Shipping Hazardous Materials? Use Chemical Info Labels

Why Clear Labelling Helps To Ensure Safe Shipping

When shipping hazardous materials overseas, clear chemical labelling is key to ensuring your cargo arrives safely.

The marine shipping industry is big business. Over 55,000 cargo ships and more than 1,500,000 sailors transport around 93% of all the world’s goods – and the industry is growing all the time. There are many advantages to transporting goods by sea. It is hugely cost-effective in comparison to most other transportation methods, and also causes the least damage to the environment. However, transporting goods by sea does also carry some risks, and if you are shipping hazardous materials there are certain regulations and precautions you must abide by.

Hazardous materials

Many hazardous materials are essential components in the production of popular products such as cars, pharmaceuticals and electronics. As such, a large volume of these substances are transported by ship every day. They can present a range of dangers, including toxicity, flammability and corrosivity, and if not managed properly, can pose a threat to the ship, the people on board and / or the environment.

Clear labelling

The specific threat posed by a material determines how it should be packed, loaded, stored and transported, in order to minimise the dangers – and clear labelling plays a vital role in this process.

Chemical labels, for example, help to identify dangerous chemicals as well as alerting handlers to the potential hazards of the products and any safety precautions that need to be taken. This type of packaging label is extremely important in ensuring the appropriate use, storage and disposal of potentially dangerous chemicals.

If an incident does occur at sea, immediate access to the product data is essential, and clear labelling can help shipping crews and emergency services to coordinate an efficient, appropriate and effective response that minimises the impact on human and marine life.

And it’s not just in an emergency that labels are important. Failure to label hazardous goods properly could result in a fine or rejection of the delivery.

Label specifications

When it comes to labelling hazardous materials for shipping, there are number of regulations and specifications that companies should adhere to.

2015 saw the implementation of the Globally Harmonised System legislation, which states that hazardous goods should display a standardised label communicating key data, namely:

  • Product Name
  • Hazard description
  • GHS Pictogram (black symbol in a red triangle depicting the hazard)
  • Precautionary measures to be taken on exposure
  • Description of the severity of the hazard (i.e. dangerous, hazardous)
  • Supplier name and contact details

Given the importance of the information contained on shipping labels, it is essential that those labels are durable and of high quality. They should also be made of an appropriate material that is able to withstand both contact with the chemical in question, and every-day wear and tear (and the same goes for the adhesive used to apply the label).

To ensure these standards are met, all labels displayed on chemical containers should conform to BS5609 marine approved standard. This means that they have been tested vigorously for durability and resistance to abrasion, including in salt-water environments.

Accurate and appropriate labelling can be the difference between safe transportation of a product and a serious incident that threatens the safety of the cargo ship and the environment. With this in mind it’s essential that you think carefully about what you want from your label and what you need it to communicate. When choosing labels, priority should be given to both functionality and durability – in such a highly-regulated industry, there really is no room for cutting corners.