Current Requirements for Shipping Magnetized Materials

If you are involved in the transport of magnetized materials, you will be glad to know that most consumer electronics with magnets such as stereo speakers, headphones and other similar devices are not regulated for transport any longer.  In fact, unless you ship by air, magnetized materials are not regulated for shipping by surface modes such as ocean, highway and rail.  With the development of GPS and other modern aircraft navigation systems, the magnetic compass has become less relied upon and is used only as a last resort for direction finding.  Consequently, magnets shipped by air have to possess an extremely high magnetic field strength to be regulated at all. 

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), addresses magnetized materials in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49 (49 CFR), in section 173.21 (d) and essentially disallows such materials with a magnetic field strength in excess of .000525 gauss measured at 4.5 m (15 feet) from any surface of the package.  Gauss is the unit of measure for magnetic field strength and requires a gauss meter for detection.  The long and short is, unless you have a very powerful magnetic device, it will probably never come close to reaching this level of magnetism.   However, if there is any doubt, the shipper is responsible to ensure this limit is never exceeded – as magnets that do are strictly forbidden from transport by aircraft (but not by other surface transport modes).

If you are wondering about required training for air shipping of less powerful magnets, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) does publish industry requirements that most airlines adhere to in their Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) published every year.  Aircraft Operators (Carriers) can require shippers to receive proper training for handling magnetized materials as a condition of acceptance for carriage.  This training is currently offered by TDG in an online format only.

Magnetized Materials are identified in the IATA DGR, Section 4.2 (List of Dangerous Goods), as UN2807, and are referenced to the requirements of IATA Packing Instruction 953 (PI 953) which states the following:

“Magnetized materials with field strengths causing a compass deflection of more than 2 degrees at a distance of 2.1 m but not more than 2 degrees at a distance of 4.6 m (equivalent to 0.418 A/m or 0.00525 Gauss measured at a distance of 4.6 m), are not subject to any other requirements in these Regulations when carried as cargo except for the following:                             

(a) the shipper must make prior arrangements with the operator identifying the magnetized material.  A Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods is not required provided the words “magnetized material” and number of packages (unless these are the only packages within the consignment) are shown in the “Nature and Quantity of Goods” box on the air waybill when used, or in the appropriate location on alternate transport documentation.  Where an agreement exists with the operator, the shipper may provide the information by EDP or EDI techniques;                 

(b) the package must bear the magnetized material handling label;                 

(c) the operator must stow the packaged magnetized material in accordance with 9.3.9; and                                                           

(d) the incident reporting requirements of 9.6 must be met.                 

Magnetized material with field strength sufficient to cause a compass deflection of more than 2 degrees at a distance of 4.6 m may only be transported with the prior approval of the appropriate authority of the State of origin and the State of the operator.”

Aircraft Operators (Carriers) are also cautioned and advised to take safe loading measures in IATA DGR, Section 9.3.9, as shown below:

“9.3.9 Loading of Magnetized Materials

Magnetized materials must be loaded so that headings of aircraft compasses are maintained within the tolerances prescribed by the applicable aircraft airworthiness requirements and where practical, in locations minimizing possible effects on compasses. Multiple packages may produce a cumulative effect.  For magnetized material transported under the conditions of an approval described in Packing Instruction 953, loading must be in accordance with conditions specified in the authorizing approval.


Masses of ferro-magnetic metals such as automobiles, automobile parts, metal fencing, piping and metal construction material, even if not meeting the definition of magnetized materials may affect aircraft compasses, as may packages or items which individually do not meet the definition of magnetized material but cumulatively may have a magnetic field strength of a magnetized material.”