Applying for an Equivalency Certificate in Canada

By September 9, 2013 Uncategorized

So, you want to bend the rules? What happens when you have a scenario where following the regulations to ship your dangerous goods becomes impractical to the point of impossibility?

This blog entry will speak to what the process is for applying for an Equivalency Certificate in Canada as per the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Clear Language Regulations.

Generally when people ship dangerous goods, the process becomes a matter of reading and complying with everything the regulations state. However, below are some scenarios where following exactly what the regulations state is… shall we say… less than ideal.

Scenario 1)

Al wants to ship some large batteries for equipment within Canada with classification:

               UN 2794, Batteries, Wet, Filled With Acid, Class 8, P.G. III

His dilemma is that when a new battery is commissioned, the outer package is generally discarded due to space limitations. In many cases these batteries were installed prior to the packaging requirements of Part 5 of the TDG Regulations.

Al wants to ship this without UN approved packaging.

Scenario 2)

Bill wants to ship a MRI machine that contains liquid helium, classification:

               UN 1963, Helium, refrigerated liquid, Class 2.2

His dilemma is that his MRI machine is what contains the Helium and it is not in an approved means of containment. He requires the helium to remain in his equipment during transport in order to keep the magnet cool.

Bill wants to ship this without approved packaging.

Scenario 3)

Chuck wants to send some prototype lithium ion batteries that have not undergone the UN 38.3 Part 3 tests, to be sent internationally with the classification:

UN 3480, Lithium ion batteries, Class 9, PG II

His situation is that he must ship these by air and in order to do so, as per the ICAO Technical Instructions, approval by the appropriate authority of the State of origin (Transport Canada) is required.

Chuck wants to ship this before having the required test results from the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, Part III, subsection 38.3 for lithium ion batteries.

In all three of these scenarios, someone is looking to send a shipment outside a normal scope of work. Normally when one thinks of shipping dangerous goods, the process is somewhat standardized. All three of the above scenarios are looking to send a shipment without being in complete compliance with the regulations. This is when an Equivalency Certificate must be used. Essentially when you apply for a certificate you are saying:

Dear Transport Canada, I would like to have permission to not follow one of the parts of the regulations, but I promise that in breaking from the regulations I will ship the dangerous goods in such a way that they are just as safe as if I did follow the rules, perhaps even safer. Here is how I propose to do it…

If they feel that your methods are adequate, they may approve your application.

Once you realize that your goods require an Equivalency Certificate in order to be allowed to be transported, you should write up your proposal as soon as possible. Transport Canada requests that you submit the proposal to them three months before you intend to start shipping. If you are currently using an Equivalency Certificate to transport your goods, keep in mind that they do expire and must be renewed periodically which requires another submission to Transport Canada, again giving them the requested three month lead time.

What must you put on your application? 14.1 in TDG specifically lists what is required.  I received a recent version of essentially the same checklist from Transport Canada last month. Keep in mind that all information must be provided and that missing information will delay the application. Here is what they sent me:

How to Apply for a Permit of Equivalent Level of Safety

Section 14.1 of the Transportation Dangerous Goods Regulations states that an application for a Permit of Equivalent Level of Safety must contain the following information:

  1. if the applicant is an individual, the name of the individual;
  2. if the applicant is a company or an association, the name of the company or association and each association member as the name appears in letters patent, articles of incorporation or other documents that show the legal identity of the applicant;
  3. the street address of the applicant, including the postal code;
  4. the telephone number of the applicant and, if applicable, the facsimile number;
  5. where a person applies on behalf of the applicant, the name, position and business telephone number of the person and the name, position and business telephone number of the contact person identified in the documents that will accompany the permit;
  6. a description of the dangerous goods, including the shipping name, primary classification, subsidiary classification, if any, product identification number, packing group and, if the dangerous goods are in a solution or mixture, the composition of the solution or mixture and the percentage (specified by volume or weight) of each chemical;
  7. the method of packaging the dangerous goods, including a description of the means of containment and the quantity of dangerous goods in each means of containment;
  8. the modes of transport for which the permit is requested, that is by rail, road, aircraft or ship;
  9. the requirements of the Act and these Regulations that the applicant proposes not to comply with;
  10. a detailed description of the proposal for the permit, including:
    1. the length of time or schedule of activities for which the permit is requested,
    2. the manner in which the applicant will handle, offer for transport or transport the dangerous goods and how that manner will ensure a level of safety at least equivalent to that achieved by complying with the Regulations, and
    3. drawings, plans, calculations, procedures, test results and any other information necessary to support the proposal.

