How to load a shipping container

Accidents with sea containers happen very often. In fact, it is estimated that around 1,000 containers are lost at sea each year. Not only does this result in significant financial loss, it can be extremely dangerous for both humans and marine life - and in most cases it is caused by improper loading.

Before sailing, it is important to properly load the shipping container and double-check that all cargo is securely secured. Detailed "best practice" recommendations can be found online. But here we outline the four main steps you need to take and give you some helpful tips to get you started.

4 steps to properly load a shipping container

1. Check the condition of the container

Before you start loading the container, you need to carefully check its condition. First, does it have a valid Container Safety Convention (CSC) plate? Otherwise, it will need to be returned to the supplier immediately. If yes, then you can move on to the next step. Various aspects of the outer and inner appearance of the container must be evaluated. For example:

  • Are there holes or breaks in the panels?
  • Is it clean and dry inside?
  • Does the floor look clean (i.e. no protruding nails/screws) and undamaged?

You should also install the official container payload and make sure it matches your requirements.

2. Consider Load Sharing

The next step is to create a "container load" or "container fill" plan.

Essentially, the weight of the cargo should be evenly distributed across the floor of the container. You should never have more than 60% payload within half the length. Therefore, before you start placing things in their places, think carefully and decide where exactly they should go.

It is important to consider the weight, size and density of each item. Heavy loads and liquids should always be placed at the bottom, while lighter loads and dry products should always be placed at the top. Anything that could cause damage (e.g. sharp edges) must be suitably separated.

3. Secure the load.

In order for the cargo not to move, it must be packed as tightly as possible in the shipping container.

Work from the bottom up of the container in tiers and try to fill the entire space with cargo. But if the items don't fit, either fill in the gaps with empty boxes (or blankets) or secure them.

The cargo is constantly subjected to compressive forces during transport. These forces, due to the roll and roll of the boat in rough seas, can put a huge strain on your belay devices. Therefore, it is important to choose them wisely. Some of the more popular options include tying, strapping, fastening, clasps, direct or friction tying, blocking or fastening.

4. Do a final check

Last but not least, it is recommended that you do a final check of the container to make sure its contents are properly packed. Are all heavy items downstairs? Has all the space been used effectively? Were you able to securely secure items in place? If not, now is the time to make adjustments. When you are satisfied, close the shipping container doors and secure them with a strong shackle padlock.

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