How to pack exports to survive international shipping

Once it is packed and has left your premises your precious exported cargo has to endure significant hardships before it is received by the expectant buyer. This includes the loading and offloading of a number of transportation vessels by hand, conveyer belts, chutes or slings, being stacked below other packages, being exposed to high or low temperatures, being exposed to humid conditions or rough handling when moving through customs. Proper packing can help ensure that your buyer gets the cargo in the same condition as it was sent without significantly raising costs. 

When packing products for exports there are five important considerations that should be taken into account in order to either save costs or prevent loss. These are: optimising weight, optimising volume, preventing breakage, safe-guarding against moisture and preventing pilferage.

Optimising for volume and weight

Freight fees are calculated based on the volume or weight of your cargo, therefore packing to optimise volume and weight can decrease freight costs. Aim for light weight packaging materials that still offer adequate protection. Air shipments fees tend to be more weight sensitive than sea shipment fees, fortunately air shipments may require less heavy packaging. Depending on the type of cargo shipped you may be able to use standard domestic packaging.

Knowing the dimensions of pallets and shipping containers and planning package sizes to prevent open space can reduce total costs. Pallet bases typically are either 120 x 80 cm or 120 x 100 cm. If you are sending goods airfreight it is recommended that the height not exceed 158cm.

Shipping container standard sizes differ slightly, usually by only a few millimetres, depending on the container’s manufacturer. There are also a number of non-standard containers so best to double check the container’s internal dimensions with your supplier before planning your packing. A standard 20-foot container is typically around 5.9m x 2.38m x 2.34m and a standard 40-foot container is typically around 12.01m x 2.38m x 2.33m. The maximum height of a package should not exceed the height of the containers door which is about 228cm for GP container and 258cm for HC containers. Practical information on how to do this is given in our YouTube video on how to pack containerised cargo.

Preventing breakage

Packaging material should be strong enough to prevent damage from rough handling. Ensure that packages are properly filled in order to prevent cargo moving around inside the packaging. Where possible weight should be evenly distributed to prevent toppling. Palletized and containerized cargo tend to be less prone to breakage. If you are packing your own container an option is to nail unstable cargo to the wooden floor of the container or to fill empty gaps with safety inflatable bags. LCL (less than a container load) cargo requires additional precautions when packing as it is subject to a lot more handling and is stowed into containers where there is a variety of different cargo. If your cargo consists of hazardous or fragile goods you will need to follow specific guidelines for packing those goods.

Safe-guarding against moisture

Sea freight in particular needs to be safe guarded against excess moisture. Condensation may occur in the hull of the ship or cargo may be offloaded in humid conditions where it may absorb moisture from the air. In order to safe guard against this risk opt for using packages and packing filler made of moisture-resistant material. A light test can be requested for to check whether a container is water proof. When standing inside a container after it is sealed no light should be able to enter the container. If light can enter so can moisture and the container should be repaired.

Preventing pilferage.

Packages should be properly sealed to prevent prying eyes from peeping into a package. Avoid writing the contents of the cargo or any brand name on the package. Rather use coding to mark the packages. Straps, seals or shrink wrapping can also be used to prevent packages from being opened.

Even if all the above is taken into account accidents causing product damage do still occur. You can further safeguard yourself by taking out proper marine insurance.

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