Packing Your Products For Shipping

Exporters should be aware of the demands that international shipping puts on packaged goods. Exporters should keep four potential problems in mind when designing an export shipping crate: breakage, moisture, pilferage and excess weight.

Generally, cargo is carried in containers, but sometimes it is still shipped as breakbulk cargo. Besides the normal handling encountered in domestic transportation, a breakbulk shipment transported by ocean freight may be loaded aboard vessels in a net or by a sling, conveyor, or chute, that puts an added strain on the package. During the voyage, goods may be stacked on top of or come into violent contact with other goods. Overseas, handling facilities may be less sophisticated than in the United States and the cargo could be dragged, pushed, rolled, or dropped during unloading, while moving through customs, or in transit to the final destination.

Moisture is a constant concern because condensation may develop in the hold of a ship even if it is equipped with air conditioning and a dehumidifier. Another aspect of this problem is that cargo may also be unloaded in precipitation, or the foreign port may not have covered storage facilities. Theft and pilferage are added risks.

Buyers are often familiar with the port systems overseas, so they will often specify packaging requirements. If the buyer does not specify this, be sure the goods are prepared using these guidelines:

  • Pack in strong containers, adequately sealed and filled when possible.
  • To provide proper bracing in the container, regardless of size, make sure the weight is evenly distributed.
  • Goods should be palletized and when possible containerized.
  • Packages and packing filler should be made of moisture-resistant material.
  • To avoid pilferage, avoid writing contents or brand names on packages. Other safeguards include using straps, seals, and shrink wrapping.
  • Observe any product-specific hazardous materials packing requirements.

One popular method of shipment is to use containers obtained from carriers or private leasing companies. These containers vary in size, material, and construction and accommodate most cargo, but they are best suited for standard package sizes and shapes. Also, refrigerated and liquid bulk containers are usually readily available. Some containers are no more than semi-truck trailers lifted off their wheels, placed on a vessel at the port of export and then transferred to another set of wheels at the port of import.

Normally, air shipments require less heavy packing than ocean shipments, though they should still be adequately protected, especially if they are highly pilferable. In many instances, standard domestic packing is acceptable, especially if the product is durable and there is no concern for display packaging. In other instances, high-test (at least 250 pounds per square inch) cardboard or tri-wall construction boxes are more than adequate.

Finally, because transportation costs are determined by volume and weight, specially reinforced and lightweight packing materials have been developed for exporting. Packing goods to minimize volume and weight while reinforcing them may save money, as well as ensure that the goods are properly packed. It is recommended that a professional firm be hired to pack the products if the supplier is not equipped to do so. This service is usually provided at a moderate cost.


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