The process of shipping goods in cargo containers is a vital part of any supply chain. Transportation in any way, be it rail, road, sea or air can go array, as there are so many unanticipated situations which can cause cargo damage. Ensuring the safe delivery of shipments is the main goal of any container shipping company. Every company should ensure that they follow the right container stuffing practices to avoid cargo damages.

However, even the most meticulously planned goods shipment can go wrong in many ways. Cargo damage is a disaster that not only results in product and financial losses but also destroys client-customer relationships.

Container stuffing refers to loading goods on a shipping container that one transports from one place to another. This process is far more complicated than it sounds. The steel boxes should be stable with the quantity of cargo and evenly distributed. This involves careful planning while also taking into consideration the de-stuffing process. Certain types of goods cannot be transported together, so that should be kept in mind for safety purposes.

What are the most common causes of container damage?

Usually, there are a lot of complaints regarding cargo damages. The shipping process is a lengthy ordeal. The most common types of container damage are-

  • Physical damage
  • Water damage
  • Contamination Damage
  • Reefer damage
  • Infestation Damage

There are many circumstances that lead to the freight being damaged at some point while it is in transit. These reasons can vary, but some of the most common reasons for cargo damage are:

Lack of Proper Packaging

Often shippers neglect the role of packing in cargo shipments. The freight should be packed using the proper equipment and packaging material for secure delivery of the cargo shipment. This is commonly found in the shipment of heavy goods, like steel, granite, etc. Shipments containing delicate goods like glass or clay should also be packed properly for their safe transportation.

Incorrect Container Types

There are a large variety of container types provided by shipping container companies used to transport cargo. Different goods require a specific container type in which it can be stored for further transportation. The shippers have to ensure that the most suitable shipping unit type is used for the transportation of the cargo. Shipping containers have many different categories, like pallet-wide, flat rack shipping containers, platform units, etc.

Unsuitable temperatures

Temperature-controlled shipping containers, i.e. reefer containers are extremely vital for the transportation of perishable goods. The exporter of cargo has to ensure that the cargo units are in perfect working conditions and their temperature-controlling features are in perfect working conditions.

Improper stuffing and lashing

The right way of container stuffing is essential. Uneven weight distribution and constant shifting of the cargo is a common cause of freight damage. Subsequently, the shipping boxes tend to fall off, resulting in major financial losses for all parties involved. This is not good for the importers as well as exporters and affects client-business relationships.

What is the stuffing and de-stuffing of shipping containers?

Container stuffing refers to the process of loading the goods onto the cargo unit for further transportation to their destined location. The goods are moved to an ideal freight station, only after that, they are unloaded into the warehouse.

After the goods are stored in the warehouse, the custom clearance procedures are carried out. Consequently, the goods are loaded back into the cargo unit for further transportation.

Container de-stuffing is the exact opposite of container stuffing. It means unloading the cargo from the maritime shipping container.

How container stuffing plays a significant role in avoiding freight damages?

Reports suggest that many cases of cargo damage could be avoided if proper container stuffing techniques are followed. One can easily prevent cargo loss if some instructions are followed carefully. The stakeholders and shippers should have detailed information about the following details:

  • For palletized cargo, there should be proper space utilization inside the cargo unit. If there are empty spaces between pallets, they can be occupied with fillers or airbags
  • There should be even distribution of the cargo weight inside the steel shipping container.
  • Store heavy items evenly inside the cargo unit so that no problems arise while the shipment is in transit.

Step-by-step right container stuffing practices to avoid cargo damages:

1. Choosing the right shipping box 

It is crucial to consider the cargo type and category when you are making a decision while choosing the right shipping container. The shippers have to understand the freight requirements, size, and weight conditions, and if the goods require additional features like temperature control as well.

Many-a-times it happens that shippers tend to resort to negligence by using the more economical option, thus ignoring the requirements of the products for transportation. This results in damage to the cargo as well as the shipping container.

