What is the IMDG Code?

What are dangerous goods and why are they useful?

Dangerous goods or hazmat are substances or articles which can pose a threat to people, property and/or the environment. They can exist in three physical states - as a solid, liquid or gas - and can present a range of dangers in a transport environment - flammability, toxicity (poisonous) and corrosivity being the most common.

The physical state and properties affect packing, handling and transport decisions. Many dangerous goods are essential in the manufacture of other products such as cars, plastics, electronics and pharmaceuticals on which progress and world trade depend.

What is the IMDG Code?

The IMDG Code is produced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialist United Nations (UN) agency responsible for developing and maintaining regulatory frameworks for sea transport. The Code's provisions are based on recommendations developed by the UN. These are published in the UN 'Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods', known as the 'Model Regulations' because the document provides a framework of rules for the safe transport of dangerous goods by all modes - air, road and rail as well as sea. The UN Model Regulations provide a uniform set of safety procedures covering consignment and transport issues such as classification, identification, packing, marking and labelling, documentation, security and training.

The IMDG Code's requirements apply to all ships which are subject to the following two conventions:

International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS 1974) - this covers the safety implications of dangerous goods onboard ships; and International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) - which covers the pollution aspects for ships carrying dangerous goods.

The IMDG Code amplifies the relevant safety and pollution prevention provisions of these Conventions. Most of the requirements in the IMDG Code apply on a mandatory basis but there are a few provisions which are recommendatory.

The IMDG Code is applied automatically by the governments of all the States which are members of SOLAS, and has a worldwide application to the movement of dangerous goods by sea. While some SOLAS Member Governments incorporate the requirements of the IMDG Code without amendment into their national legislation, others apply some different and/or additional (usually more stringent) national requirements.

The IMDG Code requires certain provisions to be followed whenever dangerous goods are shipped by sea. These provisions require that dangerous goods are correctly and safely:

• Classified and identified

• Packed

• Marked, labelled and placarded

• Documented

• Stowed on board the vessel

• Segregated from other goods with which they may react dangerously

Appropriate emergency response information must be made available.

The Code also contains security requirements designed to minimise the opportunity for terrorists to access and misuse dangerous goods.

Hazcheck Systems are compliance systems for those involved in the shipment of dangerous goods by sea in containers. There is a range of systems for every link in the sea transport chain.

The IMDG Code also states that appropriate IMDG Code training must be given to all personnel involved in the transport of dangerous goods by sea.

Which is the current IMDG Code Amendment?

IMDG Code 2018 (Amdt 39-18) is the current version. A new IMDG Code Amendment is published every two years. Each Amendment is valid for up to three years. IMDG Code 2018 (Amdt 39-18) came into force on 1 January 2020 and can be used until 31 December 2021. From 1 January 2021 the next Amendment (Amdt 40-20) can be used on a voluntary basis until it comes into force from 1 January 2022. The years before an Amendment comes into force on a mandatory basis are known as transition years when either the current or newly published Amendment may be used. See the Amendment Cycle for more information.

See the summary of changes in Amendment 39-18 of the IMDG Code here.

Download the Free IMDG Code Introduction Amendment 39-18 - a free overview of the IMDG Code.