Information on the demands of packing goods correctly for cross-border trading. This article is part of the U.S. Commercial Service's "A Basic Guide to Exporting".
Last Published: 10/20/2016

Your company should be aware of the demands that international shipping puts on packaged goods. You should also keep four potential problems in mind when designing an export shipping crate: breakage, moisture, pilferage, and excess weight.

Buyers are often familiar with the port systems overseas, so they will sometimes specify packaging requirements. If the buyer does not provide such specifications, be sure the goods are prepared using these guidelines:

  • Pack in strong containers that are adequately sealed and filled when possible.

  • Make sure the weight is evenly distributed to provide proper bracing in the container, regardless of size.

  • Put goods on pallets and, when possible, place them in containers.

  • Make packages and packing filler out of moisture-resistant material.

  • To avoid pilferage, avoid writing contents or brand names on packages.

  • Use straps, seals, and shrink-wrap to safeguard goods.

  • Observe any product-specific hazardous materials packing requirements.

  • Verify compliance with wood-packaging documentation and markings for fumigation and chemical treatment.

One popular method of shipment is to use containers obtained from carriers or private leasing companies. These containers vary in size, material, and construction. They accommodate most cargo but are best suited for standard package sizes and shapes. Also, refrigerated and liquid-bulk containers are usually readily available. Some containers are no more than semitrailers lifted off their wheels, placed on a vessel at the port of export, and then transferred to another set of wheels at the port of import.

Normally, air shipments require less heavy packing than ocean shipments, though they should still be adequately protected, especially if they are likely to attract pilferage. In many instances, standard domestic packing is acceptable if the product is durable and there is no concern for display packaging. In other instances, high-test (at least 250 pounds per square inch) cardboard or tri-wall construction boxes are preferable.

Finally, transportation costs are determined by volume and weight. Specially reinforced and lightweight packing materials have been developed for exporting to minimize volume and weight while reinforcing the packaging. The proper materials may save money as well as ensure that the goods are properly packed. You should hire a professional company to pack the products if you are not equipped to do so. This service is usually provided at a moderate cost.