2. Pre-outlining cargo stuffing

A proper layout can turn out to be beneficial for the shipper before they actually transport their shipment all over the world. This layout acts as a roadmap while filling the container with cargo. You can easily take the reference as to which shipping unit you should place inside the shipping vessel depending upon the size, weight, etc. It also helps in avoiding any mishaps that can occur like the toppling of shipping boxes from the vessel.

3. Use of proper tools and machines for lifting & loading

There should be proper usage of tools and machines for lifting and loading goods in the right manner. How do you secure cargo in a shipping container? Place special equipment like lift gate, forklift, ramp, conveyer, etc. in the right position. Specialists should be the ones setting these machines as they can prove to be fatal.

You should locate forklift openings facing the door of the cargo boxes. This is an easy option to remove them during the container de-stuffing process. A lift clearance should be available at the top to make the handling of the forklift more convenient.

4. Stacking cargoes weight-wise

It is essential to adjust freight according to weight in order to avoid cargo damage. Following certain tactics is crucial for this. Distribute the goods evenly on the container floor to avoid heavy load concentration on one part of the surface.

5. Stacking cargoes area-wise

You should not place the cargo boxes with heavier goods on the extreme sides of the container. This can result in damage to the container during the transportation process. Always place heavy goods below lighter cargo as it ensures that the center of gravity is low.

6. Right packaging

The shippers need to protect the merchandise before shipping it off to its destination. The right packaging material and equipment are essential to secure the goods inside a maritime shipping container. You can make use of certain techniques like bracing and shoring to keep cargo in place. Another method can be to not over-stress securing devices that can destroy goods stored inside.

7. Using cargo separators/dunnage

Dunnage refers to specialized packing material used to fill the container, as a means of added protection. This prevents the damage of goods while they are in transit. Shippers use materials like bubble wrap, shredded or crumpled paper, inflated air packs, among many others for dunnage.

8. The right arrangement as per loading and unloading priority

Arrange the cargo boxes as per their dimensions and weight. There should a center of gravity maintained inside the shipping vessel. In the case of groupage shipping, the shippers have to load the cargo near the container door that they have to deliver first. This facilitates a smooth shipment delivery process.

9. Keeping labels & symbols front-facing

The labels of the shipping containers should always be front-facing. The labels include all the details about the shipment, like names of buyer and seller, Pro-forma invoice, bill of lading, and other essential documents. This is a more efficient method to load and unload the cargo boxes from the vessel. 

10. Avoiding extra empty spaces

No extra spaces must be present inside while placing the cargo boxes in the shipping vessels. Layout a well-devised structure for strategic placement of cargo. This keeps the freight intact and does not give rise to any mishaps that can destroy the goods.

How useful is a container-stuffing calculator?

A container stuffing calculator is a very effective tool to make an estimate of the cargo contents. It helps you to draw a layout regarding how you can stuff a shipping container. It allows shippers to calculate how many products of the same dimension and weight can fit inside a shipping container.

Which cargoes are more prone to damages?

“Dangerous Cargo”, or “Hazardous Goods” means materials that tend to pose a significant risk to people, the environment, or property during transportation. They exist in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms. They can be colorless, odorless, hot, or cold. These hazardous materials can be corrosive, flammable, explosive, toxic, or allergenic. These goods often include corrosive chemicals, batteries, daily use items like liquor, hair spray, perfumes, etc.

You have to handle these goods with utmost care as they are dangerous in nature. There are special cargo units that are perfect for carrying such hazardous material as you cannot transfer them in normal ones.

Summing Up

For safe and secure delivery of shipments, following these measures are absolutely necessary. Even though this entire process sounds very risky, proper procedure and communication go a long way in ensuring safe transportation. Shipping damage is unavoidable in many circumstances. However, following the correct container stuffing practices to avoid cargo damages can go a long way in ensuring safe cargo deliveries. Safe delivery of cargo shipments is of utmost priority.

Choosing the right shipping container is vital to ensure that there are the least chances of cargo damage occurring. You can purchase shipping containers from a container marketplace. BOXXPORT is an e-commerce shipping container trading platform where buyers and sellers can buy and sell cargo containers.