Emergency Logistics Glossary

Regulations: Dangerous goods (DGR) in air freight

What is covered by Dangerous Goods?

Dangerous goods are all substances and objects that pose hazards during (air cargo) transport or when handled improperly. These hazards can be of different nature. They can affect:

  • Life and health of humans and animals
  • Integrity of property
  • Public safety and order
  • Other important common goods

The current edition of the Dangerous Goods Regulations (abbreviation: DGR) specifies which regulations must be observed when transporting dangerous goods. In addition to obviously dangerous goods such as explosives and highly flammable liquids, the DGR also cover, for example, photographic equipment, camping equipment, film crew or media equipment, and luggage. The latter may include, for example, matches or containers with aerosols, which may pose hazards under certain conditions.

The Dangerous Goods Regulations, which are internationally accepted as the standard in aviation and global express air freight, are published by the trade organization of the world’s airlines, the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The IATA DGR are updated annually.

Requirements to transport dangerous goods by air

Special guidelines must already be followed when packing hazardous goods. The following regulations apply in principle:

  • Packages must be marked with hazard symbols and other markings.
  • A Shipper’s Declaration must be completed by the shipper.

In addition to the Airway Bill (AWB) required for the transport of goods by air, a Shipper’s Declaration of Dangerous Goods (DGD) must be completed.

Dangerous goods in air freight are divided into different dangerous goods classes; the classification is carried out by the United Nations (UN). Depending on the UN dangerous goods class, further individual regulations must be observed. For example, certain different substances may not be transported together in one package. Anyone wishing to ship dangerous goods as air freight may only do so after completing their own training on the IATA DGR. This applies to both the shipper and all other persons involved in the transport of the air cargo dangerous goods.

How to label dangerous goods in air cargo?

The UN dangerous goods class must be clearly visible on the outside of the dangerous goods. This also applies to other information such as the note “Cargo Aircraft Only”, as certain dangerous goods may in principle not be transported as cargo in passenger aircraft according to the IATA DGR, but exclusively in cargo aircraft.

In addition, the following additional information must be clearly visible:

  • Consignor and consignee
  • UN number(s)
  • UN proper shipping name conf. IATA DGR
  • net quantity to be transported

About weight, please note: Different weight limits apply to cargo aircraft and passenger aircraft. Thus, the heights of the maximum quantities that may be carried according to DGR regulations also differ.

Who is liable when transporting dangerous goods by air?

The transportation of dangerous goods by air freight involves several other responsible parties in addition to the shipper. The question of liability therefore cannot be answered in a blanket manner, especially since the improper declaration of dangerous goods can be just as significant in individual cases as, for example, the improper handling of properly declared goods in transit. In principle, however, the following applies: In the event of an accident due to missing or incorrect declaration of dangerous goods transported by air, the sender alone is generally liable for the damage incurred.