The DG Shipping Process – Part 1: Identification & Classification(Steps 1 & 2 of 7)

By Terry Poland, Principal Instructor and Consultant

Shipping dangerous goods for the first time?  Where to begin and what are the basic steps in the process?  Airlines MUST use a checklist, but shippers and others are not required to.  

Upon completing a dangerous goods training course, many students go back to their place of business and struggle to get the process started for real – especially first-time shippers.  So what do we recommend?  The answer is simple: a process.  For example, the following process provides shippers with step-by-step guidance to assure all aspects of compliance are addressed in a logical order.  While this process is not as detailed as the IATA Acceptance Checklist for air shipments, generally it can be applied to all modes of transport – air, ocean or ground (highway and rail).

  1. Identification – Proper Shipping Name (with technical name for N.O.S. entries) & UN/Identification Number
  2. Classification – Hazard Class and/or Division (subsidiary hazards, if any) & Assignment to Packing Group (PG I, II or III, if applicable)
  3. Packaging – UN Specification, Limited Quantity, Excepted Quantity or other exceptions granted by special provisions or packing instructions
  4. Marking – Proper Shipping Name, UN/Identification Number, From & To Addresses, Quantity (if applicable), other shipment-specific markings as required
  5. Labeling – Primary & Subsidiary Hazard Labels & Handling Labels (Orientation Arrows, CAO, others as applicable)
  6. Documentation – Shipping Paper (Dangerous Goods Declaration, Transport Document, Air Waybill, Bill of Lading, etc.)
  7. Other – Placarding/Special Provisions/State Variations/Operator Variations/Carrier Matters

Using this process, the shipper must begin by determining the “basic description” of the hazardous material/dangerous goods by looking it up in the appropriate modal regulation.  This consists of four pieces of information which are required to be recorded on the documentation for all modes of transport.  Below is an excerpt from TDG’s General Awareness Workbook which focuses on this information.

Required Information (Basic Description) – Mandatory Sequence

Under 49 CFR, IATA (ICAO) & IMDG, the following information shown below in RED must be recorded on the shipping papers and in the correct order (note: the word “Class or Division” may be inserted; “PG” may be inserted); the letters “I – S – H – P” are used as memory tools to remind the shipper of these four components and the required order they must be shown.

  1. I – Identification Number (UN/ID Number)
  2. S – Shipping Name (Proper Shipping Name) – plus (Technical/Chemical Name), for most N.O.S. entries
  3. H – Hazard Class/Division (followed by sub-risk, in parenthesis, if applicable)
  4. P – Packing Group (if applicable) – Class 1, 2, 7 & articles do not have packing groups

Examples of the Basic Description (non-ocean shipments):

  • UN 1263, Paint, Class 3, PG II
  • UN 1072, Oxygen, compressed, 2.2 (5.1)
  • UN 1993, Flammable Liquid, N.O.S. (contains Acetone), 3, III
  • UN 3480, Lithium Ion Battery, Class 9
  • UN 3481, Lithium Ion Battery Contained in Equipment, 9

Examples of the Basic Description (ocean shipments – require the addition of the  “Flash Point” for Class 3 materials):

  • UN 1263, Paint, Class 3, PG II, FP 20 C (cc)
  • UN 1072, Oxygen, compressed, 2.2 (5.1)
  • UN 1993, Flammable Liquid, N.O.S. (contains Acetone), 3, III, FP 45 C (cc)
  • UN 3480, Lithium Ion Battery, Class 9
  • UN 3481, Lithium Ion Battery Contained in Equipment, 9

Where can the shipper find the Basic Description (as well as other important information) about the material being shipped?  In most cases, the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), also known as the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), will contain this information in Section 14, entitled “Transportation.”   Once confirmed, the shipper must turn to the appropriate modal regulations where the dangerous goods details are itemized alphabetically by proper shipping name or numerically by UN number in the List of Dangerous Goods (air – IATA DGR 4.2), Hazardous Materials Table (ground – 49 CFR 172.101) and in the Dangerous Goods List/Index (ocean – IMDG, Volume 2).  In addition to the proper shipping name and UN number, these lists indicate the hazard classes (including subsidiary hazards), packing groups (if applicable), maximum quantity of such goods permitted per package, labeling and packaging requirements as well as any applicable special provisions.

Moreover, for shippers seeking TDG’s support in the transport of dangerous goods, we will most likely require the basic description of the material (along with other details such as the packaging type, quantity and mode of transport) to begin the support process.  For support requests, please feel free to contact us at

This article is Part 1 of “The DG Shipping Process” covering steps 1 & 2, “Identification and Classification.”  Watch for Part 2, covering step 3, “Packaging” – coming soon!