There has been much coverage in the news recently of the free trade talks taking place between the USA and EU. These types of multilateral agreements are expected to be a good thing for both economies as they will boost trade by making the export and import of goods easier. How does this affect the transport of dangerous goods? Well, not only will the free trade agreement apply to chemicals as much as other trade movements but it also raises the subject of multilateral agreements.
Within the transport of dangerous goods multilateral agreements are temporary derogations from ADR/RID or ADN agreed between contracting parties. These agreements, like free trade agreements, are designed to simplify trade between the signatories. They can relate to construction, training, packing instructions and classification. All multilateral agreements are assigned an M number by the Transport Secretariat of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and - as they are temporary - an expiry date by the initiating country.
All of the multilateral agreements are designed to facilitate trade and transport without reducing the various obligations designed to avoid and minimize the effects of an incident. With regards to dangerous goods training M202 allows ADR drivers who will only transport hydrocarbon fuels (UN numbers 1202, 1203, 1223, 1268, 1863 and 3475) to receive training specific to these UN numbers and restricts the dangerous goods they can carry to these UN numbers. This ensures that the drivers have received all the training they require to ensure the safe transport of these UN numbers without the burden, both financial and temporal, of training relating to materials they won’t carry.
The majority of multilateral agreements currently in force are between two or more contracting parties to ADR though one, M237, is between the USA and the EU. This agreement concerns the transport of gases in cylinders by road which are manufactured and approved by the US Department of Transport (USDOT) and not to ADR specifications. There are a number of requirements that must be met to comply with this multilateral agreement.
The bulk of cylinders are manufactured in the US and M237 was agreed to allow cylinders produced and filled in the US to be transported and used in the EU. To this end the multilateral agreement allows the carriage of the cylinders from a temporary storage, such as a depot, to the end user. Additionally the cylinders still need to conform to filling ratios and periodic testing frequency listed in ADR.
As multilateral agreements are derogations from the legal text, in order to expedite carriage and reduce confusion, the consignor is required to include any on the transport documentation. For example where gases are being carried in USDOT cylinders the line “Carriage agreed under the terms of multilateral agreement M237” must be added. Another requirement is that only cylinders filled in the US are allowed to be transported in this manner. Therefore once empty the cylinder needs to be re-exported to the USA to be re-filled and cannot be re-filled in the EU.
A full list of all the multilateral agreements, both those in force and those which have expired, can be located on the UNECE website.