Pack Your Container Properly

Pack Your Container Properly

I can hear this cry loud and clear from many Insurance companies, P&I Clubs, Transporters, Importers and Shipping Lines and all within good reason too..

There are innumerable cases of damage to cargo, containers, personnel, lifting equipment and ships due to improper packing of cargo into containers..

Cargo damage can take many forms such as Physical, Wet, Contamination, Temperature related etc..

As per UK P&I Club, 25% of the cargo claims that they receive is due to physical damage.. What is physical damage you may ask..??

If your cargo arrives at the destination looking like below, it is physical damage, most likely due to improper, incorrect, insufficient packing methods or overloading of containers..

When the container is on board a ship and the ship is sailing, there are 6 ways in which the ship can move as shown below.. When the ship moves, so does the container and the cargo inside the container..

pack your cargo properly

Each of these movements causes a different kind of stress on the cargo packed inside the container and if there is movement of cargo inside the container, there is a great chance of it damaging the container and even coming out of the container..

Let me give you an example that a lot of us can relate to.. You are in the back seat of a car and you are not wearing your seat belt and the driver hits a speed bump at 80 km an hour.. Most likely you will be thrown up from your seat and hit the roof of the car causing possible injury/damage and definite pain..

Now imagine the coils in Image 6, 7 and the granite blocks in Image 10 above, moving inside the container when the ship is undergoing a heaving motion (similar to hitting a speed bump in a fast car) on the rough seas..

In terms of a ship rolling, ships have been recorded with rolling movements of up to 40 degrees, so you can visualise those coils and the granite blocks moving inside the container 40 degrees from side to side hitting the side walls with force.. Some of those coils and blocks could be 5 tons upwards each..

In Image 9 you can see the impact on the side wall of the container caused by the improper stowage of the granite blocks in Image 10 and in Image 11 you can see how a granite block has shot through the container onto the truck due to improper securing of the block inside the container..

A freight container is designed to protect your cargo and has several options for you to secure your cargo for transit.. You can use below techniques to secure your goods:

Wooden container floorFor anchoring with wedges and timber connectors
Internal wallsTo support lightweight goods
Bull rings (eyelets) and lashing barsAttaching points for lashing ropes, wires, chains, steel strapping, span-sets, etc
Corrugated steel walls in open-top containersCrossbeams may be anchored in the corrugation
Wooden beams and planksFor shoring and relieving pressure vertically and horizontally
Intermediate decks and wallsFor loading at different levels and for separation
Bars or rods movable vertically or horizontallyFor securing the load in sections
NetsTo secure fragile cargoes
Air bags (inflatable dunnage)To absorb sudden impacts and to prevent the load from shifting
Timber connectorsTo secure pallets, skids and cases to the container floor
Rope, wire, steel-strips, terylene straps, span-setsTo fix the load to bull rings or lashing bars
Blocks of styropor, corrugated paper, used tires, empty palletsTo block off empty spaces
Corner postsSuitable for securing by bracing

Few other important factors to consider when packing your cargo is to

  • plan the stowage of the cargo in the container
  • ensure that all container weight limitations of the container are met as per the markings on the container as there are consequences of weight mis-declaration
  • distribute the weight equally inside the container taking care not to exceed permissible weight concentrations per square foot of deck
  • avoid concentrating heavy weights at one side or one end
  • stow heaviest items on the bottom for stability
  • box, crate or place on cradle the heavy items
  • ensure that incompatible cargo is not mixed in the container (like mixing clothing with
  • ensure that cargo that is susceptible to leakage or spillage is not stowed on the top of other cargo
  • observe hazardous packing guidelines

What I have mentioned above is just a small example of the types of damage that could happen if you do not pack your container properly.. If you have any doubts on the best practices to pack your container, I would strongly recommend you use a professional packing warehouse or packing company to do this job and ensure that your cargo withstands all of the above and reaches its destination safely..

Given below are links to some very useful guides you can use to pack your container properly.. This will be very useful especially for packing depots, warehouses and exporters who have their own warehouses doing the packing..

  1. IMO/ILO/UNECE – Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code) – January 2014
  2. International Labour Organization – Safety in the supply chain in relation to packing of containers
  3. Container Matters by UK P&I Club
  4. Cargo securing in containers – Transport Information Services from Cargo Loss prevention information from German Marine Insurers
  5. Container Transportation – More Than A Coloured Box
  6. A Basic packing guide
  7. How to pack a marine container
  8. Hapag Lloyd Container Packing Brochure
  9. Also view this video “Any Fool Can Stuff a Container” by UK P&I club which shows the stresses that the cargo inside the container goes through during its journey by road, by sea, by rail etc and the end result when the cargo is not packed into containers properly.. Don’t miss this video..


This article was originally posted on Shipping and Freight Resource.