Marine Pollutants: Ground vs. Air/Vessel Shipments

Posted on 2/18/2020 by Joel Gregier, CDGP

At Lion, we get a lot of questions about shipping marine pollutants. Specifically, when are they regulated and are there any reliefs for them?

It can get a little confusing, because the answer will differ depending on the mode of transport. Something that is not a marine pollutant for a ground shipment could very well be a marine pollutant when shipped by vessel.

Which Regulations Deal With Marine Pollutants?

If you are a US shipper, there are three main sets of rules that will affect your marine pollutant shipments:
  • Highway and rail shipments: These will be covered by the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) hazardous materials regulations at 49 CFR Subchapter C. DOT does have rules for air and vessel shipments as well, but those shipments will most likely be covered by one of the following regulations.
  • Air shipments: These will most likely be subject to the International Air Transport Association’s Dangerous Goods Regulations (IATA DGR).
  • Vessel shipments: These will most likely be subject to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code).
When dealing with marine pollutants, DOT rules differ from those of IATA and IMDG. In fact, they are a little less stringent. Let’s take a look at the differences.

DOT Definition and Reliefs for Marine Pollutants

Unlike IATA and IMDG, DOT does not have any tests to determine if something is a marine pollutant. DOT simply has a list of marine pollutants that can be found at 49 CFR 172.101, Appendix B. If you have a substance on that list, then you have a marine pollutant. Also, mixtures containing these chemicals may also be considered a marine pollutant depending on their concentrations (10% for “regular” marine pollutants and 1% for “severe” marine pollutants). [49 CFR 171.8]

What this means is that DOT may have less chemicals that would be a marine pollutant when you compare the DOT regulations to IATA and IMDG regulations. As an allowance, DOT does give shippers the option of calling something a marine pollutant if it meets the IMDG definition. [49 CFR 172.101, Appendix B, Paragraph 4] Some companies may prefer to do this, so the chemical identity is the same across all modes of transport.

Even if you do have a marine pollutant, DOT is not overly restrictive with how it is regulated. In fact, DOT only requires marine pollutants to be regulated as marine pollutants if they are shipped in bulk size packaging (greater than 119 gallons/882 pounds) or when shipped by vessel. [49 CFR 171.4]

In this case, you could have a 55-gallon drum being shipped by highway, and DOT would not even require that product to be regulated as a marine pollutant.

IATA/IMDG Definition and Reliefs for Marine Pollutants

IATA and IMDG are a little more encompassing when it comes to defining marine pollutants. Like DOT, IMDG regulations also have specific chemicals that are identified as marine pollutants. They are identified with a “P” next to the chemical’s name in Column 4 of the 3.2 Dangerous Goods List. This “P” can also be found in the “MP Column” of the “Index” of the IMDG Code.

But substances not specifically identified in their rules can still be identified as marine pollutants if they fail certain testing criteria [IMDG Code 2.9.3].  There are a lot of materials that get classified as marine pollutants simply because they would fail these tests.

If you do have a regulated marine pollutant, per IATA and IMDG regulations, there is a nice relief for smaller packages. If your material is being regulated solely because it is a marine pollutant, it will typically be shipped under the name “Environmentally hazardous substance, solid, n.o.s. (UN3077)” or “Environmentally hazardous substance, liquid, n.o.s. (UN3082).”

Any single packaging or any combination packaging with this Proper Shipping Name that has inner receptacles less than or equal to 5 liters or 5 kilograms is no longer subject to regulation, provided some basic packaging rules are met. [IATA DGR 4.4, Special Provision 197 & IMDG Code 3.3, Special Provision 969].Therefore, a 55-gallon drum of marine pollutant shipped via air or vessel would still be regulated, unlike DOT. But a smaller box containing 4-liter bottles of the same material would no longer be regulated.

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Tags: DOT, hazardous materials, hazmat, IATA, IMDG, marine, marine pollutant, pollutant

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