Mastering packaging goods

The purpose of packaging is to protect goods during transportation, when being handled and stored. However, how should it be done? Simple ribbed box or double, even triple ribbed? Solid or perforated crates? Crumpled paper or bubble wrap? Packaging material for transport by air, sea, in a container, a truck with or without transshipment? What do I risk if I package badly? What do I gain if I package well?

Legal aspects | Technical aspects | Containers | The packaging union and the safety inspector | Palette

Legal aspects

Packaging should not be taken lightly. It is a very important aspect for the shipper because in case of damage, the goods are either reimbursed, replaced free of charge or give rise to a credit note for the client.

The carrier is legally presumed to be responsible for the deterioration of the goods. Nevertherless, he can avoid liability by expressing reservations on the quality and suitability of the packaging. Likewise, in the case of damage, proof can be given of the inadequacy of the packaging. The shipper then becomes responsible.

The shipper in turn, can avoid liability by transferring it to the packer if he provided him with precise instructions. The shipper can use packing companies for specific types of packaging for his goods. It should be noted that well executed packaging reduces the possibility of damage and consequently the insurance premium.

In the incoterm EXW, goods are sold packaged or in bulk depending on the usage. There are products that do not require specific packaging. According to precedence, packaging is not designed to resist impacts.

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Technical aspects

Packaging is made up of different material:

  • The simple box, double or triple ribbing, palletized or not, is adapted to the package that does not exceed 450/500kg and is synonymous with eco-friendliness, security and lightness.
  • Wood, solid or perforated, is more adapted to crates not exceeding a cubic meter.
  • Expanded polystyrene is practical in wedging goods in a box but is not eco-friendly.
  • Crumpled paper is especially INNEFICIENT for wedging goods and can be usefully replaced by "bubble wrap", which is available in different sizes.

With regard to markings, signs are used to mark packages. The marking obviously depends on the type of goods and their restrictions in terms of staking, putting them upside down, rough handling, etc. It is useless to use markings if they do not refer to a real restriction, as it brings to question the credibility of the shipper. Marking will also increase costs. Writing the nature of the product on the packaging should be avoided on the other hand; the marking should be legible, indelible and completely discreet.

Packagings can have indicators to show that proper care was taken as regards special handling instructions.

  • If a wardrobe should not be tilted by more than x degrees, an indicator on two outward surfaces, vertical and adjacent, would make it possible on delivery, to ensure that restrictions have been respected by simple visualisation.
  • a device to record temperature, impacts, or humidity would ensure the same function.

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Containers group together goods in the same loading unit. In FCL/FCL (see Tips Understanding Terms of International Transport.), the container is loaded by the shipper and offloaded by the receiver. This is the best solution if the goods are well wedged.

In other instances like, FCL/LCL, LCL/FCL and LCL/LCL, goods are handled by freight forwarders at the packing/unpacking stage, which is always risky. However, with some intermediate transit operations, they allow for repeated use protecting against theft and providing savings in packaging, provided there is good wedging.

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The packaging union and the safety inspector

In case of doubt on the packaging, and as a pre-emptive measure, you can visit the Industrial Packaging Union website, which defines the specifications of the recommendations in goods packaging meant for transportation. You can especially find technical specifications there.

The Safety Inspector is another player that can be consulted before shipping. His task is prevention. The safety inspector, who comes from an independent firm, will advise you on types of packaging, techniques for wedging and stowing in trucks or containers. He will make it possible for you to decide on a packaging policy or charter. This takes a bit of time and money but it is time much better used to build than time used to repair after there is damage.

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There is an international standard for palettes NIMP 15. The International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures No15 (ISPM) deals with regulation on packaging material made of wood. The purpose of this standard is to make it possible to significantly reduce the dissemination of harmful organisms during trade exchanges. In short, no harmful organisms in palettes (nor crates or anything that is made of wood), in order to avoid wooden palettes carrying small insects to other countries. Fumigation seems to be the best solution.

But not all countries require the same treatment processes. How can one know what needs to be done in one particular country regarding palettes? You can consult the Regulation of wood Packaging Material in International Trade. To be noted: dangerous goods have very strict labelling and packaging standards.

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