“Container Stuffing” is the common term for the loading of containers for transport by cargo ship. Container stuffing is the opposite of “container stripping” which is the unloading of cargo from a container.
Loading containers for shipment is considerably more complicated than it sounds. Containers have to be stable with the weight of cargo evenly and carefully distributed.
Carriers cannot bundle certain products together on an LCL container.
Furthermore, carriers need to maximize occupied space. However, they cannot do so at the risk of damaging products. Carriers and clients alike enjoy cost savings when they pack containers efficiently. Wasted space and wasted time or unbalanced loads cost the shipper money.
Customs officials watch container stuffing for international shipments. They do so because they seal the container themselves.
This post on container stuffing explores all of these topics and more.
Container Stuffing – Why Its Important
A significant part of all cargo damages that occur during shipping are avoidable by correct lashing and container stuffing. Improper container stuffing and lashing result in millions of dollars worth of losses to freight damage every year.
Damaged Cargo from Container Stuffing
How improper container stuffing can damage cargo
- Physical damage
- Wet damage
- Contamination damage
- Reefer related damage
- Infestation damage
- Fire Damage
Know Your Stuff…Before You Stuff
Before initiating the actual stuffing process, it is crucial to make sure the freight undergoes the necessary pre-stuffing procedure.
The following steps are fundamental for a successful container stuffing:
Container Specifications: A shipper has to take into consideration the type of freight he wants to ship. E.g., frozen, dangerous, or bulky cargo require different kinds of containers. Which freight type and form match the needs of the cargo? For example, does it require refrigeration or insulation of heat?
Container Maintenance: The same container can cover tens of thousands of miles on different means of transportation. Consistent inspection offset dilapidation of containers. Holes will materialize in the hull. Thereafter, water, fungus, mold, creatures can sneak inside and damage goods.
Container Climate: Climatic disruptions during the vessel’s course can raise or reduce the temperature of goods dramatically. For example, tropical climates can increase up to 50C and cause saturate goods with moisture. Damage like condensation or rusting are probable due to the lack of ventilation and temperature control.
Product Packaging: Do your homework on product packaging. Recognize your products will be traveling half way around the globe. That is alot of globe trotting! Alot of packaging materials are not up for the task after container stuffing. Master cartons break down due to flimsy cardboard. Seams split because of weak tap. Products become crushed from a lack of adequate inner packaging. Investing in packaging ensures higher quality control on a delivered product to your end-users. Also make sure to note:
- Symbols on packages: Make sure to read and respect signs and instructions on boxes such as: “This side up.
- Heavy cargo: Improperly loaded heavy cargo causes freight damage to other cargo. One of the cardinal rules of stuffing is distributing cargo over the floor area. Avoid concentrating heavy loads on a fraction of the surface.
Professional Container Stuffing
The CFS picks a container. Packaging is secure. Now its time to stuff the container.
- Heavy Cartons: Position heavy cargo below lighter cargo. This prevents cargo from being crushed. Additionally, this reinforces a low center of gravity for the container.
- Layers: A general rule of thumb – the more layers, the more supper.
- Void spaces: Fill space with dunnage. Dunnage is the stuffing material that cushions goods and avoids damage. Dunnage material includes timber beams, empty pallets, basic foam, and inflatable bags.
- Dangerous cargo: The shipping of dangerous goods has special requirements and therefore, it is crucial to follow instructions to avoid damage and ensure the security of the involved stakeholders. Showcase the IMDG code clearly and early for customs, when stuffing a container with danger goods. Additionally, pack perilous products last. This puts them next to the container door. Always avoid coupling them with sensitive goods.
Damage Prevention Specifics
- Liquid cargo: Store liquid cargo should under solid loads.
- Container surface: A non-slip surface material helps avoid the sliding cargo.
- Cargo Blocking: refers to preventing the load from moving laterally (side-to-side).
- Cargo Bracing: refers to preventing the loading from moving vertically (up-and-down)
- Container Lashing: Securing a container to the ships structure. Strapping multiple containers on top of each other thereafter.
- Labelling: Proper labeling prevents poor packing of product cartons. Make sure you have a stuffing plan. Accurately label your cartons. Execute the plan.
Product Based Container Stuffing
- Cartons and packages: It’s recommended to bond the cargo in blocks to give them greater stability.
- Bagged Cargo: Bags should be stowed in interlocking layers because they tend to fall in the edges of the container, causing pressure on the walls.
- Homogeneous cargo: If all freight is of the same size, then the container’s total volume can be utilized.
- Palletization: It is recommendable to use one of the two common sizes for pallets, such as the standard type (1000mm x 1200mm) or the euro pallet (800mm x 1200mm). Depending on the load, the spaces in between could be filled with dunnage to increase security.
- Rolls: It is more stable to stow closely together and upright. The spaces in between should be filled with dunnage.
- Drums and barrels: They should be stowed upright if possible or at least with the bung uppermost. It is important to cover them with soft dunnage.