Applications can be forwarded to one of the following addresses:

By mail:
David Lamarche
Chief, Permits and Approvals Division,
Transport Dangerous Goods
Transport Canada
330 Sparks Street, 9th Floor
Ottawa ON K1A 0N5

By fax: (613) 993-5925
By e-mail:
Any inquiries regarding a permit application can be directed to

If you are beginning to feel daunted by the task at hand, here is my advice. Take everything step by step and talk to some of the people at Transport Canada to ask for their guidance and advice. I have picked the brains of several Transport Canada personnel and not one of them has ever given me a hard time or made things difficult on me. Their main goal is safety and if you go in with the mentality that safety is paramount, the rest should flow nicely.

If your application gets accepted, ensure that you enclose a copy of the Equivalency Certificate with your shipment so that everyone along the way who comes in contact with the packages understands how this is being shipped.

After approval, the Equivalency Certificate information will be available online.

Keep in mind that different countries have different rules and regulations.  Each of the three scenarios above has a different outcome when travelling abroad.

Scenario 1)

Even with a Canadian Equivalency Certificate, if travelling by ground to the United States, Al must make sure he is compliant with 49 CFR (specifically packing instruction 173.159), otherwise he must speak with the Department of Transportation and apply for a similar permit with them.

Scenario 2)

Even though an Equivalency Certificate is required for transport in Canada, while travelling by ground through the United States, the MRI is not considered dangerous goods. This is referenced from the DOT Ref: 99-0056.

Scenario 3)

As per the ICAO Technical Instructions, this shipment only requires approval from the appropriate authority for the state of origin. So long as it will first be loaded onto an aircraft in Canada, Transport Canada’s Equivalency Certificate is all that is required, even when flying to a different country. It is still worth double checking with the country you wish to fly into to ensure that they do not have a state variation saying differently.

If you ever do require a permit in another country, it is important to communicate with them well before your anticipated ship date as you might have to go through an application process that is similar to that of Transport Canada, but in their country, and it may take a few months to process.


  • for the MRI machine why not utilize the classification of Dangerous Goods in Machinery and avoid additional paperwork for special approvals

    • Avatar Jonathan says:

      Very good question about why not to use UN 3363, DANGEROUS GOODS IN MACHINERY to classify the MRI. Here are the conclusions my regulatory colleagues and I came up with when we originally researched it.

      UN 3363 is not in the Canadian regulations.

      This leaves us with a couple different options.

      1) See if we can make use of an exemption:
      The Canadian TDG CLR has exemption 1.29 Dangerous Goods in an Instrument or in Equipment Exemption. However, it states that the dangerous goods cannot exceed the limited quantity amount [1.29(b)(iii)] which for UN 1963, HELIUM, REFRIGERATED LIQUID, CLASS 2.2 is 0.125 L (125 mL).

      2) See if the UN Model Regulations (Orange Book) offer an entry that can be used.
      Entry UN 3363, DANGEROUS GOODS IN MACHINERY, CLASS 9 might be an option. Reading special provision 301 though, we see that it states:

      “Machinery and apparatus transported under this entry shall only contain dangerous goods which are authorized to be transported in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 3.4 (Limited quantities). The quantity of dangerous goods in machinery or apparatus shall not exceed the quantity specified in Column 7a of the Dangerous Goods List in Chapter 3.2 for each item of dangerous goods contained.”

      For UN 1963, HELIUM, REFRIGERATED LIQUID, CLASS 2.2, column 7a is 120 mL (0.120 L), similar to what is in the Canadian TDG Regulations.

      The only other piece of information to note is that in order to keep the magnet of a MRI cool, several litres of liquid helium are required. It would not be sufficient to have only 0.125 L (as in option 1) or 120 mL (as in option 2).

      Due to this limitation, an Equivalency Certificate becomes necessary.

      Here are three Equivalency Certificates that I found online from a quick search: