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Proper Packaging in Ocean Freight: What You Need to Know

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Have you ever thought of proper packaging when importing from China?

Many people think that a package is just a cover and it’s not important in international trade. If you’re one of these people, you need to carefully read the following article. In this blog post, we’ll describe the most common types of proper packaging and the application of each type.

After reading about proper packaging, you’ll understand the importance of a package in your cargo’s safety, efficiency handling, and regulatory compliance. At the end, if you have any questions about shipping and packaging, you can contact our team at DDPCH.

What Is Proper Packaging?

Proper packaging is using every suitable package that helps us easily transport our goods without the risk of being damaged.

Here are the key factors to tell if a package is proper:

  • Protection: Your packaging must shield your cargo from shocks, vibrations, crushing forces, and even moisture. So you have to use proper material to pack your goods. Of course, it depends on the characteristics of your products.
  • Durability: You’re importing some products from another country and it means the package will be handled by so many parties. Therefore, one of the most important factors of your packaging is its durability to withstand a long trip.

Stackability: Space requirements are really essential in shipping. You need to use a proper package to stack your products efficiently.

Essential Types of Proper Packaging

Of course, each type of cargo has its own requirements and therefore, a different packaging. 

Many factors like environmental conditions, and logistical considerations affect proper packaging for each cargo.

Cartons and Boxes

Cartons and boxes are the most common packaging options for ocean freight. They’re suitable for a wide range of goods.

You can ship many products like consumer products, electronics, and textiles using cartons and boxes. Cartons and boxes can be easily stacked, handled, and transported during shipping.

Pallets and Skids

Pallets and skids are sometimes used interchangeably but they’re different platforms used to stack and transport goods.

Pallets have top and bottom deck boards, however skids sit on the ground/floor on their stringers.

Pallets and skids provide efficient handling and space optimization. They can be easily stacked within containers and warehouses. Also, another advantage of pallets and skids is that they protect the cargo from the moisture of the floor.

Drums and Barrels

As it comes from the names, drums, and barrels are used for transporting liquids in ocean freight.

Drums and barrels are usually made of steel or plastic depending on the chemical properties of the cargo.

Bulk Bags (FIBC)

Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) are common proper packaging used in shipping.

FIBCs are sometimes called bulk bags or super sacks. They are usually used for transporting granular or powdered materials.

For example, if you want to import grains, fertilizers, and minerals from China, you can use bulk bags.

Bulk bags are made of woven polypropylene and are a cost-effective and space-efficient solution for bulk goods.

Cages and Wire Baskets

If you want to import heavy or irregularly shaped items from China, you might need cages and wire baskets.

For example, products such as machinery, automotive parts, and construction materials are usually transported using cages. The durability of cages and wire baskets is the most important properties of them.

Refrigerated Containers (Reefers)

Perishable goods such as fruits, vegetables, and pharmaceuticals need temperature-control systems during transportation in ocean freight.

Reefers are equipped with refrigerators to maintain the temperature of your products at certain ranges.

Vacuum-Sealed Bags

Vacuum-sealed bags remove air and moisture from the package and reduce the risk of spoilage and mold growth.

Also, these bags prevent insects from damaging foods. Therefore, these bags are used for packaging perishable foods and even clothes that are moisture-sensitive.

Vacuum-Sealed Bags

Vacuum-sealed bags remove air and moisture from the package and reduce the risk of spoilage and mold growth.

Also, these bags prevent insects from damaging foods. Therefore, these bags are used for packaging perishable foods and even clothes that are moisture-sensitive.

Special Containers

There are also some special containers for irregular goods. For example, flat racks, open tops, and tank containers are used for oversized or non-standard cargo.

Why Is Standard Packaging Necessary?

As a beginner, you might misunderstand the term “standard” packaging. It’s not a generic packaging and you can still customize your package according to your goods.

On the other hand, a standard package is not necessarily the best one. But it’s a package that provides minimum requirements to reduce risks and is also used by all parties for better handling.

Here are the benefits of standard packaging:

Efficiency and Stackability

Standardized packaging allows for efficient loading and unloading of cargo ships. For example, when we use pallets and containers of specific dimensions, they can be easily stacked in all warehouses. In fact, uniform-sized boxes and crates give us the chance to optimize our process.

Safety and Stability

Standard packaging helps us ensure safety and stability during the transportation process. When you have standard boxes, the risk of damage to the contents because if they don’t fit, they might slide and fall.

Better Handling

When you use packaging with standardized sizes and weights, you’ll have easier handling with machinery. This minimizes manual handling and therefore, you’ll have an efficient handling process.

How Proper Packaging Saves Money and Protects Goods

Last but not least, standard packaging allows shipping companies to accurately estimate the weight and volume of your cargo.

As a result, the cost of shipping can be easily estimated. Remember that this is crucial for budgeting. Moreover, when all parties use the same package and size, the risk of damage to your goods will significantly decrease.

