How Shipping Marine Pollutants Changed in 2016

Posted on 11/15/2016 by Joel Gregier

If you ship marine pollutants, 2016 may have been a little bit merrier for you than past years. If you deal with materials that are solely hazardous for being a marine pollutant, as of January 1, 2016, the international air and vessel regulations have essentially made smaller packages non-regulated.

So how can shippers capitalize on this new rule? To answer this, let’s take a look at how marine pollutants are regulated.

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. The DOT does have rules for air and vessel shipments as well, but those shipments will likely be covered by the next two sets of regulations.
  • Air shipments: These will most likely be subject to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR).
  • Vessel shipments: These will most likely be subject to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
When dealing with marine pollutants, the DOT rules differ than those of IATA and IMDG. In fact, the DOT marine pollutant rules are a little less stringent. Let’s see how these rules differ.

shipping marine pollutants under DOT, IATA, IMDG rules

How DOT Defines Marine Pollutants

Unlike IATA and IMDG, the DOT does not have any tests that determine if something is a marine pollutant. The DOT simply has a list of marine pollutants that can be found at 49 CFR 172.101, Appendix B. Depending on their concentration, mixtures containing these chemicals may also be considered marine pollutants. [49 CFR 171.8]

What this means is that the DOT may list fewer chemicals that would be considered marine pollutants than IATA or IMDG. However, the 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.

Shipping Marine Pollutants—DOT Rules

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

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

How IATA and IMDG Define Marine Pollutants

IATA and IMDG are a little more encompassing when it comes to defining marine pollutants. The IMDG regulations do have specific chemicals that are identified as marine pollutants, but substances not specifically identified in their rules, as well as mixtures of chemicals, can still be identified as marine pollutants if they fail certain testing criteria. [IMDG Code 2.9.3]

New Relief for Shipping Marine Pollutants by Air and Vessel

Dead Tree and Fish marine pollutant labelIf a shipper has a material that is being regulated solely because it is a marine pollutant, it will typically be shipped under the names “Environmentally hazardous substance, solid, n.o.s. (UN3077)” or “Environmentally hazardous substance, liquid, n.o.s. (UN3082).” For these two names specifically, there was a great new relief that was added to the IATA and IMDG rules.

As of January 1, 2016, any single packaging or any combination packaging with 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]

So a 55-gallon drum of a marine pollutant being shipped by air or vessel would still be regulated—in contrast to DOT rules. But a smaller box that contained 4-liter bottles of the same material would no longer be regulated.

DOT Hazmat Training—Anytime, Anywhere

Employees who work with hazardous materials need effective training to protect themselves—and your business. At, find effective, interactive hazmat online courses that cover the latest requirements for your shipments.

New to dangerous good transportation? Lion’s DOT Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification Workshop will help you build a step-by-step approach to overseeing a compliant, efficient hazmat shipping operation. Meet DOT’s initial and recurrent training standard, found at 49 CFR 172.704. In December, catch the workshop in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Chicago.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, IATA, IMDG, new rules

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