Thousands of shipping containers are moved across the world every day. They contain nearly every product imaginable and enable global trade to happen. Shipping containers are secure, versatile and can contain a large quantity of goods. In most cases, shipping containers are received at their destination port with the contents in good order. They have been packed to minimise the risk of goods moving around in transit. If due care and attention isn’t paid to how goods are packed it can have costly consequences. If you’ve gone to the time, cost, and trouble of shipping goods internationally, you need to ensure they’re going to be received in as good a condition as when they were packed.

What are the possible consequences of improperly loaded containers?

Containers that haven’t been loaded correctly can pose a potential risk to handlers, machinery and even marine life. It can lead to considerable economic losses for carriers and their clients. The shipper may also be liable for any accident that arises from the poor packing and transportation of goods.

How do you load a shipping container to ensure its contents are safe?

The container

Firstly, take a good look at your shipping container. Is it intact? Are there any obvious signs of wear and tear or any holes that could create issues in the shipping process? If you’re sure that the container is intact, then it’s time to collect the contents.

The goods

Are the goods properly prepared and not presenting any problems? This can be a particular issue with food and drinks and other perishables. As well as making sure that the goods themselves are intact, you also need to make sure that they’re properly labelled and that any goods that may present a danger to shippers and handlers are clearly indicated. It can sometimes be useful to take photographs of your goods, both for your own records and as a potential point of reference should any problems occur during the shipping process.

Loading the goods

Before the loading process begins it should be thoroughly planned before you start. Think about the load distribution and try to ensure that no more than half of the container contains no more than 60% of the load. As a general rule of thumb, heavier items should go on the bottom and should be distributed evenly over the floor of the container. This should help to ensure that one side or corner of the container is not disproportionately heavier than the others. Lighter cargo should be stowed on top. Any incompatible items should be properly segregated to ensure that cross-contamination doesn’t take place and that any relevant regulations are adhered to.

Secure the cargo

Securing your cargo ensures that it remains in place. This should be done when cargo items are placed tightly against each other, within the container walls. However, if the cargo doesn’t fill the entire space, this is when the cargo must be secured.

In heavy seas, the cargo within a shipping container is exposed to compressive forces, due to pitching and rolling of the vessel. As a result, the normal strain on any securing devices may be increased by as much as 100%. Clearly, it’s important that you effectively secure the cargo within the container.

The container will be carefully loaded onto the ship with the use of special container cranes using tried and tested methods.

How do you unload a shipping container?

Unloading is placing the appropriate container on a ship, chassis, truck, or any other means of transport. As with loading the container, special container cranes will be used to lift the container from the ship’s cargo hold and deck and ultimately onto the vehicle that will take it on the next part of its logistic journey. The containers may initially be stacked to facilitate the smooth running of other functions at the port before they can then be collected for transportation via the roads system by a haulier and taken on for warehousing. Upon being received at the warehouse, they will then be carefully unstuffed or devanned and appropriately stored, making use of a warehouse management system. They will then be ready for further transportation on to the end-user as and when required.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with SSO Logistics with any questions about your logistics and shipping needs.