Opened shipping container with cargo spilling out.

Packaging Pain – Avoid Damaged Goods in Transit

One of the most common complaints we hear about relates to damaged goods; most of the time this could have been avoided with better packaging.

Before starting your next shipment you should think about everything the goods have to go through to get from one country to the other. As an exporter this will help you determine the best way to pack your goods, as an importer this is something you should discuss with your supplier before the shipment leaves the warehouse.

There are enough videos on the internet to show that not everything goes to plan, whether it’s an overloaded forklift tipping over, a container falling off a truck or even a ship; but it doesn’t have to be as extreme as that for goods to get knocked around and damaged.

If you think about the shipment of goods from one country to another and everything that it goes through you’ll soon realise that it gets knocked around quite a bit on the journey. General goods moved with international shipping involves heavy equipment and being moved around at speed, not gently manouvered with kid gloves.

Obviously the degree that the shipment can get knocked around will vary depending on the goods themselves and each have their own challenges.

Risks to Consider

  • Goods being hand loaded / unloaded – It doesn’t take people handling the cartons roughly for the goods to move around inside
  • Cartons being stacked on top of each other – The weight of the stacked goods could crush the carton and cause damage
  • Forklifts moving pallets of goods around – When pallets are moved around and stacked closely bumping is inevitable
  • Goods shifting in transport vehicles – Rough roads, stop start traffic, sharp corners; all of these can cause the contents to move around
  • Containers moving around at sea – Watch any video of a container ship in rough seas and it’s easy to see why goods can shift around so much

From the list above you can see that the shipment moves around a lot and inadequate packaging means that goods could potentially be damaged in that process.

If you’re doing an LCL or airfreight shipment it’s also worth considering what happens if someone elses goods fall on or lean against yours.

Reduce the Risk

When preparing your goods for shipment consider the following to increase the chances your goods will arrive in good condition:

  • How strong is the carton? – Avoid crushing, will the cartons be stacked, will pallets be stacked on top of each other? 
  • How secure is the packaging tape? – Avoid loss, will the carton come open if it’s been knocked around?
  • How will it be packed? – Can the goods move around inside the carton? Would it survive being thrown hand to hand in a load / unload?
  • Are there multiple items in a carton? – Can the goods rub against each other causing wear?
  • Is there room in the container for the shipment to move around? – If so see if it can be lashed down so it doesn’t shift in rough seas
  • Is the shipment balanced? – Pack the goods so the weight is distributed evenly so it won’t easily tip when being moved around

Other Considerations

    • Goods packed in crates or on pallets are easier to handle and reduce the risk of damage
    • Check the cartons / pallets clearly marked with the required hazardous markings as well as clear identifiers that they are part of your shipment
    • The main factor in shipping cost is weight, see if you can use a lighter weight packing material
    • Don’t display brands or explicit contents to reduce the chance of theft
    • Shipping containers aren’t always water tight, if you have water sensitive goods it might be worthwhile taking extra precautions with wrapping
    • Marine insurance isn’t expensive and can cover your costs in the event that something does go wrong – You can read more about it HERE