Freight Forwarder’s Liability: Carried By Air, Sea, Road and Rail

Freight Forwarder’s Liability: Carried By Air, Sea, Road and Rail

Freight Forwarder's Liability: Carried By Air, Sea, Road and Rail

The usage of logistics has significantly increased over the decades. Particularly during the pandemic when no one is allowed to go out. People have been shopping online, locally or even globally.

The demand for cross country goods exchange did not slow down at all. All these goods are carried by cargo in various ways: by air, sea, road and rail. Typically, the party that arranges and manages the entire process is the freight forwarders (FF).

In this article, we will discuss the FF’s liability for carrying hazardous goods by air, sea, road and rail.

What is 'Hazardous Goods'?

The general meaning of it is referring to goods that are capable of causing physical damage in either a direct or an indirect manner (as per Scrutton on Charterparties and Bills of Lading [125th Ed])

As we discuss the global shipping norm, its definition varies from country to country. Moreover, it also has specific meanings across different ways of transport. Let’s explore more below.

Carried by air

The definition by air is set out in Civil Aviation Directives 18 – National Transport of Dangerous Goods Programme (CAD 18 – NTDGP), Issue 01/ Revision 00, which is:

‘Dangerous Goods’ means things that can risk health, safety, property or the environment. It is all specified in the list of dangerous goods in Technical Instructions.’

For the obligation of the operator (carrier) and shipper, Section 134 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 2016 can be referred to.

Malaysian Context

The list of Dangerous goods created by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the ICAO Technical Instructions is applicable in Malaysia.

*Do note that local Air Carriers and Shipper should have ICAO Technical Instructions in hand to ensure that they comply with international requirements for transporting dangerous goods/hazardous material.

Carried by sea

Internationally, the transport of dangerous goods is regulated by:

  1. Chapter VII of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (SOLAS)
  2. International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code

Locally, it is regulated by:

  1. Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952, Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA)
  2. Each Port’s by-laws

*By-laws refer to the law made by the local authority.

Malaysian Context

For instance, Pasir Gudang Port in Johor is regulated Johor Port Authority (Pasir Gudang Port) (Scale of Charges) By-Laws 2011 (PU(A) 175/2011). Therefore, people have to comply with international and local laws when dealing with freight forwarding matters.

So far, as Malaysia is a signatory to SOLAS, Chapter VII of SOLAS and IMDG Code are applicable for transport of dangerous goods by sea.

Ultimately, the IMDG Code covers the technical/operational part of carriage of dangerous goods by sea, including the classification, packing, marking, labelling and placarding, documentation and storage of hazardous goods.

These requirements are essential for all parties, especially Manufacturer and Shipper.

Carried by road

Dangerous goods are defined in Section 2 of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Vehicles Carrying Dangerous Goods) Rules 2015:

“Dangerous goods” means referring to the materials listed in First Schedule (the First Schedule is attached for easy reference);

“Class of dangerous goods” means referring to the classes listed in Second Schedule;

“Dangerous goods vehicle” means any goods vehicle constructed or adapted to carriage dangerous goods.”

Malaysian Context

In Malaysia, the road transport industry is regulated by:

  1. Land Public Transport Act 2010 [Act 715];
  2. Panduan Dasar Pelesenan SPAD; and
  3. Guidebook on Approval of Vehicle Types (Amendment) 2015

The road transport industry is slightly different from others. It is not subject to international conventions. Hence, for the definition of hazardous goods, it has to be cross-referred with the local law as mentioned above.


All the relevant responsibilities or obligations of each party/ industries are regulated by many different laws and international conventions. Therefore, each case or scenario might involve cross-checking international and local law to further examine the matter.

*This article is strictly for informative purposes. If you have any specific freight forwarder or shipping relevant matters, consult a professional for a better understanding.

Rahayu Partnership provides a wide range of services that cover internationally and locally. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

By Rahayu Partnership, Malaysia
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Rahayu Partnership is a boutique law firm specializing largely in admiralty, marine insurance and general and commercial litigation work. The firm is part of the Joseph Tan Jude Benny (JTJB) Global Network and this unique association with JTJB has made us the most dynamic and progressive maritime law firm in Malaysia, exporting our skills and services to the world. Our firm has considerable expertise in both contentious and non-contentious aspects of shipping law, advising on matters ranging from ship arrest and release, collision, charter parties, sale & purchase of ships, cargo claims to marine casualties and from admiralty processes to insurance law.

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