How to Ship ALD Precursors by Land, Air, and Sea

Top tips for a successful hazardous material shipping program

Did you know that pyrophoric chemicals can’t fly but most ALD precursors can be shipped via FedEx or UPS Ground without freight service? Or that your shipping mode of transportation can determine the volume or number of different kinds of chemicals you’re allowed to ship at one time?

Even the most seasoned logistics managers run into complications when navigating a new hazmat shipment. Shipping hazardous materials beyond your country’s borders requires careful research, training, and planning. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of checkpoints to consider for your international hazmat shipping program.

Training Employees

A properly trained staff is the foundation of a successful, compliant shipping program because shippers can be held directly accountable for proper, legal transportation of hazardous materials. Anyone involved with shipping hazardous substances such as chemicals, radioactive materials, or biological materials is required to receive special training. Anyone who offers advice for transport, transports, or handles hazardous substances for transport must also be trained. (Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 49, Part 172).

Training for international hazmat shipping can be obtained through three main organizations. First, DOT (Department of Transportation) certification is needed for all ground transportation guidelines. This certification will give you a better understanding of the scope of regulations for shipping within the United States and is valid for three years from award date. 

Next, the IATA (International Air Transportation Association) certification course offers crucial information for all hazardous materials traveling by air. The IATA certification is valid for two years following completion date. Finally, training and certification from the IMDG (International Maritime Dangerous Goods) will support any international shipping efforts taking place via boat. Certain materials can’t fly so this certification may be critical to your business, depending upon your product offering.

Handling

The next consideration in your hazmat shipping process regards the safety of those who will be handling and packing the materials. While training and certification are the first step in understanding safe shipping practices, employees must be informed about the nature of the materials they are handling. In addition, they must also be provided with the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). This can include gloves, gowns, masks, and goggles. 

Packing

Depending on the type of hazardous material, different levels of protection during transportation are required. Basic packing supplies include boxes, bottles, cans, and pails. High-volume shipments may be packed in totes, drums or barrels. Some hazardous materials may require multiple containers in order to suspend and protect the material inside from potential impact. Some may even require temperature-controlled packaging to maintain the material integrity. 

When packing, be mindful of restrictions on the interior and exterior packing requirements. For example, you may be restricted to a specific number of bottles within the package, exterior packaging must be UN-certified depending on the weight of the product packed inside, etc.

There are endless material options for cushioning and padding, some of which have absorbent qualities to aid in the event of a leak, minimizing exposure risk to those handling the package and the environment. These materials can include styrofoam, bubble wrap, vermiculite, gel packs, air-filled poly bags, etc. and should be thoroughly researched to provide the most effective protection for your shipments. 

You may also take careful consideration of your closure materials to ensure a safe, secure seal on the finished package. Depending on the type of hazmat inside the package, tamper-evident tape may be appropriate. Custom tape can offer carriers additional information about the package’s contents or offer a branding opportunity, embellishing the package with your logo.

Certification & Documentation

The primary purpose of documenting your hazmat shipments is to give the carrier vital information about the package’s contents as well as emergency response guidelines during transport in the event of an accident.

For hazmat shipments traveling by air, a declaration of dangerous goods form must be submitted to your carrier. For ground shipments, a shipping paper is required. These forms are lengthy and must be filled to completion to guarantee timely delivery of your package. Failure to complete the paperwork may result in shipment refusal and/or delays. Familiarity with these forms and guidelines are critical to attest to your accountability as a shipper and provide a concrete course of action in the case of an accidental exposure to the hazardous materials inside.

Every chemical must travel with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) created by the manufacturer or importer that is compliant with the GHS 2016 standard. The SDS contains the hazmat class as well as the UN number.

Documenting your packing and shipping process with photos is an excellent way to verify your compliance and detail the condition of the materials before they leave your possession. Contact your carrier directly with questions regarding your specific shipment as paperwork requirements can vary between countries.

Labeling

All hazmat shipping containers must be clearly labeled on their exterior with regulatory hazmat label markings and placards that indicate the primary and secondary hazardous risks. The label should include the code and name of the hazmat inside along with a full description of the materials. 

