Love Me Tender: How to Make Sure Your Cargo Arrives Intact

So, here you are. You’ve found a buyer/seller. You’ve got your first set of goods ready for export/import. You’ve found a reputable freight forwarder, or have decided to work directly with a carrier. Now, you just need to prepare your goods for travel. But that’s the easy bit, right? Shove it in a shipping container, and off you go! Well, yes… And also no. Preparing your cargo for shipping – whichever mode of transport you choose – can be a tricky business.

Here are a few pointers to make sure that your cargo reaches its destination in exactly the state that you intended it to.

4 Steps to Help Ensure Your Cargo Arrives Intact

1. Select the right container.

Rather than being one-size-fits-all, there are many different types of cargo container. Although this might seem to complicate matters, it does mean that you can choose exactly the right cargo transport unit (CTU) for your needs. So, how do you know which one you need? Sometimes it’s obvious; if you’re transporting perishables, you will require a refrigerated CTU. Non-perishable food stuffs require a food-grade CTU – you don’t want dried fruit being shipped in something that has previously carried waste, or chemicals. Otherwise, you basically need to consider the volume and the weight of your goods. A 20-foot container, for example, will take heavier goods, such as cement, minerals and steel. A 40-foot container will take lighter weight but voluminous goods, such as cotton and tobacco. Also, make sure that the carrier you’re working with will accept your chosen container type. Some will have specific guidelines.2

2. Check the condition of your container.

You wouldn’t send an item through the domestic post in a torn paper bag. Nor would you store food in your kitchen cupboards in damaged or wet boxes. This is because you want your packages to reach their destination, and you want your food to be edible. It’s the same premise with selecting CTUs. You may see special price packages for older shipping containers, and this can be a great way to reduce your overheads when starting out in import/export. But – and it’s a big BUT – if your cargo is not in sellable condition on arrival, you’ve lost your entire investment. SO, check for holes; make sure seals are intact and that doors shut properly and lock.

3. Pack carefully.

Well, of course, having gone to all the effort of getting to this stage, you’re not just going to throw your cargo in. Of course, you’re not. But actually, a surprisingly high number of people do. Perhaps not throw exactly, but many do fail to take adequate precautions, resulting in an unnecessarily high wastage bill. If your goods don’t fit the container precisely, use packing materials to fill the gaps and protect it. It’s obvious, really.

4. Prepare your paperwork.

Finally, make sure that you have crossed every t and dotted every i. This might not seem like it pertains to packing prep, but if customs – or your carrier – have to pull your CTU apart because you’ve failed to obtain the correct documentation, then all the other steps have been pointless. Likewise, if the cargo gets refused entry to its destination. You’ve been warned!


Preparing your cargo for shipping is easy enough to do. It doesn’t take a genius. But, it does take care, precautions, and sometimes experience. Hopefully, this list will help you complete your first freight order without any hiccoughs.

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