TT Talk - Packing, marking and information - it's important


Following several incidents attributed to poor blocking and bracing of the cargo in box type containers, the Houston/Galveston branch of the

US Coast Guard

issued an alert concerning leaking containers loaded with hydrochloric acid.

This was in response to a number of incidents involving leaking containers of hydrochloric acid on the US highways and railways. One such incident lead to the evacuation of a town in Colorado as the clean-up crews transferred the dangerous chemicals from the leaking container to another safer unit.

Hydrochloric acid is classified as Class 8 corrosive - it is a clear, colourless / pale yellow liquid that can cause severe burns and can be fatal if swallowed. Fumes can cause irritation to skin, eyes and if inhaled can cause severe breathing problems that may result in death.

All cargoes, not just dangerous goods, need to be properly packed and secured in containers. The forces exerted on the cargo during transport, particularly the maritime mode, can cause individual packages and outer packaging to deteriorate. This deterioration could release the constraint on cartons and bottles allowing them to move, break and the contents leak out. Consequently, packages and outer packaging must be blocked and braced to prevent the lateral and / or longitudinal movement that can cause such failure. Packages prepared for road or rail may require additional bracing for the maritime leg of the journey. More information on blocking and bracing can be found in the

IMO / ILO/ UNECE Guidelines

for packing cargo transport units.


The US Coast Guard report also highlights shipping placards to be too small and emergency contact information lacking. The latest edition of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code requires that cargo transport units, which include containers, shall be marked with enlarged labels (placards) on its exterior faces. The Code states that the placards should be at least 250 mm along all edges and that the character indicating the class shall not be less than 25 mm.

Placards on the exterior of CTUs (Cargo Transport Units) should be placed so that they can be seen from all normal angles. Rail wagons can normally only be seen from the sides, whereas an uncoupled trailer or container may be seen from all four sides.


Additionally shippers (and consolidators) are reminded that complete and accurate details about the consignment should be immediately available at all times for the use in emergency response to accidents and incidents involving the goods being transported. The information should:

  • include the name and contact address of the shipper and consignee on the dangerous goods transport documentation;
  • be away from the packages containing the dangerous goods, but immediately accessible;
  • include information about the dangerous goods and the effects of inhaling, swallowing or skin contact.

While all of the instances leading to the publication of this report involved shippers who were located in Asia this advice is directed to all shippers and packers worldwide.

Staff Author

TT Club