) of dangerous goods, by type of risk involved, has been drawn up by the UNITED NATIONS Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UN). Based on this framework of grouping and for the purpose of carriage by sea, IMO Classes comprise the following, which are further subdivided as indicated: Dangerous goods, marine pollutants and material hazardous only in Bulk (MHB).


Dangerous substances codes
Modern maritime transportation involves the shipment of more than a million chemical materials. In such a situation it is clear that the characteristics of each of the many different chemical substances must be determined and measures taken accordingly. As a result of this requirement, in 1960 the Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, known as IMCO for short, categorized the most important dangerous chemical substances in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods – Code, or IMDG-C for short, which classified dangerous substances according to international standards and stated that labels measuring at least 10 cm x 10 cm should be put on all containers carrying this kind of cargo. It listed nine different classes according to the different characteristics which constituted a hazard to life and property. These are given below with their international label and code.



A handy guide for shipping of Hazardous Goods from the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.

The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code was developed as a uniform international code for the shipping of hazardous goods by sea covering such matters as packing, container traffic and stowage, with particular reference to the segregation of incompatible substances.





Should be stored away from the crew’s quarters and the ship’s boats and immediately under the hold’s hatches.

Substances included in this class:
Gunpowder, Fireworks, Smokebombs, Munitions, Dynamite etc.


Class 2.1: Flammable Gases:

Gases which are ignitable when in a mixture of 13% or less by volume with air; or have a flammable range with air of at least 12 percentage points regardless of the lower flammable limit.


Class 2.2: Non-flammable, non-toxic gases:

Gases which dilute/ replace the oxygen normally in the atmosphere; or are oxidizing – gases which can, by providing oxygen, cause or contribute to the combustion of other material; or gases which are not classed under the other classes.


Class 2.3: toxic gases:

Toxic or corrosive gases know to be hazardous to human health; or are presumed to be toxic or corrosive to humans because they have a LC50 value equal to or less than 5,000 ml/m3 (ppm).


Class 3: Flammable liquids:

Flammable liquids are liquids, mixtures of liquids or liquids containing solids in solution or suspension which give off a flammable vapour at or below 61°C closed-cup test, normally referred to as the “flashpoint”. This also includes:
- Liquids offered for transport at temperatures at or above their flashpoint
- Substances transported or offered for transport at high temperatures in a liquid state, which give off a flammable vapour at temperatures equal to or below the maximum transport temperature.


Class 4.1: Flammable solids, self-reactive substances and desensitized explosives:

Solids which, under conditions encountered in transport, can possibly combust or may cause or contribute to fire through friction caused during transport; self-reactive substances (solids and liquids) which are liable to undergo a strongly exothermic reaction; solid desensitised explosives which could explode if not diluted sufficiently.


Class 4.2: Substances liable to spontaneous combustion:

Substances (solids and liquids) which are liable to spontaneous heating under transport conditions, heating up in contact with air or being liable to catch fire.


Class 4.3: Substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases:

Substances (solids and liquids) which by interacting with water, are likely to become spontaneously flammable or to give off flammable gases in dangerous quantities.


Class 5.1: Oxidizing substances:

Substances which could cause or contribute to the combustion of other materials. Such substances may be contained in an article.


Class 5.2: Organic peroxides:

Organic peroxides are thermally unstable substances which can undergo exothermic self-accelerating decomposition. In addition, they may have one or more of the following properties:

  • burn rapidly;
  • cause damage to the eyes;
  • be sensitive to impact or friction;
  • be liable to explosive decomposition;
  • react dangerously with other substances.


Class 6.1: Toxic substances:

These substances can cause death, serious injury or harm human health if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin contact.


Class 8: Corrosive substances:

Substances which by chemical action are likely to cause severe damage when in contact with living tissue or, in the case of leakage, will materially damage or even destroy other goods or the means of transport.


Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles:

Substances and articles are substances and articles which, during transport, present a danger not covered by other classes.