Airlines relax restrictions on two banned substances

cargo airplanes on the ramp

The latest version of the International Air Transport Association’s Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGRs) relaxes restrictions on two substances that previously were banned from commercial aircraft. IATA said the changes, which are included in the DGRs that went into effect Jan. 1, were made to bring its rules into compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

One of the substances that is now allowed on passenger and freighter aircraft is furan, a colorless, flammable liquid that is used in a variety of industrial applications.

David Brennan, assistant director of cargo safety and standards at IATA, said the association was approached by a company that wanted to ship furan and asked why it was banned. After doing some research, IATA’s Dangerous Goods Board decided to ease the restriction.

While working on the furan issue, the IATA staff looked for other instances where the DGRs were more restrictive than the ICAO Technical Instructions, the standard reference for how to ship dangerous goods by air. Brennan said the only other substance the two sets of rules disagreed on was the solid form of bromobenzyl cyanides, which the DGRs said could not be shipped on passenger planes. That restriction has been changed so up to 5 kg, or about 11 pounds, per package can be shipped on passenger planes as long as its packaging meets standards.

Airlines, freight forwarders and shippers use the DGRs to determine if particular hazardous materials can be shipped on passenger or cargo planes and, if so, how they must be packaged and labeled. The DGRs are based on the ICAO Technical Instructions, which are updated every two years.

The most recent version of the Technical Instructions went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Many of the changes in this year’s DGRs are about “tidying up” any differences between the two and about making sure the rules are clear, Brennan said. For example, the labels or marks that are applied to dangerous goods packaging need be applied in a certain way. The DGRs require that certain labels be applied on one side of a package and not wrapped around a corner so that label stretches on to two sides.

Other changes revolve around the packaging itself. The food industry, among others, often uses composite packaging, with a very clean plastic receptacle inside a more robust outer container. But only certain types of composite packaging are allowed on aircraft. The DGRs have been updated to give shippers more options to use when describing their packaging in documentation. Brennan said the change should cut down on errors.

“We’re trying to make everything clearer for shippers and people accepting shipments,” Brennan said. “We want people doing it the same way everywhere in the world. If it’s clear and unambiguous it’s better for everyone.”