What is Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in Shipping

Cover Image for What is Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in Shipping

International shipping can be tricky with lots of rules and paperwork, especially when we want to make sure everything we ship is safe and complies with the regulations.

One essential document that plays a pivotal role in this process is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

But what exactly is MSDS, and why does it matter in shipping? Let’s delve into the details.

1. What is MSDS & Why MSDS Matters in Shipping

What is MSDS?

The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) outlines comprehensive information on the properties, hazards, handling, and safety precautions of a material or product.

It is like a detailed ID card for products, telling us about their properties, any risks they might have, and how to handle them safely.

Relevance to International Shipping

When shipping items internationally, the MSDS is like a passport for your product. The MSDS informs us whether the item falls under the Dangerous Goods (DG) category. Without the MSDS, we cannot identify the requirements to ship the items.

This verification is essential to ensure compliance with transportation safety regulations.

If an item is identified as dangerous based on the MSDS, it may require specific packing and labelling to ensure safety during transit.

2. When Do I Need MSDS to Ship Overseas?

My Item Isn't "Dangerous". Why Do I Still Need an MSDS?

Even if you believe your item isn’t dangerous, it can only be proven with an MSDS.

This is because even items that seem harmless might have strict shipping rules.

Understanding these rules is important, as seemingly safe items can sometimes pose risks during transportation.

For example, shipping perfumes has its own set of rules. If you’re interested in delving deeper into these rules, you would want to check out our article on shipping perfumes: “Can I Ship Perfume Internationally?”.

And if you’re sending electronics, explore our guides: “The Why, What, and How of Shipping Electronics Overseas” and “Shipping Electronics Overseas: 20 Common Electronics You Can Ship” for more info!

Here are some common commodities that require an MSDS:

dangerous goods icons

image source: ehsdb.com

  1. Liquids: Liquids, such as perfumes and hand sanitisers, can be flammable or contain hazardous ingredients, necessitating MSDS for safe transportation.
  2. Electronics: Devices containing batteries, especially lithium components, pose potential risks due to their reactivity and require MSDS for compliance.
  3. Powders: The nature of powders, like milk powder and loose powder, can pose challenges in shipping, making MSDS essential for verifying safety.
  4. Cleaning Chemicals: Household cleaners, industrial-grade solvents, detergents, etc., require MSDS due to the variety of chemicals they contain, which could be harmful if leaked or mishandled during transit.
  5. Automotive Supplies: Brake fluid, antifreeze, motor oils, and other materials necessitate MSDS to outline the potential hazards and reactive nature of these substances, ensuring safe transportation.
  6. Paint and Solvents: Oil-based paints, thinners, and stains need MSDS to inform about the hazardous substances they might contain and the safety precautions needed to prevent spills and exposure.
  7. Pesticides and Fertilisers: These chemicals require MSDS to detail their potential environmental and health hazards, ensuring that they are transported with utmost care to prevent any harm.
  8. Batteries: Whether it's lithium-ion or alkaline, batteries need MSDS due to the reactive materials they contain, which can pose risks during transportation.
  9. Cosmetics: Especially aerosol-based items like hairspray or products containing alcohol, require MSDS to outline the specific risks associated with their ingredients and pressurised packaging.
  10. Adhesives: Super glues, epoxy resins, and anything that emits fumes need MSDS to detail the potential risks of inhalation or exposure and to guide on safe handling.
  11. Pharmaceuticals: Over-the-counter medication, especially those containing controlled substances, require MSDS to ensure they are transported according to regulations, preventing misuse or mishandling.
  12. Pressurised Cans: Items like whipped cream or air fresheners need MSDS due to the propellants they contain, which can be hazardous if not handled correctly during shipping.

3. How Can You Obtain the MSDS?

Contact the Supplier

The most straightforward method to procure an MSDS is by contacting the supplier or the manufacturer of the product directly. They are legally mandated to furnish this document, ensuring that users and transporters have access to critical safety information about the product.

Online Resources

If for some reason, direct contact with the supplier is not possible or practical, the manufacturer’s website is a valuable resource. Many manufacturers have dedicated sections on their websites where they make MSDSs available to the public.

Once on the website, you can search through the available MSDSs to locate the one corresponding to your specific product.

4. What if I cannot acquire an MSDS?

Shipping Delays

The absence of an MSDS can lead to significant delays, as customs or the shipping company may hold the item until proper documentation is provided.

Additional Costs

The lack of an MSDS can result in fines, storage fees, or even return shipping costs.

Safety Risks

Sending items without an MSDS compromises the safety of the entire shipment and can pose risks to the flight carrying your goods.

At JustShip, our top priority is ensuring the safety of the shipments and delivering a positive experience for our users. Without the MSDS, we can't determine the specific requirements to ship your item safely and successfully. Therefore, we might not be able to handle your shipment if you are unable to provide an MSDS.


Securing an MSDS is a fundamental step in ensuring a seamless and compliant international shipping experience.

At JustShip, we're here to offer guidance on shipping based on the MSDS. And if your item is classified as dangerous goods? No worries. JustShip also specialises in handling and shipping dangerous goods.

Don't hesitate to reach out to us via WhatsApp at +65 9118 7971 or email hello@justship.sg. Our expert team is here to help, making sure your items arrive safely and on time.

Let us make your international shipping experience seamless and worry-free!

January 3, 2024

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