Hazmat items need to be clearly labeled with the correct shipping name, hazard classification, and UN number. Hazard shipping classification runs on a scale of 1-9, where lower classifications identify flammable gasses and liquids. A detailed hazmat classification chart can be found here, provided by the United States Postal Service.

Check with your shipping agency to ensure your packages are labeled appropriately if any uncertainties remain. Proper labeling should provide detailed information on the potential risks of the package contents to anyone handling it. Limit your labeling to only what is required to focus the handler’s attention on what is relevant.

Transportation

The method of transportation for your hazardous materials will be determined by a number of factors. You will need to research restrictions on the specific material you are shipping. Restrictions may be present due to the hazardous nature of the materials. Limitations may also be imposed on the volume of certain materials that can be shipped at one time or on which chemicals can travel together in the same package. Certain quantities of hazmat may travel via ground transportation with carriers such as FedEx or UPS, but if the volume exceeds those limits, freight transportation will be required.

Vendor Selection

There are many options when choosing a shipping vendor and selection may be dependent on a number of factors including the materials themselves, time-sensitivity, shipping destination, and price. Depending upon the volume of hazmat you are shipping, you may be able to utilize a common ground carrier such as FedEx or UPS. For larger volumes, depending upon the material, freight transportation may be required. Do your research to find a reputable, suitable carrier for your products and business requirements.

Shipment Destination

While some countries may have labeling exemptions and different shipping requirements for local shipments, international shipping between countries requires full compliance with regulations established by the IATA (International Air Transport Association) and the IMDG (International Maritime Dangerous Goods) Code. For shipments within the United States, the Department of Transportation (DOT) should be consulted for all hazardous materials shipments. 

Always defer to the more stringent guidelines and contact your carrier directly with questions if needed. Every carrier has restrictions on which countries they can and cannot ship hazardous materials.

While there are many boxes to check in the international hazmat shipping process, each step is crucial for compliance and safe, on-time delivery of your materials. Careful consideration of the aforementioned points will set you up for success and provide a clear path for your shipping program. For additional resources, check the links below.

UPS Guide for Shipping Hazmat

https://www.ups.com/us/en/help-center/packaging-and-supplies/special-care-shipments/hazardous-materials.page

USPS Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail

https://pe.usps.com/text/pub52/welcome.htm

IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations

https://www.iata.org/en/programs/cargo/dgr/

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=5e11187ce1123caa24d071d393bd646b&mc=true&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title49/49tab_02.tpl

The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code

https://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Safety/Pages/DangerousGoods-default.aspx

10 Criteria for Gauging the Long-Term Compatibility of New Organometallic Suppliers

Even in the specifications-driven chemical commodity markets, price cannot be the sole deciding factor when selecting a new organometallic supplier: the stakes are simply too high.

Of course, price is a necessary qualifier. But the specifier is entering into a commitment that typically goes on for years — and decisions made early on become more tightly “locked in” at each development milestone.

This article is to help you enter into — with your eyes wide open — a highly productive relationship with a new chemical supplier. Here are 10 steps to qualify and access your new organometallics supply partner:

  1. Increasingly stringent purity standards

Needless to say, your purity specifications must be met — now and forever — no matter what. In the high purity fine and specialty chemicals markets, purity can be measured out to 3, 4, or even 5 decimal places. What are their metrology capabilities?

Ask how you new supplier handles requests for higher purity standards than they’ve previously delivered. And what programs they have in place to continuously manufacture to those new, higher standards.

  1. How to quantify their level of service?

Everyone says they have great service. So here are some pointed questions to ask a potential chemical supplier:

  1. How quickly can I expect your sales reps to respond to my inquiries?
  2. How knowledgeable is the sales staff about the R&D and production development process?
  3. How, specifically, will your company move from the R&D stage of the custom synthesis of metal-organics to the milestones for the required production quantities?
  4. How will any questions I have regarding compliance, accounting, packaging, and shipping be resolved?

All aspects of the business should be considered when creating an impression of the supplier: from the very first phone call to each subsequent interaction.

