Container Packing for intermodal transportation in shipping

Efficient Container Packing for Seamless Intermodal Transportation

Container packing is the process of systematically loading cargo into shipping containers and planning to minimize the chances of cargo damage and maximize the utilization of container space. Shipping companies and carriers are logistics companies that deal with the containerization process and are responsible for loading and unloading cargo into containers. Container packaging is different for different types of cargo and depends on the varying needs of the shipment. The various methods of container packing include tier stowage, cross stowage, palletizing, lashing, bracing and blocking. Let us learn more about the importance of container packing and its process. 

What is cargo packaging?  

Cargo packing refers to preparing the goods for loading onto shipping containers to facilitate more accessible intermodal transportation across borders. Different types of containers are loaded with different types of cargo by carefully packing and placing the goods into containers. The process is supervised to ensure that the cargo is packed adequately as per the importing country’s guidelines and the cargo’s packing requirements. In cargo packaging, the shipment is carefully placed inside smaller boxes if necessary or is directly wrapped and packed for placement into containers. Container packing is also well-planned and systematic, where the shipping company or carrier may place the cargo on pallets for additional stability and balance. The shipping container is handled by workers and vehicles at multiple points and, therefore, goes through turbulence. Consequently, it is essential to strategically stack goods inside the container where the heavier goods are placed at the bottom and stacked with lighter goods.  

For example, if a shipper is transporting electrical equipment, the cargo is wrapped in shrink wrap to protect the shipment from dirt and humidity. The wrapped goods are carefully put into wooden boxes, placing the equipment to maintain the stability of the box. The boxes are then placed onto pallets in the shipping container, which helps in easy loading, unloading, and keeping the boxes in position. 

What are the benefits of container packing? 

Container packing is a part of the containerization process where container stuffing with appropriately packed cargo is accomplished. Cargo is packed into ISO standard containers following the requirements of the cargo and the importing country. The importance of cargo packing in shipping is as follows. 

  1. Securing cargo– Transportation of the shipment through various modes of transport and handling at multiple hubs and ports causes turbulence. It can lead to shifting or colliding the container’s internal contents. Container packing ensures the shipment stays positioned and does not harm the adjacent goods. 
  2. Prevents cargo damage– Dunnage and wraps are used in cargo packing to minimize potential risks of breakage, dents, or scratches in the cargo caused by container fall off or during container handling. Cargo damages can be costly and may even render the shipment valueless. 
  3. Space optimization– It becomes easier to utilize space and increase container stuffing with the maximum number of cargo in a single trip. It makes intermodal shipping more cost-efficient, especially for less-than-container load (LCL) shipping
  4. Regulatory compliance– Importing countries require strict adherence to container packing for shipping fragile and hazardous goods. Cargo packaging is a potential way of ensuring that the goods are safe and not tampered with during shipping. 
  5. Cargo and container traceability– Cargo packaging also includes labelling and tagging cargo and containers to help identify them easily. Many labels have handling instructions in case of fragile or perishable goods. It makes it easier to manage the inventory and coordinate various logistics processes. 

How are containers packed? 

Different types of shipping containers accommodate different types of cargo.  

  • The packed cargo is carefully placed on the floor of the shipping container or onto pallets systematically placed in the container.  
  • The shipment is placed away from container doors so the turbulence caused during shipping does not lead to cargo disbalance.  
  • It may cause the goods to assemble near the container door and exert internal pressure on the door.  
  • The doors are closed, and seals are installed onto the locking rods to ensure cargo security. 
  • Shipping companies must paste labels on containers to signify warning signs if the cargo is inflammable, fragile, hazardous, etc. 

Which materials are best for cargo packaging? 

  1. Cardboard boxes– One of the commonly used packing materials, cardboard boxes are a cost-effective solution for packing various cargo as they are available in different sizes and are lightweight packing materials. For example- medical supplies or dry food items. 
  2. Wooden crates– Wooden boxes are an excellent choice for lending sturdiness and strength to fragile goods. For example- marble, tiles, and electronic equipment. 
  3. Shrink wraps and stretch films– These are cargo packing materials combined with pallets or wooden crates. The goods are wrapped using shrink wraps or stretch films to protect the shipment against dust or moisture. For example- fertilizers, beverages, and iron rods. 
  4. Bubble wraps and foam– Cargo placed inside containers for transportation requires proper cushioning to help absorb any turbulence or shocks in long-distance transit. Goods are wrapped in layers of bubble wrap and foam padding to make them shock-resistant. For example- glass, painting, and sanitaryware. 
  5. Dunnage– Shipments placed side by side in wooden crates or similar boxes risk colliding with each other and damaging the entire shipment. Dunnage bags fill the empty air spaces within the container or between cargo items to prevent cargo damage caused by shifting goods from their position.

What are the best container packing methods? 

By choosing the right container packing methods, shippers can secure their cargo inside shipping containers by maximizing available space, improving cargo safety and allowing easy loading and unloading of shipping containers. A few effective container packing methods are-  

  1. Tier stowage– Cargo is stacked in horizontal layers inside the shipping container, with each layer separated by dunnage or wooden beams. Such an arrangement is suited for goods that cannot be palletized, such as drums and barrels. 
  2. Cross-stowage- Cargo is arranged in a crisscross pattern to allow space for irregularly shaped cargo and tighter packing inside the shipping container. 
  3. Palletizing– Cargo stowed onto standard-sized pallets reduces the risk of cargo damage and simplifies cargo handling for easy container loading and unloading. It also keeps the cargo above ground level to minimize any chances of moisture retention. 
  4. Bracing and blocking– Securing the cargo during transit is necessary to prevent it from shifting and pressuring the adjacent goods. Wooden braces, beams and dunnage are often used inside containers to avoid damaged cargo and maintain container stability. 
  5. Cargo lashing– Straps, chains and other lashing materials or equipment are used to hold the stacked cargo in place. Cargo stacks may swing and collapse if not correctly lashed in place. It is necessary, especially for heavy or irregularly shaped cargo.

Tips for container packing 

  1. Stowage plan– Before loading cargo into the container, it is necessary to have a plan that includes the packing method, sequence of arranging cargo and ensuring any special requirements for cargo handling. 
  2. Use the suitable size container– When going for full container load (FCL) shipments, selecting the right container size is necessary to minimize the wastage of space inside the container and avoid overstuffing. 
  3. Categorise cargo– Shipping companies must stack lightweight cargo above heavy-weight cargo. In the case of LCL shipments, cargo to be unloaded first must be placed near the container door. 
  4. Label cargo– Cargo labelling is essential to cargo packing as it helps quickly identify cargo. 
  5. Use load-bearing beams– Vertical cargo stowage is an efficient way of utilizing container space. Load-bearing beams help hold the vertical stacks of cargo in place. 

These are a few ways shippers and logistics companies can optimize container packing and minimize the chances of cargo damage caused during the intermodal transportation of goods. 

LOTUS Containers is a global seller and leaser of different types of shipping containers available in all dimensions, including 53ft intermodal containers. We have partnered with more than 300+ container depots to make container leasing and selling globally easier.

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