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September 19, 2013
Intermediate bulk containers OK'd by Coast Guard

In a final rule, the U.S. Coast Guard has amended its regulations to expand the list of bulk packagings that may be used in the transfer of hazardous materials (hazmats) on vessels without having to obtain a special permit.  Packagings, in the context of the rule, are primarily portable tanks used by offshore supply vessels to transport hazmats to and from offshore platforms involved in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas.  The Coast Guard says its intent in the amendment is to provide greater flexibility in the selection and use of packagings in hazmat transportation.

Compliance with PHMSA regs

To be used for transportation of hazmats, portable tanks and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) must comply with regulations issued by both the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).  Current Coast Guard regulations contain provisions for only three classes of portable tanks—marine portable tanks (MPTs), intermodal (IM) 101 and 102 portable tanks, and portable tanks authorized by PHMSA for hazardous liquid materials.  This has led to a situation where operators that wish to use newer types of portable tanks or IBCs must apply for a special permit from PHMSA.

The Coast Guard seems most concerned with authorizing the use of IBCs and United Nations (UN) portable tanks.  IBCs are rigid or flexible portable packaging, other than a cylinder or portable tank, that are designed for mechanical handling.  IBCs are not generally designed for transportation of hazardous material.  A UN portable tank, as defined in the Coast Guard’s amendments, is an intermodal tank with a capacity of greater than 450 liters (118.9 gallons).

Manifold use approved

In a related amendment, the Coast Guard is revising 46 CFR 98.30-13 to allow the use of manifolds for the transfer of hazmats to and from a vessel only when all attached packaging units are equipped with an automatic shutoff valve or other automatic means of closure that will activate during an emergency.  This changes the prohibition on manifolds the Coast Guard had included when it proposed the amendments. 


The Coast Guard summarizes the benefits of the rule as follows:

  • Efficiency gains to industry by increasing the number of preapproved types of portable tanks and expanding the list of preapproved hazmats they can transport;
  • Reduction in regulatory burden to industry and government by decreasing the number of special permits or competent authority approvals to be processed and harmonizing the Coast Guard regulations with PHMSA’s hazardous materials regulations (HMRs); and
  • Reduction in risk of release of hazmats during transfer by requiring shutoff valves for manifold use.

The Coast Guard’s final rule on bulk packagings was published in the September 6, 2013, FR

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