Preparing your goods for overseas shipment

Top tips for getting your package spot on

If you need to provide a big, overarching container for your entire shipment, such as a bulk transit unit, it’s best to contact a freight forwarder, who will be able to tell you exactly what you require, and may even be able to lease you a unit for the journey.

However, you should be able to package each individual product yourself. Unless your item is particularly large, sensitive or unusual, you should be able to parcel it up in a sturdy box or carton, and you can pick one up from your local stationer, post office or packaging specialist.

When selecting a container for your individual items, you need to find a product which is sturdy enough to last the voyage, yet keeps excess weight to a minimum. The heavier your product is, the pricier it will be to export, and there’s no point paying extra simply because your parcel or container is unnecessarily bulky.

It’s never a good idea to get a package which is too big for the product; an oversized package will probably collapse during the journey. But your package does need to leave enough space for an extra layer of protective packaging, directly around the product.

Examples of protective packaging include bubble wrap, shredded paper and polystyrene beads, and these will cushion the product against bumps and prangs during the journey.

Ways to package your product

Here are some essential tips to help you create a solid, efficient package for shipment:

Ensuring sufficient strength

The first requirement of any package is that it protects the product inside, and you need to ensure your parcel is strong enough to do this.

If you think your product is fragile, or may be damaged, use an extra-strength material such as corrugated fibreboard or a tri-wall box.

Also, if you’re transporting liquids, you need to select a container specifically designed to prevent leakage.

Distributing the weight

It’s crucial that you distribute the weight evenly. If the weight is unevenly spread within the package, it is likely to topple over or be squashed in transit.

Make sure the product is positioned as close to the centre of the package as possible before you close it up. If the package collapses or sags on one side when you put it down, you need to redo it!

‘To and ‘from’ labels

It’s good practice to apply ‘to’ and ‘from’ labels on TWO sides of your box, and write all notes of caution on the product’s packaging – in English AND the language of the destination.

If you’re using an outer layer of protective film, make sure you put your labels on top of the film – they may be obscured beneath.

To ensure your labels don’t wash off when exposed to moisture or condensation, use protective ink.

Other labels and markings

If you need to label hazardous materials, make sure you mark your consignment using the UN class numbering system, and provide a dangerous goods note. Visit the SITPRO website (www.sitpro.org.uk) for more information.

If your product needs to face a certain way up, it’s vital that you a buy a special ‘arrow up’ adhesive label and attach it to the package. Stationers, post offices and packaging suppliers all sell them.

You should also ask the customer to specify any additional markings they need on the product label – make sure they explain them to you in full if you aren’t sure.

Tape

Use packing tape, rather than conventional Sellotape, to seal the package – Sellotape may break in transit, or wilt when exposed to moisture. If you think the packing tape may not be enough, add extra strength with plastic straps. Rope or string won’t do.

Make sure you tape up all openings, and secure all joints and seams.

Reusing old packaging

It’s perfectly acceptable to use an old container or cardboard box more than once.

However, you need to make sure it isn’t damaged or torn before you reuse it; if you’re even slightly unsure about the strength of the package, don’t use it again.

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