Containers are designed to withstand many miles, and sometimes several months of journeying.
Unfortunately, cargo damage can happen within containers, not only resulting in financial losses but also straining client-customer relationships.
Generally, there are many unpredictable situations that can cause cargo damage.
So, ensuring the safe delivery of shipments should be the primary goal of any shipping entity. One step to avert cargo damage is adopting good container stuffing practices.
Common Causes of Container Damage
Poor stuffing and lashing: Unfortunately, constant cargo shifting and uneven weight distribution cause the most damage to containers. This occurs due to poor stuffing practices and lashing that can cause shipping boxes to fall off.
Temperature control: The failure of temperature control features on temperature-controlled shipping containers can cause damage to perishable goods.
Improper packaging: Cargo that is packed using improper equipment and packaging material is usually prone to damage. This can occur with goods such as steel, clay, granite, etc.
Use of incorrect container types: Different goods necessitate different container types in which they can be stored for long journey transportation. The use of the wrong container type can spell dire consequences as shipping containers serve unique purposes, such as offshore reefer containers (transport perishables to offshore platforms), pallet-wide, platform units, flat rack shipping containers, etc.
Is container stuffing a reason for freight damage?
Besides overloading, cumulative evidence suggests that most cargo damage incidents could have been avoided with proper container stuffing techniques.
Approximately 65% of cargo damage within containers is caused by poor lashing and stuffing of the containers due to human negligence or lack of workforce training.
For example, many shippers fail to enforce proper space utilisation when dealing with palletised cargo by filling up spaces with dunnage. Or simply fail to ensure even distribution of the cargo weight inside shipping containers.
How to make a container loading plan?
Container stuffing isn’t really straightforward as it requires careful planning with sturdy steel boxes to evenly distribute cargo while also considering the de-stuffing process. Furthermore, specific types of goods can’t be transported together for safety purposes.
Generally, efficient container stuffing requires meticulous planning, which can be efficiently achieved through “load planning” or “stow planning” software. Such software allows users to enter information about their cargo—such as the number of items, dimensions, and weight.
Consequently, its algorithms process the data and formulate an executable cargo loading plan to eliminate any guesswork, as most cargo differs in nature and size.
This can allow shippers to maximise profits by utilising container space efficiently whilst also saving clients money.
Container loading procedure
The main principle of container loading can be summarised as one rule—heavier cargo must always be at the bottom, and distributed evenly. This rule ensures that the container isn’t disproportionally heavy on any side.
Other elements of the container loading procedure like consideration of weight, size, density, and liquid composition will be futile if the above principle isn’t adhered to.
Also, ensure to carefully adhere to regulations and segregate the goods when loading potentially hazardous materials.
What is the most important factor to consider while loading containers?
The most important factors to consider when loading containers are weight distribution and ease of loading and unloading.
What are the tips for better container loading?
1. Employ a load planning software
To avoid loading errors or poor space utilisation, ensure to use loading software to fit all the cargo into the shipping container with the correct weight distribution.
Loading software can help you devise an actionable plan that meticulously considers where to place each cargo piece, with even precise instructions on how to brace different loads.
2. Carefully measure every piece of your load.
A load plan is only as good as the data it is fed. This is why it’s important to accurately measure every piece of your cargo to avoid any damage in transit.
3. Choose the right size of containers.
At times, shippers can be negligent in pursuit of more economical routes. This can involve decisions regarding the right size of the container without considering the cargo type and category.
It is advisable to carefully understand the freight requirements like size, weight conditions, and extra requirements like temperature control when choosing a container.
4. Understand weight distribution
Shippers should always distribute their cargo weight as evenly as possible to avoid damaging the cargo and the container.
As we alluded to earlier, never stack heavier cargo on top on top of the light cargo.
Additionally, ensure to place heavy cargo at the container’s centre to ease the process of unloading and evenly distribute the load.
5. Understand the cargo characteristics
The state of cargo typically changes whenever external forces are introduced, like gravity force, temperature, and humidity, etc. As such, it is imperative to carefully understand your cargo’s characteristics in response to external forces to guide your loading and stuffing procedures.
6. Appropriate lash compression
It is imperative to exert the right lash compression as very loose lashing might not secure the cargo, and very tight lashing might result in snapping.
Remember, lash compression should be tightened by hand only, not by machine.
Furthermore, ensure to pay attention to the type of lash employed and its lashing capacity, as heavy cargo typically requires stronger lashes.
7. Use proper tools for loading and unloading.
Employ the right tools and machines for lifting and loading goods like lift gates, forklifts, ramps, and conveyors.
Also, ensure to use dunnage to fill the container, for added protection to prevent the damage of goods while in transit—for example, bubble wrap, inflated air packs, shredded or crumpled paper.
8. Outsource the job to container stuffing experts
Utilise competent experts to inspect, survey, and supervise the cargo lashing quality. The more unique and sensitive the cargo, the more the need for experts who can help in case of any damage when handling insurance claims to show that there was no negligence in cargo stuffing.
In summary, most cargo damages are avoidable with correct lashing and container stuffing.
Strictly following the right container stuffing practices can go far to ensure safe cargo deliveries despite the stresses generated during the strenuous sea or land journeys.
Contact us at MGS ICESTORM for more information on cargo stuffing and Offshore Refrigerated Containers.
A graduate (Business) from KDU, Jason Tan, is the current Business Director (Sales) for MGS Icestorm and has been associated with the company for the past 10 years.
With over 13 years in the shipping industry, he has had a significant contribution to Malaysia’s oil and gas industry in the engine and boat supply sector.
His expertise includes managing offshore catering business, offshore reefer containers, AI technology, offshore gas tanks, A60 pressurized cabins, etc. His contributions have helped establish MGS, in partnership (joint venture) with Thermo King and Honeywell to produce state of art Offshore Reefer Container products.