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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 #20-0020

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

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Environmental Resource Center

Individual Name: Ms. Kristie Absher

Location State: NC Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

May 4, 2020

Ms. Kristie Absher
Senior Consultant
Environmental Resource Center
101 Center Pointe Dr.
Cary, NC  27513-5706

Reference No. 20-0020

Dear Ms. Absher:

This letter is in response to your March 4, 2020, letter requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to hazardous materials communication requirements for marine pollutants shipped domestically when not subject to the HMR. In your letter, you describe a scenario where your company receives packages shipped to the United States by vessel that have markings and labels that do not comply with those required in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code). Specifically, you state that the Class 9 labels and the UN number markings are smaller than what is authorized in the IMDG Code.

We have paraphrased and answered your questions as follows:

Q1. In a previous Letter of Interpretation on this subject issued on December 23, 2013, under Reference No. 13-0192, PHMSA stated: "The marking and labels that were required to be affixed to the packages for transportation by vessel in accordance with the IMDG Code need not be removed or covered for subsequent domestic transportation." You ask whether the labels and UN number markings may remain on the packages even if they do not comply with the IMDG Code.

A1. In general, the answer is no. However, in the scenario described in your letter, provided the labels and UN markings meet the design and visibility specifications of the IMDG Code and are of a size that is legible on the packaging, even though smaller than what is authorized in the IMDG Code, it would be allowable for them to remain on the packages. It should be noted that shipments that have labels and markings that are undersized, even when not regulated, are likely to experience delays.

Q2. Section 171.22 specifies authorizations and conditions for the use of international standards and regulations. You ask whether a domestic importer is required to notify the international party responsible for shipping a material that is not subject to the HMR but does not comply with the IMDG Code.

A2. The answer is no, provided any potential violation of the IMDG Code would have occurred outside the United States as defined in § 171.8 and the material is not subject to the HMR. However, in this instance, the United States Coast Guard would conduct inspections based on the requirements of the IMDG Code, the regulations utilized for transportation, and could take enforcement action if the full shipment is not in compliance with the IMDG Code. We recommend that the importer communicate the violation to the international shipper to prevent continued complications and delays in future shipments.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.


T. Glenn Foster
Chief, Regulatory Review and Reinvention Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

171.8, 171.22

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
171.22 Authorization and conditions for the use of international standards and regulations
171.8 Definitions and abbreviations