How to Ship Chemicals Internationally: What You Need to Know

Shipping chemicals is a highly complex process involving many regulations, requirements, and safety considerations. The process becomes even more challenging when shipping chemicals across international borders due to each country’s unique customs and compliance requirements.

To help businesses navigate this complexity, the experienced professionals at CLX Logistics have compiled a comprehensive guide to international chemical freight logistics. Drawing on decades of experience in global logistics, we’re offering practical advice on effectively and safely transporting chemicals internationally while minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the industry, these valuable insights and strategies will help you successfully navigate the complex world of international chemical shipping.

Can You Ship Chemicals Internationally?

Shipping chemicals internationally is an intricate task that requires strict compliance with various regulations and safety measures through multiple countries and modes of transportation. However, with proper planning and preparation, shipping chemicals internationally can be done efficiently, safely, and cost-effectively.

Working with an experienced global chemical logistics partner or 4PL that offers industry-leading Managed Transportation tools and technology is a wise decision to ensure compliance, reliability, and total supply chain visibility to guarantee shipments arrive at their destinations safely, on time, and on budget.


What is Required to Ship Chemicals Internationally?

Whether you’re a manufacturer or a shipper, navigating the intricacies of shipping hazardous materials internationally is a necessary process that requires precision and attention to detail. International laws and regulations surrounding the transportation of chemicals vary from country to country, and staying up to date with these requirements can be overwhelming. However, to properly transport chemicals and hazardous materials internationally, you must understand regulations as they change throughout transport and ensure that all materials are shipped safely and in the proper conditions.

In addition to understanding international regulations, other requirements must be met to ship chemicals internationally. These requirements can vary depending on the specific chemicals being shipped and the mode of transportation being used. For example, many hazardous materials require specialized containment, labeling, and proper documentation and permits. Some chemicals may also require temperature-controlled shipping containers or other specialized equipment to maintain their integrity during transit.

Overall, shipping chemicals internationally requires careful planning and preparation and a deep understanding of international regulations and requirements. By working with experienced carriers and suppliers and investing in the right equipment and technology, businesses can ensure that their chemicals are shipped safely, on time, and on budget to their intended destinations.


What is the Difference Between Shipping Chemicals by Sea vs. Air?

Regarding shipping chemicals internationally, there are two main modes of transportation: sea and air, although truckload, van, or rail shipping is usually involved once the freight is back on land. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately depends on your business’s specific needs and requirements.

Shipping by sea is often the preferred method for large volumes of chemicals or hazardous materials. Ocean freight is generally less expensive than air freight and can handle larger quantities of cargo in a single shipment. Additionally, shipping by sea allows for more flexibility regarding container sizes and types, and there are fewer restrictions on the types of chemicals that can be shipped. However, shipping by sea can also take longer and is subject to potential delays due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

On the other hand, shipping by air is ideal for smaller volumes of chemicals or urgent shipments requiring speedy delivery. Air freight is significantly faster than sea freight and can deliver goods to almost any global destination. Additionally, air freight offers greater security and visibility throughout the shipping process, reducing the risk of damage or loss during transit. However, air freight is generally more expensive than sea freight, and there are stricter regulations and restrictions on the types of chemicals that can be shipped by air, such as lithium batteries or certain gases which may be sensitive to pressure and temperature changes.

Overall, the choice between shipping by sea or air depends on various factors, including the size and urgency of the shipment, the specific requirements of the chemicals being shipped, and your budget.


What to Know When Shipping Chemicals Internationally

Regulations to Know

When shipping chemicals internationally, several regulations must be followed to ensure the shipment’s safety and compliance with international laws. One key regulation is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, which provides guidelines for classifying and labeling chemicals and safety data sheets. Additionally, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code sets standards for transporting hazardous materials by sea. At the same time, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations provide guidelines for air transport.

It’s also vital to comply with regulations set by the importing and exporting countries, which may include permits, licenses, and other documentation. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in serious consequences, including fines, delays, loss of profit, and even damage to human health and the environment.


Maintaining Current Training Titles and Certifications

Staying current with international chemical shipping training titles and certifications is crucial for professionals and companies shipping such freight. It’s important to regularly update knowledge and skills to comply with changing regulations, ensure safety, and minimize risk when shipping hazardous materials internationally.

Some important training titles and certifications in this field include the IMDG Code for maritime transport, IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations for air transport, and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) for facilities handling chemicals. These certifications and trainings provide individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to ensure the safe handling and transport of chemicals and can help to demonstrate expertise and professionalism in the field. Regularly reviewing and updating training and certifications ensures compliance with evolving international laws and regulations.


Labels and Packaging

Appropriate labeling and packaging when shipping chemical freight internationally are crucial to ensure the safe handling and transport of hazardous materials. Chemicals must be labeled clearly and accurately with information such as the chemical name, identification number, hazard warning, and handling instructions.

This information should comply with international regulations such as the GHS and IMDG codes. Additionally, chemicals must be packaged in appropriate containers designed to withstand the hazards associated with the specific chemical being shipped. These containers must also be appropriately labeled and marked with proper symbols and hazard warnings. It’s essential to ensure that the packaging is secure and free from leaks or damage that could compromise the shipment’s safety. Adherence to these labeling and packaging guidelines is crucial to ensure compliance with international regulations and to prevent accidents or harm to individuals, the environment, or property.


Quantity Limits

Chemical shipping quantity limits are implemented to minimize the risks of transporting chemicals in large amounts. Limits can vary depending on the mode of transport, the type of chemical being shipped, and the destination country’s regulations. Ensuring that the quantity of chemicals being shipped complies with these limits and that the shipment is labeled correctly and packaged is vital.

Failure to comply with quantity limits can result in severe consequences, including fines, delays, and even damage to human health and the environment. Therefore, it’s crucial for those involved in shipping chemicals internationally to stay up-to-date on the latest regulations and to ensure that their shipments comply with these limits to guarantee the safe and secure transport of volatile and hazardous materials.


How Much Does It Cost to Ship Chemicals Internationally?

The cost of shipping chemicals internationally can vary significantly depending on various factors, such as the mode of transportation being used, the distance traveled, the size and weight of the shipment, and the specific requirements of the chemicals being shipped. Generally, shipping by sea is less expensive than shipping by air but may take longer and require more extensive preparation and documentation.

On the other hand, shipping by air is faster but more expensive and may also be subject to more stringent regulations and restrictions. Other factors that can impact the cost of international chemical shipping include insurance coverage, customs fees, and taxes or tariffs. To accurately estimate the cost of shipping chemicals internationally, working closely with experienced carriers and logistics providers who can provide detailed quotes and help identify potential cost-saving opportunities is essential.

Partnering with a global chemical logistics provider with industry-leading expertise and technology significantly reduces international shipping costs. In fact, working with a 4PL can save international chemical shippers up to 30% in transportation costs.


Looking For an Easy Way to Ship Chemicals Internationally?

As we’ve established, chemical shipping is a complex process with detailed requirements and regulations that require expert guidance and cutting-edge tools to ensure compliance, safety, and cost-effectiveness. CLX Logistics offers a robust suite of a la carte tools for international chemical freight logistics, and our seasoned logistics experts can ensure a more intelligent chemical shipping solution for your business that can save your company millions.

Cut transportation costs and boost your ROI when you start your journey toward more intelligent international chemical shipping with CLX Logistics—contact us today to get started.



Back to Resources