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Shipping Magnets: Understanding the Rules

By Shalea Hardison

Shipping magnets safely might be a little more complicated than you realize. In today’s age of instant gratification, there are still a few times that our products just can’t be shipped by air.

Because of their ability to interfere with the navigation and electronic equipment on planes, many industrial magnets, magnetic assemblies and strong rare earth magnets cannot be shipped via air.

Whenever possible we prefer to ship magnets by ground transportation, because magnets shipped via air will be classified as Dangerous Goods if not properly packed to block their magnetism. Additionally, many carriers will not accept magnets for air shipments.

There are few guidelines that dictate how magnets are packaged and what is deemed safe to ship by air

The Rules for Shipping Magnets

Magnets and magnetic devices can be shipped by air if the following criteria are met:

  • "For carriage by aircraft, any package which has a magnetic field of more than 0.00525 gauss measured at 4.5 m (15 feet) from any surface of the package.”  – Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Dept. of Transportation (PHMSA) rule 173.21 (d).
  • If the maximum field strength observed at 7 feet is less than .002 gauss, or there is no significant compass deflection, the package is not restricted as “Magnetized Material” per the FAA and the IATA.

Packing Magnets for Shipping

That can be a lot of magnetic field to block if you consider a magnet with 100 lb. of pull. In some cases it can be accomplished by shielding the magnets with specially designed covers, by using padding or cardboard shredding, or by creating a steel lined box. All of these take extra packing time and material, and add to the weight of the shipment. Additional shipping fees will apply.

The PHMSA and IATA also provide guidelines for packing magnets for air shipments:

  • IATA Packing Instruction 953 states magnetized material will be accepted only when:
    • Devices such as magnetrons and light meters have been packed so that the polarities of the individual units oppose one another
    • Permanent magnets, when possible, have keeper bars installed
    • The magnetic field strength at a distance of 4.6 m (15 ft) from any point on the surface of the assembled consignment:
      • Does not exceed 0.418 A/m (0.00525 gauss), or
      • Produces a magnetic compass deflection of 2 degrees or less
  • The FAA and PHMSA both require training and ongoing documentation of training records for employees who package any dangerous goods articles

Proper documentation and labeling must be provided for any shipment that will be classified as dangerous goods or magnetic materials. We are experts in shipping magnets and will professionally handle the shipping process, including any documentation preparation. However, if you plan to re-package or re-ship magnetic materials yourself, be aware that shipping magnets via air classifies them as Dangerous Goods. As such, proper paperwork and labeling is required. Your carrier can provide you with these documents.

Shipping magnets probably isn’t something you’ve thought about; it’s okay, we do. If you have questions about how your order will arrive, please contact our Magnet Experts for more information.

Additional Resources:

Environmental Resource Center (ERC) Columbia Research

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