  1. Is the supplier ahead of the regulatory curve?

What procedures and practices does the supplier already have in place to ensure the company is up-to-date with the latest regulations? Specifically, how are they being proactive? For example, do they do early implementation of new regulations, in advance of the compliance deadlines?

Staying ahead of the regulatory curve is just smart business: It can uncover any unanticipated glitches and make the rollout of the new compliance procedures go smoother. It also reduces your company’s risk exposure when you partner with a company that’s a leader in environmental, health, safety & sustainability (EHS&S).

  1. Is in-depth technical expertise readily provided?

Conversations about sophisticated chemical compounds and their synthesis processes can quickly reach a point where neither the purchaser nor the sales person feels comfortable — the technology experts must be brought in.

How is the potential supplier able to connect your experts with their experts? Will this happen via email, Skype, or another means? For example, how quickly can their subject matter experts be scheduled for conference calls? Will your compound have a on-site project manager and do they have ready access to the same experts?

Note the reactions to your questions: Does your contact sound like they’re engaged with their technical experts? Or are they just a middle-man who knows only to “buy cheap and sell high”?

  1. Do your metal-organics come with a warranty?

Specifically:  what happens if your current shipment doesn’t pass your quality test? Is the supplier willing to work out a replacement or a return process? How long a timeframe is allowed for product testing? How quickly will replacement material be shipped?

  1. Exactly how flexible is your organization?

Find out if your potential supplier is flexible enough to meet your company’s changing needs:

  1. Can you adjust your requirements for purity, packaging, destination point, and delivery schedule? What if the order has already been placed?
  2. Are the suppliers’ employees empowered to make abrupt changes on-the-fly, or do such decisions have to be passed on to the executive level every time? Do you have access to this level?

Remember: a true partnership is tested not when everything goes smoothly, but when there are bumps in the road.

  1. How can the supplier demonstrate transparency?

This criterion is fundamental to developing trust in your relationships. The more you know about your suppliers, the more secure your relationships will be.

Issues such as the price structure (raw materials, transport costs, flexible/fixed costs, etc.), equipment utilization, manufacturing capacity, portfolio profitability, and preferences — are just a few aspects.

  1. Can you independently verify the supplier’s reputation?

There is nothing wrong with a brand new supplier offering high quality products at attractive prices, but it is good to know if you are their first customer for your type of compound.

Ask a few direct questions:

  1. Who are the supplier’s current customers?
  2. Can the supplier provide references from a non-competing industry?
  3. What are some examples of their success stories?

The risks associated with doing business with new suppliers can be greatly mitigated if you know that you are not a “trial balloon.”

  1. Researching Total Final Cost is worth the extra effort.

You want to drive down costs.

But only looking at the “bottom line” can end up costly you dearly when shopping for a new organometallics supplier:

  1. Where does the supplier source their materials? (No conflict areas!)
  2. How can they demonstrate that those sources are reliable?
  3. How can the supplier demonstrate their ability to rapidly scale-up to meet your best-case demand scenario and maintain comparable costs?
  4. How, exactly, will your newly synthesized compound go into production? Discuss every possible bottleneck with your potential supplier: raw materials availability, availability of expert technical personnel, the need for new or expanded production equipment.

  1. Does this supplier have the potential to be a highly valued, long-term, strategic partner?

This final criterion actually ties together the nine other (mostly tactical) criteria.

You might decide, wisely, to first “test” the new supplier with small, non-critical orders for commodity metal-organics. On those orders, carefully observe them for quality, overall service, flexibility, and the supplier’s ability to “do what they said they would do.”

Looking for a reliable, long-term partner? Let’s talk.

Such a step may take a different form in each case: developing a new synthesis for your pilot projects, signing a strategic long-term deal, setting up a line at your factory – to name just a few valued-added possibilities.

The point is that, from the beginning, when you consider a new supplier, you should raise your expectations to the highest level and assess your nurturing relationship through the prism of a strategic partnership. In other words, be ready for this strategic question #10 from the start!

