Hazardous materials and international shipments

Hazardous materials

Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) contain a substance that the Secretary of Transportation determines to be an unreasonable risk to health, safety and property when transported. HAZMAT, radioactive, and other specialized cargo may require special equipment, signage, and permits and may limit your transportation choices.

Ship HAZMAT as freight or HHG using the chosen procurement method while adhering to rules and regulations from the Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and applicable state and local government. DOT regulations prescribe requirements for training hazmat employees.

Make sure you check with the TSP to see if they will ship your HAZMAT. A TSP can refuse to accept a shipment that does not comply with government regulations (or their standards if exceeding government regulations).

Many everyday items, such as lithium batteries, aerosol products, alcohol based mouthwash, hand sanitizer, nail polish and remover are considered hazardous materials. Look at the Check the Box for additional information on transporting household items that are identified as HAZMAT.

Refer to the following federal regulations regarding HAZMAT:

International shipments

When shipping internationally, some laws require using U.S. flag carriers.


  • The Fly America Act requires the use of U.S. flag air carrier service for all air cargo movements funded by the U.S. government, or USG for short. There are a few exceptions that may allow you to use a foreign flag air carrier.

    A valid bilateral or multilateral Open Skies Agreement in place does not mean the Fly America Act is waived. No one Open Skies Agreement is the same as another Open Skies Agreement, i.e. each one has to be interpreted separately.

    Five bilateral air transport agreements include exceptions to the Fly America Act: U.S. Department of State agreements with Australia, the EU (plus Norway and Iceland), Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland. Key terms of the exceptions are summarized below — as it relates to all-cargo flights.

    • All the exceptions include cargo.
    • All the exceptions include both scheduled and charter flights.
    • Notably, all of the exceptions exclude transportation funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
    • Airlines of Australia, Japan, and Switzerland may carry USG cargo between any point in the U.S. and any point in each airline’s respective home country.
    • Airlines of EU member states (plus Norway and Iceland) may carry USG cargo between any point in the U.S. and any point outside the U.S.
    • Airlines of Australia, EU member states (plus Norway and Iceland), Japan, and Switzerland may carry USG cargo between any two points outside the U.S.
    • The Saudi Arabia agreement is worded very differently than the others. It permits an airline of Saudi Arabia to carry USG contractor cargo between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
    • U.S. Department of State maintains Civil Air Transport Agreements.
    • See the Full List of Air Transport Agreements and Record Documents for complete details on the agreements.
  • When the costs of transportation are reimbursed in full by a third party, such as a foreign government, an international agency, or other organization.
  • Use of a foreign air carrier is determined to be a matter of necessity by your agency, on a case-by-case basis — see 41 CFR 102-117.135(a)(3) Agencies should make these decisions based on their needs and requirements and remember to maintain a copy of the approval.


  • Cargo preference requires that all, or a portion of all, ocean-borne cargo that moves internationally be transported on U.S. flag vessels. For more information see cargo preference or 46 U.S.C. 55305. Agencies must comply with the provisions of 46 CFR 381.3 Reporting information and procedures.
  • For additional information including complying with Cargo Preference laws and what to do if you are unable to identify a U.S.-flag vessel or otherwise need a Determination of Non-Availability (DNA) see MARAD FAQs.
  • Coastwise laws govern the shipment of freight and household goods by water between points in the United States or its territories (46 U.S.C. 55101-55102). Goods transported entirely or partly by water between U.S. points must travel in U.S. flag vessels that have a coastwise endorsement. For more info review 46 U.S.C Chapter 551 coastwise laws.

Additional rules may apply when shipping cargo internationally. For example, some countries, including the United States, have strict requirements on the type of wood — like International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) that can be used in pallets or packing of cargo. Check with the country of destination in advance to avoid having your shipment rejected based on the pallet wood.

For additional information on importing and exporting visit Importing and exporting.

Last Reviewed: 2023-05-12