Shipping containers Seals

The journey of a shipping container from the moment it is loaded by the carriers at the port of origin until it arrives at its destination is a long one.

Therefore, it requires the cooperation of the various professionals responsible for planning, organising and implementing the different parts of the logistics chain, with a clear objective: to ensure that freight arrives on time and on budget.

However, this would not be possible without the so-called container seal. In this article, we will talk about this indispensable element in maritime transport – container seals.

What is the container seal?

A container seal is a ‘one-time door lock’, usually attached to the back of the container.

It indicates that the cargo has been inspected and positioned in accordance with the owner‘s purposes and that it cannot be tampered with during carriage.

In addition, it is also used to inform that no hazardous or illegal substances are allowed inside the container and that the container has been properly closed.

The importance of container seals

The container seal is placed at the port of origin and shall not be tampered with or broken during ocean freight until arrival at the port of destination.

This guarantees both the shipper and the receiver that the cargo has not been tampered with, as well as deterring theft and access to the cargo by any unauthorized person.

Types of container seals and container seal regulations

There are different types of container seals. There are bolt seals, padlock seals, metal seals and other less common ones.

When choosing a seal for the container, usually it is important to consider the destination of the goods.

After choosing the seal, you should make sure that it complies with the ISO PAS 1772 charter. Although it is true that each shipping company has its own standards on container sealing, most of them share the same protocols.

Regardless of these standards, all shipping lines must comply with the security regulations established by the different customs authorities.

One clear example of this is the United States, where the CTPAT regulations require all containers shipped in and out of the country to be sealed with ISO high-security seals. These seals can only be broken open using specialized and industrial-strength tools.

Where to place the container seal?

Not only is it important to choose the right stamp, but it is equally vital to place it in the right place. That said, there is no particular place where they have to be placed, although the most common is to place it on:

1. The right door

Almost all containers have two doors that open outwards. In order to place it on the right door, which will be opened first, you must close first the left door, then the right one and put the seal on top of the right door.

2. Locking Bars

In addition to the right-hand door, container seals are also usually placed on the lock of the right-hand or left-hand door, or both.

3. The left door

Although it is much less common, some also place it on the left door. In most cases, these are additional seals that provide a higher level of protection.

Documenting the container seal

Each of the container seals has its own identification number.

Before the container is loaded on the vessel, it is important to check that the container seal identification number accurately reflects the number that’s listed on the Bill of Lading.

Each type of seal has its number, but it may happen that different seal types have the same one. For instance, a padlock seal and a metal seal may both have the number 000111 on the same vessel as their seal identification number.

In order to avoid confusion at the port of destination, it is recommended to take photos of the back of the container with the visible seal number.

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What happens if the container seal has been tampered with?

Container seals are not easy to remove, so if they have been broken or removed upon arrival at destination, it is either because someone has tried to access the interior unauthorized, or because there has been a customs inspection.

In the latter case, if the inspection occurs in the United States, you will see that the seal with which it arrives at destination is different from the one affixed at origin.

Therefore, the cargo owner knows that United States Customs has removed and replaced the seal, along with the documentation related to the inspection. Also, they usually return the original one to the owner.

What to do if the container arrives at destination with a tampered seal?

In the case that the container seal has not been tampered due to customs inspection, document everything immediately. The procedure should be the following:

  1. Take photos of the seal (if any), the back and the container without accessing it.
  2. Contact the carrier, your freight forwarder and the insurance company with whom you signed your shipping policy.
  3. Do not open or tamper your container until a representative of the shipping line is present.
  4. Once opened, take photos of all the contents, since you will need them to file your claim against the carrier.

Now that you know what containers seals are, you may be interested in our article “All you should know about shipping containers”. You are sure to find the information you need.

If you are looking for shipping containers to start expanding your business, don’t hesitate to count on BOXXPORT, your online shipping container platform.