Container Loading: Types, Tips, and Techniques

Container loading methods, including tips and best practices

Container loading is a fundamental part of the containerization process, where different types of cargo are adequately secured inside the designated container. Worldwide shipping includes cargo transportation for long distances, where the container is handled using various personnel, machines and equipment. Intermodal transport causes a change of the mode of transport during transit. Cargo shifting is a potential risk that occurs inside the container due to turbulence caused during transportation or handling. Therefore, it is essential to properly secure and brace the cargo intact in its position to avoid cargo damage. An efficient container loading plan helps place the cargo into the container based on weight, size, and shape. Let us learn about the techniques and tips for container loading.  

What is container loading? 

The transportation of goods across the global supply chain is performed by loading them in shipping containers and then sending them through different modes of transport using roads, rail, planes, and trains. The shipping containers are built to ISO standards and can be used for intermodal transportation. Depending on the type, size, weight, and cargo volume, the shipper chooses an appropriate shipping container to transport goods. The goods are loaded into the designated shipping containers at transportation hubs, container depots, or container terminals. Container loading is placing and packing goods into shipping containers in a planned, systematic and orderly manner. 

Container loading aims to maximize space utilization inside the shipping container to avoid overstuffing or excess leftover space that can risk cargo safety during transit. Container loading is a vital process in containerization that boosts international trade. The containers are packed to endure the pressure of container handling at various ports and transportation hubs during intermodal transit. Efficient container loading helps optimize further logistics operations such as container ship stowage. It reduces the risk of cargo damage caused due to cargo slippage inside containers due to the impact of cargo handling.  

Purpose of efficient container loading 

Efficient container loading helps in serving logistics and transportation processes. The purpose of container loading is as follows – 

  1. Optimizing shipping rates – In the case of cargo consolidation, proper container loading helps maximize space utility and fit in as many shipments as possible without overstuffing the container. 
  2. Timely delivery – If the container is loaded in an organized manner, the container unloading process becomes much more agile and seamless, leading to timely delivery. In the case of cargo consolidation, where the cargo is destined for different ports, systematic loading facilitates the unloading at different destinations. 
  3. Ensures cargo safety – Container loading ensures proper cargo packing and placement into the containers that are stuffed with dunnage and packing material for the extra spaces. It helps prevent cargo collisions and slippage during transportation of cargo handling turbulences. 
  4. Regulatory complianceContainer inspection during container loading ensures that the cargo is placed inside the container, taking all necessary measures and adhering to ISO regulatory compliance to delays in customs clearances. 
  5. Retains container integrity – Proper container loading prevents container damage caused by the overstuffing of goods that may pressure the doors. Cargo collisions with container walls can also cause dents or tears. Therefore, it is essential to load cargo into shipping containers appropriately. 

What are the types of techniques in container loading? 

The various techniques of container loading plans depend on the type of container being loaded. 

  1. Using pallets – Cargo is placed on standardized pallets to keep them at a height from the container floor and follow a systematic arrangement of goods onto containers. The wooden or plastic pallets loaded with cargo are placed inside the shipping container. Palletizing facilitates easy stacking and cargo handling during container loading and unloading. 
  2. Ro/Ro loading – Cargo with wheels, such as automobiles that can be rolled off or rolled into the containers, are placed inside the container with the help of a ramp that facilitates rolling. 
  3. Direct loading – Loose cargo, such as grains, are loaded into bulk containers without packing. The hatches on the top of the container are used for pouring the cargo inside. 
  4. Manual loading – For lightweight cargo packed inside boxes, laborers manually load the boxes into the containers and place them based on a fixed stowage plan. 
  5. Bracing – Once the goods are loaded inside the containers and secured in their places bracing them to ensure that they do not shift from their place during transit. Ropes, cables, wires, and wooden bars brace the container and secure the cargo.  

Challenges in container loading  

The challenges in loading goods into shipping containers are as follows- 

  1. Weight distribution – It is essential to effectively balance the cargo’s weight inside the container. Irregularly shaped goods of varied sizes are difficult to handle and balance inside the container. Uneven weight distribution affects container stability and can lead to containers falling off the stacks during transportation.  
  2. Time constraints – Tight shipping schedules make it challenging to load containers within time manually. In such cases, shipping companies overlook compliance and regulatory standards, leading to delays in customs clearances.  
  3. Variety of goods – Shipping companies transport all kinds of cargo, including fragile, hazardous and temperature-sensitive cargo. It takes more time to handle these goods as they require specialized equipment, and the regulatory standards are often strict. Failure to properly load containers with such goods can lead to cargo damage and economic losses.  
  4. Insufficient resources – Container loading delays are mainly caused by the unavailability of resources such as cranes, forklifts, labor, etc., on time. The time taken for container loading delays documentation and customs clearances and can lead to container rollover in shipping.  
  5. Lack of trained personnel – Different types of cargo require different types of container loading. Operating the equipment, machines and vehicles for container loading is also a task. Lack of experienced and trained personnel can cause delays or even lead to cargo damage during handling.  

Tips for container loading 

  1. Create a stowage plan – By knowing the dimensions, weight, volume and type of cargo, shipping companies must create a cargo stowage plan for efficient container loading. 
  2. Ensure resource availability – Based on the cargo stowage blueprint, plan out the equipment, machines, laborers and vehicles needed for cargo handling. Ensure that all the resources are available at the time of container loading.  
  3. Packing material – Container loading must be done following the correct cargo packing methods, such as pallets, dunnage, braces, and ropes, to secure the contents of the container in place. It prevents the goods from shifting from their place.  
  4. Weight management – Heavier and sturdier goods must be placed at the bottom, followed by lighter cargo stacked up on top. It helps maintain stability inside the container.  
  5. Regulatory compliance – Adhere to weight limits, safety standards and specialized regulations for hazardous, fragile, and temperature-sensitive goods. Ensure that the personnel handling the cargo are trained and skilled.  
  6. Use technology – Automation in container loading has led to easing container loading and minimizing delays and errors caused by manual handling. Automated robots and vehicles help bring goods to the loading center, stacking them carefully inside containers.  

These are a few benefits, tips and techniques of container loading that can help minimize delays and maximize operational efficiency while loading shipping containers.  

LOTUS Containers is a marketer of shipping containers across the globe. We sell and lease a wide range of containers, including 53 ft intermodal and reefer containers. You can contact us for new and old shipping containers based on your cargo requirements.

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