The International Maritime Organisation




The International Maritime Organisation – IMO is a United Nations specialised agency which has developed international legislation addressing two key issues namely,  safety at Sea (SOLAS) and prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL).

To supplement the principles laid down in the SOLAS and MARPOL Conventions, the IMO developed the International Maritime Dangerous Goods - IMDG Code which contains technical specifications for the safe transportation of dangerous cargo. The IMDG Code sets international standards which can be briefly described as follow:

  • Groups Dangerous goods into classes.
  • Standard Documentation
  • Hazard Warning labels and markings to identify goods during transportation.
  • Emergency response.
  • Segregation of dangerous goods
  • Appropriate packaging.

Classification distinguishes goods which are considered dangerous and those which are not. Each classification identifies the dangers present during transportation and relevant measures to ensure safe transportation without risk to persons or property. There are 9 classes of Dangerous goods each according to properties. Each Class determines the type of packaging, what classes can be transported together in the same container and storage at the port or on a ship. These 9 classes have been established internationally by the United Nations – UN to ensure standard classification for all modes of transport i.e Road, Rail, Air and Sea. Rail, Road and  Air are governed by their respective regulations like ADR, IATA DGR etc.

  • Class 1
    • Explosives 
  • Class 2
    • Gases 
  • Class 3
    • Flammable liquids
  • Class 4
    • Flammable solids 
  • Class 5
    • Oxidizing substances and organic peroxides 
  • Class 6
    • Toxic and infectious substances
  • Class 7
    • Radioactive material 
  • Class 8
    • Corrosive substances
  • Class 9
    • Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles

Within each class dangerous good are identified by two unique methods.

  • UN Number
    • This is a 4 digit code preceded by the letters UN
    • Ex. UN1133
  • PSN (Proper Shipping Name)
    • Ex.  Adhesive and not the actual brand name.

This information will ensure precise identification, correct handling, stowage, segregation and emergency handling and procedures. In addition to the above, the IMDG Code gives clear guidelines on:

  • Subsidiary Risks  for example,  if the cargo is Marine pollutant.
  • Packing Group
    • Packaging Group I: high hazard level
    • Packaging Group II: medium hazard level
    • Packaging Group III: low hazard level
  • Special provisions
  • Limited quantities and accepted quantities.
  • Packaging Instructions and Special Packaging provisions.
  • IBC Instructions (intermediate Bulk Container) and special provisions
  • Instructions for Tank Containers and special provisions.
  • Emergency Schedule EmS for Fire and Spillage
  • Stowage and segregation


The European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, commonly known as ADR (from the French abbreviation Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route), governs transport of hazardous materials.

The agreement itself is brief and simple, and its most important article is article 2. This article states that with the exception of certain exceptionally dangerous materials, hazardous materials may in general be transported internationally in wheeled vehicles, provided that two sets of conditions be met:

  • Annex A regulates the merchandise involved, notably their packaging and labels.
  • Annex B regulates the construction, equipment and use of vehicles for the transport of hazardous materials.

The classes of dangerous goods according to ADR are the same as the IMO.


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