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How to Determine Correct UN Number and Proper Shipping Name

Little Pro on 2016-01-07

Proper shipping name is the standard technical name to describe the hazard properties and the  composition of dangerous goods. You need to choose a UN number (usually, 4 digits) and a proper shipping name from Dangerous Goods List that can most accurately describe your dangerous goods. They will be used to label dangerous goods. They also need to be included in Dangerous Goods Declaration and the section 14 of Safety Data Sheets. Usually, UN numbers and proper shipping names can be searched here. However, specific rules need to be followed.

For pure chemical substances or well-defined articles, it is easy to choose UN numbers and proper shipping names. For hazardous mixtures or other articles, it takes more efforts and expertise to determine an accurate UN number and proper shipping name. For example, for a flammable mixture consisting of two or more alcohols, both entries below may be applicable. Which one is the correct one?

  • UN 1987 ALCOHOLS, N.O.S.;

In this article, we will share with you some rules you need to follow when choosing UN numbers and proper shipping names.

Types of Proper Shipping Names and Precedence Rules

There are 4 types of entries consisting of UN numbers and proper shipping names in the Dangerous Goods List. They are preferred in the following order:

Precedence Type and Example
  • Single entries for well-defined substances or articles;
  • Example: UN 1090 ACETONE
  • Generic entries for well-defined groups of substances or articles;
  • Example: UN 1133 ADHESIVES containing flammable liquids; UN 1263, PAINT
  • Specific entries not otherwise specified (N.O.S.) covering a group pf substances or articles of a particular chemical or technical nature:
  • Example: UN 1987 ALCOHOLS, N.O.S.; UN 1224, KETONES, LIQUID, N.O.S
  • Generic entries not otherwise specified (N.O.S.) covering a group of substances or articles meeting the criteria of one or more classes or divisions

If you cannot find a good match in 1, you move to 2, 3 and 4 by order. 

In the Dangerous Goods List, many "generic" and "not otherwise specified (N.O.S.)" entries are assigned with special provisions 274 or 318 (see column 6 in the example below). It is required that proper shipping names be supplemented with the technical or chemical group name.

proper shipping name

The technical name shall be a recognized chemical or biological name, or other name currently used in scientific journals and handbooks. Trade name is not accepted.

Example 1: UN 1993, FLAMMABLE LIQUID, N.O.S (contains methanol and acetone);

Example 2: UN 2902, PESTICIDE, LIQUID, TOXIC, N.O.S. (drazoxolon)

Special Considerations When Assigning UN Numbers and Proper Shipping Names

There are other considerations for some special dangerous goods, for which additional description words shall be added. Which words shall be added depend on the hazard, composition, state of the dangerous goods and the mode of transport.

The Proper Shipping Name must be preceded by the word "WASTE";

Solid transported in a molten state:
The Proper Shipping Name shall be supplemented with "MOLTEN";

Stabilized substances:
The Proper Shipping Name shall be supplemented with "STABILIZED";

Mixtures or Solutions:
If a mixture or solution is composed of a single predominant substance mentioned in the Dangerous Goods List and one or more substances not subject to DG classification, the mixture shall be assigned to the Proper Shipping Name of the predominant substance mentioned in the Dangerous Goods List by adding the qualifying words "MIXTURE" or "SOLUTION" unless:

  • The solution or mixture is mentioned by name in the Dangerous Goods List;
  • The name mentioned only applies to the pure substance;
  • The hazard class or division, subsidiary risk, packing group or physical state of the mixture or solution is different from that of the substance mentioned;
  • The hazard characteristics and properties of the mixture require different emergency response measures;


Note: A mixture or solution that is not mentioned in the Dangerous Goods List and that is composed of two or more dangerous goods shall be assigned one entry that most precisely describes the solution or mixture.

Flash point:
For hazardous materials transported by sea with a flash point at or below 60 clesius degrees, the IMDG Code requires an indication of the flash point after the proper shipping name. The flash point must be indicated for materials with a primary or subsidiary Class 3 hazard. The material's flash point will be displayed with the unit of measure and followed by "c.c." to indicate that the flash point is a closed cup test value (e.g., 27 clesius degrees c.c.).

Marine Pollutants:
They are substances that are identified as Marine pollutants in the IMDG Code Index or substances that satisfy the GHS classification criteria for Hazardous to Aquatic Environment Acute 1, Chronic 1, or Chronic 2.

When shipping marine pollutants by sea, the proper shipping name shall be be supplemented with the technical name of the marine pollutant. The term "MARINE POLLUTANT" shall be put in the end of dangerous goods descriptions.

Example: UN 1263, PAINT (triethylbenzene), Class 3 PG III (27 celcius degrees c.c.), MARINE POLLUTANT

As Marine Pollutants Only:
A substance, mixture, or article that is a marine pollutant and does not meet the classification criteria for inclusion in any other hazard class shall be declared under either UN 3077 ENVIRONMENTALLY HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE, SOLID, n.o.s. or UN 3082 ENVIRONMENTALLY HAZARODUS SUBSTANCE, LIQUID, n.o.s. as appropriate. If you use UN 3077 or UN 3082, the proper shipping name shall also be supplemented with technical names.

Example: UN 3082, ENVIRONMENTALLY HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE, LIQUID, N.O.S. (cadmium sulfide, isodecyl diphenyl phosphate), 9, III, Marine Pollutant

Read More: Marine Pollutants & Environmentally Hazardous Substances: Definition, Marking and Exceptions.


Selecting a correct proper shipping name is not easy. You need to ask yourself the following questions first and follow the above rules to determine accurate proper shipping names for your products.

  • Is it a pure substance or well-defined mixture (by use) or well-defined article?
  • What is its state: liquid, solid, gas?
  • What is its predominant hazard substance and primary hazard?
  • Which technical names shall be given in parenthesis for generic entries and N.O.S entries?
  • Is "Waste", "Molten", "Stabilized", "Flash point", "Marine Pollutant" applicable?

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References & Resources

Recommended Reading

How to Assign UN Packing Group for Dangerous Goods

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