Transportation of dangerous goods by cargo air charter

4 min


Transporting dangerous goods by air cargo is both the fastest and safest means of assuring their movement from one location to another. However, when the necessity arises for shipping hazardous materials by air, it is imperative to work in tandem with highly-skilled professionals who have time and again proven their expertise in what is a niche market.

In a world of ever-changing rules and restrictions governing the shipping of dangerous goods by air, expert dangerous goods (DG) cargo specialists ensure that their cargo charter teams are always up to date and fully informed. Involving more than just the physical movement of materials, the safe transport of dangerous goods by air must also take into consideration aspects such as storage, warehousing, on-the-ground handling, temperature requirements, labelling, specific training of personnel, and much more. That’s why your chosen partner for a task of such vital importance should meet all of the official criteria and is backed up by a team who understand their industry inside out.

The movement of dangerous goods by air cargo is regulated and governed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) or the local Civil Aviation Authority. Under their stringent guidelines, and when implemented correctly by professionals, ensures that the transport of such hazardous goods and materials is a safe and acceptable practice at all times. The ‘industry-specific bible’ – IATA Dangerous Goods manual (IATA DGR) – helps to ensure adherence that the highest safety standards and that goods are transported safely and efficiently. 

What are dangerous goods

When it comes to air cargo transportation, dangerous goods (DG) can be defined as substances which when transported are a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment. DG also need to be packed appropriately, stored correctly, handled with the right care and attention, and shipped via a cargo partner with the necessary expertise. 

According to the IATA website, DG may also be described as restricted articles, hazardous materials (HAZMAT), and dangerous cargo, and may include many common household items like cooking oils, nail polish, perfumes, alcohol, batteries, paints, and solvents. The list of DGs is both long, and comprehensive.

Dangerous goods are not always as obvious as the term may first imply. For that reason, DG has been organised into 9 different classifications:

  • Class 1 – Explosives
  • Class 2 – Gases
  • Class 3 – Flammable liquids
  • Class 4 – Flammable Solids
  • Class 5 – Oxidising agents and organic peroxides
  • Class 6 – Toxic and infectious substances
  • Class 7 – Radioactive substances
  • Class 8 – Corrosive substances
  • Class 9 – Miscellaneous (self-inflating life rafts, air-bag inflators, asbestos, and dry ice are also considered as DG)

In case of uncertainty, suitable advice on the correct DG classification of any material for air transport should be requested from the manufacturer or distributor of the goods via a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) – a document which provides information regarding the hazards of a product and offers advice on all aspects regarding safety precautions. Classification may also be obtained from a suitable and qualified testing laboratory or a regulated and professional authority.

The fact is, that when it comes to shipping any cargo by air, both the shipper and the cargo handler must be fully aware of the contents and whether these contents meet the demands imposed under the ICAO and IATA DG regulations. That is why having a highly experienced dangerous goods air freight partner is of paramount importance. 

The safe and speedy transport of dangerous goods by air

The movement of dangerous goods by air has proven itself to be the safest and most expedient means of transporting cargo between two points. Nobody wants the responsibility of housing or storing DG any longer than they have to. For this reason, air cargo offers the fastest option for moving hazardous materials over any distance safely and economically.

Before transporting dangerous goods by air freight, there are many regulated procedures to be taken into consideration.

Preparation – Before shipping, those responsible for the goods must ensure that they are packed using the correct materials and in the correct quantities as specified in the DGR. Other considerations must also be considered, such as the effects of altitude and cabin pressurisation; any changes from the norm – such as loss of cabin pressure – may cause changes in the structure or composition of the materials. 

Storage – DG must be stored in specially prepared locations. These storage spaces must have proper ventilation and appropriate fire extinguishing devices in place. Other concerns may relate to temperature fluctuations between heat and cold, likelihood of natural disasters such as earthquake, insect infestation, adequate safety training of personnel, along with a whole range of other criteria. 

Packaging – Packaging materials should be adequately suitable to prevent spillage or leakage in the case of any changes in the transport environment. Should any signs of leakage be noticed pre-loading, the goods will not be accepted or deemed suitable for transportation. In order to comply with the regulations for the carriage of dangerous goods by air, the contents must be completely and securely repackaged by competent professionals.

Depending on the level of protection necessary during transportation, DG is divided into 3 categories.

  • Group I – Goods presenting a high danger
  • Group II – Goods presenting a medium danger
  • Group III – Goods presenting a low danger

Labelling – IATA dangerous goods regulations stipulate that all air cargo packages containing DG must be clearly labelled and visible to cargo handlers. These safety labels must contain the required and internationally recognised information for the transportation of DG. The information should include, emergency phone numbers, registrant information, packing group number, and regulatory information such as DOT exemptions, special permits, and EX numbers. When shipping DG the onus is on the consignor to supply a form certifying that the goods’ packaging meets all IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations.

Loading – Once ready for loading and securing onboard the aircraft, consideration must be given to where and how any DG is positioned in the cargo bay. Using a professional cargo-partner, this process in the transportation plan will already have been considered carefully. Goods with the potential of reacting to each other must not be loaded in close proximity. Even if there is no physical contact the materials may still interact through leakage or spillage. The DG must then be safely secured in position to ensure there is absolutely no movement during the flight, take-off, and landing.

Working with a professional air cargo charter team

With all the governing rules and regulations – and the paperwork that goes with it – it is apparent that the management of dangerous goods air cargo demands a high level of expertise and know-how. That is why working with a professional air cargo charter team, with specialist knowledge in IATA dangerous goods’ regulations can simplify the whole process from start to finish.

An experienced air cargo charter team can procure all of the necessary documentation, ensure that all certificates are in place and that all conditions, regulations, and requirements are met and follow the required protocols. They will also source the most suitable aircraft, the most cost-effective routing, and ensure that the cargo arrives at its destination safely, and on time.

Every cargo transport of DG involves multiple pre-ordained steps which may seem impossible, time-consuming, or prohibitive to the layman. That’s where experts, with years of experience in managing even the most complex of DG cargo transportation issues, can be worth their weight in gold. 

Plus, and as an added bonus, an experienced and properly regulated DG air cargo handler will provide a designated personal account manager. A personal account manager is available 24/7 to assist with any changes or last-minute queries, which can often occur with the transport of hazardous and DG.

All of the above information barely skims the surface of what’s involved in the transport of hazardous and dangerous goods. For that reason, it is never advisable to attempt moving DG without the advice, and assistance of a professional DG cargo charter service. It can never be overstated how much time and money hiring a professional DG partner can save you. Plus, you rest assured that your cargo will arrive at their destination in a safe and timely manner.

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