Loading a shipping container- How it is done (PART 2)

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June 4, 2018

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Loading a shipping container with cargo

When it comes to loading a shipping container with cargo, the process has to be planned meticulously for it to be a success. Container ships are loaded with other smaller portable cargo compartments that are known as freight or intermodal containers. Intermodal containers have to be stowed or stuffed with the right cargo and they must be secured correctly as well. Here are some things that affect how cargo is loaded into containers:

The weight distribution of the cargo

When loading a shipping container, it is a popular misconception that heavier items tend to be much more secure than lighter ones because they have a lesser chance of moving around in transit, which is completely wrong.

Try and think of it this way, whether or not you weigh 150 KGS or 54, you are still advised to use a seatbelt because the sudden impact will cause you to hit your head on something regardless.

In shipping and when loading a shipping container, the force of gravity and inertia are always the main concern because they affect cargo whether it is heavy or light. This is because ships can roll vertically by as much as 30 degrees and gravity does not care whether your cargo was packed tightly.

Gravity and inertia always tend to be worse especially in rough seas or during trans-Atlantic voyage whereby a ship can roll from one side to another as many as 60,000 times. Since it is entirely impossible to anticipate and prepare for the forces of gravity and inertia, it goes without saying that careful consideration must be taken every time a ship is loaded to avoid accidents and damage to cargo.


Space utilization

The freight forwarder has to plan ahead of time for the stowage of the cargo so that the weight of the cargo can be distributed evenly throughout the length and width of the container. If the freight forwarder is dealing with cargo that has a uniform density, then even weight distribution is not usually an issue.

The compatibility of the cargo being transported

Freight forwarders do not get to pick and choose which cargo will be transported at what time. Therefore, since a shipper is often dealing with packages that contain various commodities, special care is usually given to the segregation process. The physical characteristics of the cargo, including physical attributes such as density, weight, and size, must be considered, as well as whether the cargo is in solid or liquid form.

For a shipper to load cargo into a container properly, the shipper should be aware whether or not the commodities stuffed in the packaging contain easy to damage commodities such as foodstuff or hard to damage goods such as metal sheets. Particular care is taken when packing cargo that is prone to damage as a result of high humidity or moisture.

Desiccants are often used for products that are susceptible to moisture to keep them safe should the moist air condense. Moisture inherent cargo, cargo that can possibly leak or wet cargo cannot be packed alongside dry cargo.

Securing cargo

The best possible tactic for securing cargo is to ensure that every package is placed tightly against the other within the walls of the container. However, if the amount of cargo available cannot fit in the space of the container, it must be held in place using a number of tools such as tie downs, fasteners, friction or direct lashing, straps, dunnage, blocks, and braces.

Secured cargo on flatbed truck

When securing cargo, the shipper has to avoid using wet bracings, packaging pallets, or timber. In some instances, moisture damage can also be avoided by using protective materials such as a heavy tarp or polythene sheeting. However, please note that most shippers tend to avoid the use of sheeting because, in the wrong conditions, it can encourage the growth of mildew if the moisture content in the container is too high.

Some countries have quarantine regulations regarding certain products that are used for packaging and securing such as timber. This means that the shipper must provide a phytosanitary certificate to prove that the material has been treated and that the materials used for clocking and bracing are safe for use. Finally, the freight forwarder should check that the doors are secure, locked and sealed. The shipper also has to note down the seal numbers of the container so that they can be added to the bill of lading.

Cargo Secured in Closed Rail Car Cargo Restraint Systems


Verifying the weight of the cargo

Before the cargo can be loaded into the cargo ship, the weight of the cargo must be determined. Every freight forwarder is required to get a verified gross mass (VGM) of the shipping container, which is then submitted to the terminal and the shipping line so that the vessel stowage plan can be prepared. The VGM is acquired using specially calibrated and certified equipment. To get the weight of the container:

  • The entire container and its contents can be weighed after the door has been sealed.
  • Each individual cargo and the dunnage weight can be weighed before it is added to the container’s tare weight.

Weighing the container is an important part of the shipping process because if the container is overweight or imbalanced, changes can be made to prevent accidents or damage later on when the container ship is in transit.

Moving the loaded container to the containership

Containers are usually stored or stacked at the port until the selected ship arrives to move them. Once the ship arrives, the containers are delivered by a special chassis and platform known as a bomb cart, which is computer controlled.

Each container has to loaded and packed properly based on its weight, as well as the location of the port to make offloading seamless. The containers are lifted off the bomb cart using a container gantry crane where it is moved to a truck flatbed and then to the ship where they are fitted with attachments to keep them secure during the journey.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there is a lot that is required and a lot that goes into making sure that your cargo is packed and secured safely for shipment. As your chosen freight forwarder, we play a vital role in maintaining safety throughout the transport chain.

By trusting us with all your shipping needs, you automatically mitigate the risk of damaging your precious cargo. Get in touch today to see how we can help you move your valuable goods to where you want them to go safely and successfully. Contact us today!



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