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Electronic Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (e-DGD)

By Pieter G. Wildschut

The Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (DGD) is a crucial document that accompanies a shipment of dangerous goods through every step of the transportation process. It’s one of the main responsibilities of a shipper who offers dangerous goods for transport. Although for decades the DGD has been produced in paper format, nowadays both the ICAO Technical Instructions and the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations foresee the possibility of using electronic data processing (EDP) and electronic data interchange (EDI) transmission techniques, which are completely valid alternatives to paper documentation. Thus, the Electronic Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (eDGD) has become a reality.

The eDGD project started in 2016. The proof of concept stage ended two years later, and now the eDGD is ready to be implemented by all stakeholders in the transport chain. It is a process that involves shippers, forwarders, and operators. The shipper is still the agent that prepares the DGD, but in this case a digital interface is used on any kind of electronic device, that is able to send this data to the forwarder. The forwarder will assign this shipment to an airline, adding an air waybill number; later, this operator will be able to perform an acceptance check, using only the received electronic data, without the need for paper documents.

The test period has proved that the electronic DGD provides a series of benefits to the agents that have been working with it. The replacement of all papers documents with an electronic flow of data has increased the efficiency of the process, reflecting positively on its transparency as well. Using a standard format in an appropriate platform, where the data is created once and then shared through the whole transport chain, has resulted in faster processes. Pursuing better data quality should be an objective of every agent, sustained in a better traceability and extensive quality checks, which are performed more efficiently. The reduction of paper consumption will bring additional advantages in savings and environmental improvements. And last but not least: safety in the air transport of dangerous goods will be served better, when chances for mistakes are ruled out.

Together with other software applications, the electronic transmission of data can become even more convenient. For example, there is an evident synergy with applications that allow for an easy validation of the information provided in a document, or with those that contain a database that cross-references the information introduced with the regulations (such as DGM’s very own software DGOffice). This way, agents will be able to reduce human mistakes to a minimum.

However, there are still barriers to the eDGD, such as the inevitable resistance to change plus the necessary investment in order to implement new ways to work and new technologies, or legal barriers in countries that have not authorized the use of electronic data transmission for dangerous goods transport documents. Organizations such as ICAO (UN body) and IATA (association of airlines), are advocating around the globe to adopt the provisions in the ICAO Technical Instructions into their national legislations, in order to permit the use of electronic data instead of paper versions of the DGD.

DGM, having 66 locations in 35 countries all over the world, is ready to implement the use of the electronic DGD in freight of dangerous goods. The company contributed to the testing of the e-DGD with its software product DGOffice which is one of the approved platforms to use for the e-DGD.

Author Pieter G. Wildschut, based in the DGM’s global headquarters at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

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