Anyone who has looked outside of an airplane window and caught a glimpse of the baggage handlers flinging suitcases onto a moving conveyor belt has a small idea of what international cargo goes through as it is stacked, moved, dragged, dropped, pushed, and rolled on and off numerous vehicles during the shipping process. International shipping puts tremendous demands on packaged goods. In addition, examination by customs authorities puts shipments at risk for breakage, water damage, and pilferage when they are repacked poorly. Here are some tips for packing goods to withstand the rigors of international transport:
- Pack goods in strong containers that are adequately sealed with no loose contents.
- Use high-test (250 lbs per square inch) cardboard or tri-wall construction (at a minimum) for airfreight shipments.
- Block and brace contents inside ocean containers to distribute weight evenly.
- Palletize and containerize goods when possible.
- Use moisture-resistant containers, boxes, and packing material.
- Avoid writing contents or brand names on packages.
- Use straps, seals, and shrink wrapping to secure contents.
- Design boxes and containers for easy opening and closing.
- Observe any product-specific hazardous materials packing requirements.
- Clearly mark boxes with any and all lifting or handling requirements, such as “This Side Up,” “Lift Here,” “Keep Below 50˚."
Poorly packed equipment causes damage at a recent trade show
Shippers must pay particular attention to the tradeoff between packaging items securely and the additional costs they may incur in doing so. International shipments are charged by weight or volume. If the calculated dimensions by volume exceed the weight of the package, the volume is used to calculate the charges. Adding additional packing material or using a shipping container to hold several boxes at once can increase a shipment’s weight or volume. Professional packers can help customers determine the most cost effective and secure packing options.
Other considerations for a good packing strategy pertain to procedures at show site. Exhibitors may save money on freight by floor loading (without pallets) ocean containers with individually packed boxes, only to incur high surcharges from the drayage contractor for unstuffing the container at show site. In other instances, empty cardboard boxes are mistaken for trash by removal crews or damaged so badly that they cannot be used for return shipments. It can be costly to purchase packing material or have crates repaired at show site. Planning ahead with strong boxes and extra packing materials such as tape, shrink wrap, and tools can save exhibitors money and effort.