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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #08-0301R ([APL Americas Region] [Mr. Calvin Faulkner])

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: APL Americas Region

Individual Name: Mr. Calvin Faulkner

Location State: CA Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

December 11, 2009




Mr. Calvin Faulkner

D&H Specialist

APL Americas Region

1111 Broadway

Oakland, CA 94607-5500

Ref. No. 08-0301R

Dear Mr. Faulkner:

This letter replaces our February 10, 2009 response to your December 5, 2008 e-mail in which you raised several questions regarding the term "initial carrier" and a vessel operator's responsibilities under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180). Please note that the answers to questions Q1, Q3 and Q5 are revised in response to questions that have arisen and our further review of this issue. Our answers to your questions are revised to read as follows:

Q1. Under § 171.22(f)(2), is the vessel operator considered the "initial U.S. carrier" for the purpose of maintaining the shipper's certification required by § 172.204 or is the term "initial U.S. carrier" used to describe the first carrier to transport a hazardous material shipment once importation occurs and it is within United States jurisdiction?

A1. The term "initial U.S. carrier" is not defined in the HMR. As used in

§ 171.22(f)(2), it refers to the first carrier to transport a hazardous material shipment within the United States. This role is met when a vessel enters the navigable waters of the United States as defined in 33 CFR 2.36. A vessel operator is required to receive a shipper"s certification in accordance with § 176.27 for a hazardous material shipment, unless the material is excepted from the shipping paper requirements under the HMR.

Q2. What is the obligation of a vessel operator if a hazardous material shipment arrives at a United States port without a prepared shipper"s certification as required by § 172.204?

A2. Unless a hazardous material is excepted from the shipping paper requirements under the HMR, under §§ 176.24 and 176.27, a person (vessel operator) may not transport a hazardous material by vessel unless that person has received a shipping paper prepared in accordance with Part 172 of the HMR, including the shipper's certification prescribed in § 172.204. Thus, a vessel operator would be in violation of the HMR for accepting such a shipment without a shipper's certification. Additionally, the shipment could not be forwarded or offered for transportation and transported in commerce until such documentation was prepared.

Q3. If a vessel operator releases a container that contains a hazardous material shipment to a carrier and the accompanying shipping papers do not have a shipper's certification, is it a violation of the HMR?

A3. The answer is no. Because the vessel operator is the initial U.S. carrier, it is not required to provide a shipper's certification on the accompanying shipping papers, prepared in accordance with Part 172 of the HMR, to subsequent highway or rail carriers for onward transportation.

Q4. Under § 177.817(b), what is the obligation of a vessel operator to provide a prepared shipper's certification to a highway or rail carrier prior to the release of a containerized hazardous material shipment to the highway or rail carrier?

A4. The answer to your question is the same as the answer in A3 above.

Q5. Is it permissible for a vessel operator to transfer a hazardous material shipment to the initial U.S. carrier without a shipper's certification on the shipping paper? The vessel operator would indicate on the original shipping paper, prepared in accordance with the IMDG Code, "shipper's certification on file" and retain a copy of the documentation for one year as required by § 172.201(e).

A5. As stated in response A1, in your scenario the vessel carrier is the initial U.S. carrier. Therefore, if a vessel carrier accepts a hazardous material shipment from a shipper and transfers the shipment to a highway or rail carrier upon entering the United Sates, only the vessel carrier is required to receive a shipper's certification. The vessel operator must retain the shipping papers with a certification as required by §§ 171.22(f)(4), 172.201(e) and 176.24(b), but is not required to furnish the shipper's certification to any connecting intermodal carrier for subsequent highway or rail transportation. Hazardous material shipments imported into the United States by vessel that are transferred to a highway or rail carrier must be in conformance with the applicable requirements in §§ 171.22, 171.23 and 171.25, including those in § 171.22(c).

Q6. Is it permissible for a vessel operator to issue a shipper's certification based solely on the information provided in the original certification prepared by the shipper?

A6. The answer is yes. A carrier may rely on the original shipper's certification unless the carrier knows or, a reasonable person, acting in the circumstances and exercising reasonable care, would have knowledge that the certification provided by the offeror (shipper) is incorrect. However, a carrier who knowingly uses incorrect information (see § 171.2(e) and (f)), or a person who knowingly or willfully provides incorrect information, is in violation of the HMR.

I trust this satisfies your inquiry. Please accept my apology for any inconvenience caused by this revision of our original response.


Edward T. Mazzullo

Director, Office of Hazardous Materials Standards

171.22(f)(2), 172.204, 176.27

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
171.12 North American Shipments
172.204 Shipper's certification