Trading Pitfalls to Avoid when Negotiating an International Hazmat Purchase

Trading Pitfalls to Avoid when Negotiating an International Hazmat Purchase

When engaging with a new business partner in the international hazmat industry, discrepancies might arise between you and your partner’s expectations regarding specific terms of your contract. Here are 9 items for you to consider as you’re forming a new relationship and negotiating an international hazmat purchase.

Quoting and Terms

  1. Vendor quotes a price without specifying the shipping terms. If both parties assume that the shipping is covered by the other side, this will clearly be a source of frustration. The easiest and standard way to discuss shipping is to choose one of the INCOTERMS definitions: these define, on a very fine-grain level, who pays for what phases of delivery, including loading, packaging and insurance.
  2. Vendor provides a quote without product specification. In the world of chemistry, even a single digit after the point in a purity designation can make a huge difference in pricing. Same goes for packaging terms and conditions. To avoid surprises later, make sure product specifications, packaging terms and conditions are all listed in your contract or PO.
  3. Financial terms are defined loosely. Terms of payments define when the payment is run. But the tricky part is to agree from what event to count them from: The PO signing date? The shipping date? The invoice date? The receiving date? The acceptance date, etc. Also, for international transactions, the specified currency is obviously critical: to avoid exposure to exchange rate fluctuations, it’s usually best for the buyer to specify their own country’s currency. Lastly, list the method of payment and the associated fees in your contract or PO.

Compliance and Import

  1. Labeling – Product labeling should be compliant with the latest GHS standards. This is a US rule — very few international suppliers are compliant to GHS standards when they ship to the US. You can still receive the products, but before shipping them to your customers (or, indeed, shipping them anywhere) you have to update their labels to GHS specifications.
  2. Safety Data Sheets – the GHS standards also apply for SDSs. Many large international vendors will have a SDS developed specifically for US, but most of the smaller suppliers will not. You cannot ship or sell product without a SDS standardized for the US.
  3. TSCA regulations – Toxic Substances Control Act is another US law that applies to every importer of hazmat products. TSCA compliance is not the responsibility of the overseas vendor; it is the sole responsibility of the importer. In a nutshell: chemicals listed on the TSCA inventory list can be imported without additional restrictions. Chemicals which are not on the TSCA inventory list can only be imported either for R&D purposes or after receiving a special exemption for unlimited or limited volumes.

Packaging

  1. Although packaging should be defined upfront at the time of quoting, sometimes this obvious step carries surprises. Just a couple of things to add for your consideration: Could your product potentially be delayed during shipping and therefore require extra packaging precautions (special caps/rings, vaxing, additional containers)? Would your product be better protected using cold containers and/or dry ice? Does the time of year (e.g., temperature, climate) limit your shipping? (For example, we have products that we don’t ship during summer.)
  2. Customer’s bubblers or packaging – Frequently hazmat compounds need to be pre-packaged in a bubbler or cylinder so they can be used with existing equipment; for example, ALD machines. If the compound vendor is doing the pre-packaging, then the specifications for the valves and connectors must be approved by the technical people from both sides. If you, the compound buyer, are providing the container, you’ll need to factor in both the export costs and opportunity costs of having those empty containers temporarily at the compound vendor. One caveat for the “empty containers”: containers must be completely cleaned prior to shipping to the compound vendor. If residual amounts of the previous hazmat material are still in the container, it must then ship following all the regulations for that hazmat material.
  3. Extra hiccup prevention steps – It’s a good idea to ask your compound vendor to take photos of shipments before they are packaged. These photos should include the product labels, serial numbers of the containers, and in case of grouped items, a “group picture.” Make sure you and your supplier are on the same page in terms of (shipping?) insurance and product warranty. Lastly, have the compound vendor keep a retaining sample; this is very helpful if you have a quality-related disagreement that requires the vendor to run a comparable analysis for the batch.

Establishing all of the above steps in a systematic method will make taking on new international suppliers that much easier. Alternatively, if you can purchase the same compounds domestically, you obviously eliminate the issues specific to international importing and can focus better on the remaining product terms and conditions.

Looking for a reliable, long-term partner? Let’s talk.