When Is Proper Packaging Most Needed?

Here are some situations where you need proper packaging:

  1. Long Voyages: The longer your distance is, the more risks your cargo will have to face. So in this situation, you need proper packaging.
  1. Fragile or Delicate Goods: For special goods that are sensitive to any vibration or environmental impacts, you have to use special packaging. Otherwise, you have to accept the risk of damages.
  2. Multiple Handling Points: When your cargo has to be transported between several points, the risk of damage will increase. So proper packaging is necessary in this situation to ensure the safety of your cargo.

Who Is Responsible for Standard Packaging?

Now that you know why you need proper packaging, it’s good to learn about the responsibilities of each party regarding packaging.

These responsibilities involve using industry-standard materials, sizes, and weights according to the shipping carrier’s requirements. Palletization according to standard dimensions might also fall under their responsibility.

In fact, standard packaging is a specific agreement between the seller, shipper, and other parties involved. Here is how:

  • Seller’s Role (depending on Incoterms): The sales agreement’s Incoterms (e.g., FOB, CFR) might ask the seller to take care of standard packaging.
  • Shipper’s Responsibility: In many cases, the responsibility falls on the shipper to guarantee standard packaging.
  • Shared Responsibility: Sometimes, the tasks might be divided. The seller might handle standard boxes and materials. On the other hand, the shipper takes care of palletization based on industry standards. Remember that clear communication and a written agreement are necessary to dictate the role of each party.
  • Carrier’s Options: Last but not least, some shipping carriers offer standard packaging services. For example, offer palletization, containerization, or standard materials. This will simplify your tasks for an extra fee.

Why Proper Packaging Is Important for International Shipping

Now, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why you need to pay special attention to proper packaging in your international trade:

Protecting Your Products

As said earlier, the most important reason is to safeguard your goods during shipment. Proper packaging will prevent different problems including:

  • Physical Damage: During shipment, your cargo will face various bumps, vibrations, and crushing forces. These can damage your goods during transportation. Proper packaging will absorb the impact of these forces and safeguard your goods in the ocean.
  • Environmental Factors: Some goods might be sensitive to extreme temperatures, humidity, or precipitation. Proper packaging protects your goods from these dangers. So you can be sure that your goods arrive in the same condition they were shipped.

Reducing the Risk of Delays & Costs

Any mistake in packaging can lead to problems in handling the goods and as a result, prevent your cargo from arriving on time. Remember that if your packages open during the transportation process, the shipping company does not have any choice but to cancel the shipment.

Compliance with Regulations

Each country has its own regulations regarding the packaging. When you want to import goods from China, you have to abide by the rules of both your country and China. Make sure that your packaging is according to insurance regulations as well.

Professional Image

Although they say that don’t judge a book by its cover, your packaging is often the first impression of your goods on your customer. So try to choose well-designed and proper packaging to appear like a pro.

Top 5 Tips for Packaging

Here are some important tips about packaging in ocean freight:

  1. Choose the Right Box: Try to select suitable cardboard boxes. You need to pay attention to the size, weight, and strength of the box.
  1. Employ Proper Cushioning: Don’t forget cushioning especially if you’re importing fragile goods.
  1. Secure Your Closure: You need to seal the box properly to prevent items from falling and also secure the goods from miscellaneous people.
  1. Label Clearly and Accurately: Label is one of the most important factors in your packaging. The label should be accurate without any mistake. Also, your label should be clear to prevent any misunderstanding.
  2. Consider Palletization: If you have heavy or bulky shipments, you need to palletize your goods. Palletization creates a stable unit that provides easier handling with machinery. This way, your cargo will be optimized in terms of space utilization within the container.

Main Risk of Packing in Ocean Freight

Damages are the most important risk of packaging during shipment. Here are the reasons for these damages that you need to consider: 

  1. Loading and Unloading: During the process of loading and unloading cargo ships, you have many movements with forklifts, cranes, and other machinery. Improper packaging can increase the risk of damage due to drops, bumps, and crushing forces.
  1. Rough Seas: The ocean has turbulent weather with rough seas and strong winds. If you don’t use proper packaging, the risk of movements and colliding goods will increase.
  1. Stacking: Space is limited on cargo ships so you have to optimize your packaging. Otherwise, they might have to place them forcibly and damage your goods.
  1. Environmental Factors: Your cargo might face extreme temperatures, humidity, or saltwater spray in the ocean. Your packaging might be able to protect your goods in such conditions.


Proper packaging might seem a trivial matter but remember if you make a small mistake in packaging, you might face a big challenge. Financial loss, delays, or even regulatory problems are among the issues a wrong packaging might cause. Try to consider all the details about the characteristics of your goods to make sure you’re choosing the correct packaging type. If you need any advice, don’t hesitate to contact our team at DDPCH.

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