Sample Transport

Biological Sample Transport SOP





Preparation of Package


Packaging must be solidly constructed and closed to prevent any loss of contents that might be caused under normal conditions of carriage. The packaging must consist of at least three components

1.Select appropriate outer packaging

The outer packaging must be of good quality, strong enough to withstand the shocks and loadings normally encountered during transport. A solid cardboard or fibreboard box with internal polystyrene box insert is ideal for transport. If the package is of a temperature sensitive nature the outer packaging is the container for any coolant materials required for the consignment. Therefore, its integrity is paramount and should be thoroughly checked before being used. If ice is used, the outside packaging or overpack must be checked to be leakproof.

If dry ice is used, the packaging must be designed and constructed to permit the release of carbon dioxide gas to prevent a build-up of pressure that could rupture the packaging

External surfaces should be clean and clear and have sufficient space to allow the appropriate UN specification along with the proper shipping name or other designation TO be displayed clearly. If there is sufficient surface area available please ensure all labels are on the same side of the package.

For Category B sample transport, one surface of the outer packaging must have a dimension of 100mm x 100mm


 2. Select Secondary Packaging

The secondary packaging; should be packaging material that can be properly closed and leak proof such as a sealed bag or container and allow sufficient absorbent material to be placed inside it to soak up any spill or leakage from the primary receptacle. The Centre holds a supply of both sealable plastic bags that are pressure test compliant and large stocks of appropriate wadding/absorbent material. These are available from CVS Lab Management

For Category B sample transport secondary packaging should be 95kPa pressure compliant


 3. Select Primary Receptacle The primary receptacle(s); the tube, sample container or bottle that contains the item and any preservative required. Primary receptacle should have a strong secure fitting lid to prevent any leakage. Before packing the individual primary receptacles should be checked for any cracks or damage to ensure that exposure to high pressure or very low temperatures during transport will not affect their integrity.

If multiple fragile primary receptacles are placed in a single secondary packaging, they must be either individually wrapped or separated to prevent contact between them.

The primary receptacle(s) must be leak-proof and for air transport must not contain more than 1 L of liquid per item

It is recommended for Category B samples that where possible primary receptacle closures should be secured with a secondary means if possible. Seal tape, Parafilm or other sealant.


For Category B sample transport the primary receptacle should also be 95kPa pressure compliant


In summary, primary receptacles must be packed in secondary packaging and secondary packaging must be secured in outer packaging with suitable cushioning material. Any leakage of the contents must not compromise the integrity of the cushioning material or of the outer packaging.


Paperwork Required

 In addition to the preparation of the samples for transport there is a requirement for the correct information and paperwork to accompany the parcel

 Prepare an itemized list of the contents of the package. A compliance statement should be in the description of goods that details exactly what is in it e.g. UN3373 Biological Substances on net weight Dry Ice x No. of Packages (edit as appropriate for what is being sent) This should also include the number and type of samples that you are transporting and any relevant safety information regarding the consignment.

This paperwork should be enclosed between the secondary packaging and the outer packaging just before closure of the item for collection.


The names and addresses of both the consignee and consignor should be clearly displayed in permanent ink on the outer packaging surface. Preferably this should be contained within a waterproof envelope or plastic window to prevent loss of visual clarity during the consignment’s journey. This allows any checks required during transit to be made with the consignee or consignor. It is also a good idea to include a telephone number and email address for both to be included for ease of contact.



Labelling Requirements:

All packages are required by international law to have the appropriate UN labelling for the contents within and we strongly advise that no sample is sent from the CVS without first checking with the CVS Lab Management team about your package, what its contents are and where you want to send it


All labels are available in sticker format from the CVS Lab Management team and we can advise you on the appropriate labels for the contents of your package as well as the best site for these on the walls of the package.

In short, these stickers are of a diamond pattern and are as follows

For Category B biological samples, non-infectious samples, the following sticker is required


Category B Sticker


For packages that will need kept frozen and containing dry ice, a Class 9 (Dry Ice label), UN1845 and a secondary label outlining the weight in kg of the dry ice in the parcel should be attached to the outer layer of the package in a clearly visible area.


Examples of Class 9 (Dry Ice) Stickers




If for any reason you think your package does not conform within the Category B regulations as outlined above or contains preservative solutions that are not covered by this SOP then you should seek advice from the CVS Lab Management Team immediately before preparing any package for transport.



Assembling the Package

When you have completed all of the above steps and have checked that you have all of the correct items in place using the CVS Marking and Labelling checklist you can now assemble the consignment in preparation for pick up by the courier.

  1. Place primary receptacles checked for integrity in secondary packaging with sufficient absorbent material for items being sent.
  2. Seal secondary packaging with primary receptacles inside and place into outer package.
  3. If appropriate, at this stage add the dry ice to the parcel ensuring that the actual weight of dry ice used is recorded to write on the outside of the package after closure.
  4. Place detailed itemised list of package contents in a waterproof envelope and place between secondary and outer packaging
  5. Visually check all parts of packaging are still intact following handling and packing and when happy seal the package with parcel tape
  6. Ensure all relevant information regarding the consignee and consignor are clearly noted on the exterior of the package either on courier waybill or clearly printed out and attached and include name and number of responsible person where possible. As above a compliance statement should be in the description of goods that details exactly what is in it eg. UN3373, Biological substance category B x no. of packages

           UN1845, Dry Ice, net weight of dry ice  or            UN3373 Biological Substances x No. of Packages on UN1845       Dry Ice, net weight (edit as appropriate for what is being sent)

7. Attach all relevant UN Hazard labels as required and instructed and ensure proper shipping name is clearly displayed. If there is sufficient surface area available please ensure all labels are on the same side.

8. Contact courier company and arrange for package to be collected for delivery.



Prepared by Neil Johnston,

CVS Biological Materials Transport Adviser,

November 2020


13/04/2021: Further clarification of substances description under point 6 of Assembling the Package