The International Maritime Dangerous Goods or IMDG Code was adopted in 1965 as per the SOLAS (Safety for Life at Sea) Convention of 1960 under the IMO. The IMDG Code was formed to prevent all types of pollutions at sea. The IMDG Code was developed as an international code for the maritime transport of dangerous goods in packaged form, in order to enhance and harmonize the safe carriage of dangerous goods and to prevent pollution to the environment.

What is IMDG Code

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS), as amended, deals with various aspects of maritime safety and contains in chapter VII the mandatory provisions governing the carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form.  The carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form shall comply with the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code which is considered and extension to the provisions of SOLAS chapter VII.

The IMDG code also ensures that the goods transported through seaways are packaged in such a way that they can be safely transported. The dangerous goods code is a uniform code. This means that the code is applicable to all cargo-carrying ships around the world.


The IMDG Code was developed as an international code for the maritime transport of dangerous goods in packaged form, in order to enhance and harmonize the safe carriage of dangerous goods and to prevent pollution to the environment.

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Latest Update on IMDG Code

The IMDG Code, 2020 Edition (inc. Amendment 40-20) comes into force on 1 June 2022 and may be applied voluntarily as from 1 January 2021.

The IMDG Code, 2018 Edition (inc. Amendment 39-18) came into force on 1 January 2020 for two years and may be applied voluntarily as from 1 January 2019. Validity of this edition has been extended until 31 May 2022.

The IMDG Code Supplement, 2020 Edition renders obsolete the previous 2018 edition.

Source: IMO

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What is IMDG Code? International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code

Since marine transportation has undergone a lot of development and changes, it becomes essential that the code also keeps up with the changes. This is why there have been constant amendments to the IMDG code. The amendments are proposed every two years, and the adoption of the amendments takes place after two years of the proposal by the concerned authorities. The amendments are proposed in this manner:

  • The countries that are members of the IMO present the required proposal
  • The UN’s expert panel then views and decides what proposals merit immediate attention in the upcoming amendment

Shipping Dangerous Cargo

Shipping dangerous goods is a very tricky business. This is why to avoid complications or problems while categorizing the aspect and level of danger; there is a set of classification for dangerous goods. There are nine clauses in which the dangerous goods are classified. The dangerous goods labels and dangerous goods certificate for the cargo are issued as per the nine clauses which are explained as follows:

  • Classification 1 is for explosives. The same classification has six sub-divisions for materials which pose a high explosive risk, low explosive risk, to name a few
  • Classification 2 is for gases. This clause has three sub-categories that talk about gases that are highly inflammable, that are not inflammable and gases that neither inflammable nor toxic
  • Classification 3 is for liquids and has no sub-divisions
  • Classification 4 is for solids. There are three sub-categories that deal with highly combustible solids, self-reactive solids and solids that when interact with water could emit toxic gases
  • Classification 5 is for substances that have the chances of oxidisation
  • Classification 6 is for all kinds of substances that are toxic and that could prove to be infective
  • Classification 7 is specifically for materials that are radioactive
  • Classification 8 is for materials that face the threat of corrosion and erosion
  • Classification 9 is for those substances that cannot be classified under any of the above heads but still are dangerous goods

Importance of IMDG Code for seafarers

All the crew members engaged on a ship and involved directly with dangerous cargo carried on the ship must undergo dangerous goods course, which is based on STCW requirements and prepared as per IMO guidance. There are several shore-based training centres which offer dangerous goods training to handle the IMDG cargo on a ship. Following are important points, which a seafarer must understand under IMDG code:

  • The seafarer should be able to classify dangerous goods and identify the shipping names of dangerous goods.
  • He/she should know how the particular IMDG cargo should be packed
  • He should understand different types of markings, labels or placards used to address various dangerous goods
  • Must know safe practice to load/unload the cargo unit carrying the IMDG product
  • The seafarer should understand the transport documents used for dangerous goods
  • How to handle the dangerous goods when the ship is under voyage
  • Inspector conduct a survey, if needed, to comply with applicable rules and regulations
  • To know the best procedure to contain and fight a fire involving dangerous goods carried on ship
  • To prepare dangerous goods loading/stowage plans considering ship stability, safety and emergency preparedness during an unfortunate incident.
  • Understand the importance of correct dangerous goods declaration for port authorities and land transit purpose

Footnotes: The Code, was initially adopted in 1965 as a recommendatory instrument.  It was in 2002 that the general Assembly at its seventeenth session adopted by resolution A.716(17) the IMDG Code, and decides to give it a mandatory status under the umbrella of SOLAS Convention, from 1 January 2004. However, some parts of the Code remain  recommendatory.

  • paragraph (Notification of infringements)
  • paragraphs to (Training)
  • chapter 1.4 (Security provisions) except, which is mandatory
  • section 2.1.0 of chapter 2.1 (Class 1 – Explosives, Introductory notes)
  • section 2.3.3 of chapter 2.3 (Determination of flashpoint)
  • columns 15 and 17 of the Dangerous Goods List in chapter 3.2
  • the segregation flow chart and example in the annex to chapter 7.2
  • section 5.4.5 of chapter 5.4 (Multimodal Dangerous Goods Form), insofar as the layout of the form is concerned
  • chapter 7.8 (Special requirements in the event of an incident and fire precautions involving dangerous goods)
  • section 7.9.3 (Contact information for the main designated national competent authorities)
  • appendix B

Source: What is IMDG Code? International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code

At present, the reach of the IMDG Code extends to about 150 countries around the world with around 98% ships following the requirements of the code. This figure helps us to understand the effectiveness of the code with respect to shipping dangerous goods across the oceans and the marine life-forms that exist therein.

Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.


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