Container Packing Guide

We have compiled information about container packing as general guidance to assist our clients with the correct securing of cargo to ensure safe shipment.

None of this information is intended to replace or supplement any relevant or applicable regulation, guideline or code of practice whether or not referred to by us. This information is non-exhaustive and seeks to increase awareness of basic procedures and no express or implied warranties or guarantees are made. Whilst we have made every effort to ensure the content provided is accurate, it may, nevertheless, contain errors and regulations subject to change. Therefore please note that Depth Defence Logistics does not assume any liability for the accuracy of the information and contents provided in this guide, or for any consequences resulting from using the information provided.

Carriage of cargo is subject to our standard trading terms and conditions and no information herein is intended to alter or amend these.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us and we will assist you.

Container checks to complete prior to loading

  • Every container that travels on a vessel must have a valid CSC plate, as provided in accordance with the International Convention on Safe Containers, dated 02.12.1972. If your CSC plate has expired, the container will not be accepted by the shipping line.
  • Ensure there is no visible damage including but not limited to: holes or cracks, broken locking latches, handles, and lashing points.
  • Check that all doors and locking devices are functioning properly.
  • Check there are no labels or stickers affixed to the surface of the container from previous shipments.
  • Ensure the container is completely dry inside, odourless and free from dirt.

Open-top Container specific-

  • Both the roof bow and upper door strap must be properly attached.
  • Ensure roof cover is the correct size and both the cover and rope ends are not damaged.

Weight limits and weight distribution

The weight limits of containers correspond to the international ISO standard 668.

The permissible gross weight of the container can be found on the CSC plate of the container and is also usually visible on container doors. Please note that road transport regulations in some countries do not allow the container to be loaded to the permissible gross weight. Please check with us before and we will advise you accordingly.

The bottom crossbars of a container are the load support elements for taking the weight of the cargo. If the weight limit of the container is fully reached, all bottom crossbars must be evenly loaded and the cargo weight must be evenly distributed over the entire length of the container.

The container floor is not designed for heavy selective loads. The maximum floor load is 4.5t per running metre for a 20’ container and 3t per running metre for a 40’ container. In order to calculate the floor load you would divide the cargo length (m) by the cargo weight (t).

In order to distribute individual heavy weights evenly, wooden beams can be used lengthwise.

If cargo weight exceeds the container weight limit, a flatrack can be used in its place. Flatracks have a reinforced floor and as such can take heavier loads.

Type of container
Min. width of wooden beam
10 cm
15 cm
Min. Transverse distance container centre/wooden beam
40 cm
40 cm

Design of a standard container floor and wooden beams required for bedding heavy cargo.

The centre of gravity should be within the following limits-

Type of container
max. 60 cm from centre of container
max. 90 cm
Transverse direction
in centre of container
below or at half height of container

Securing Goods in containers

The internals of a container are fitted with numerous lashings devices. Lashing devices are fixed along the longitudinal beams of the floor, on the roof and near the corner posts. Each of these lashing devices has a safe working load of 1t. You may also use the corrugations in the side walls to secure cargo lengthwise with transverse wooden beams. Container ends and side walls can only be used for large surface loads as they are not suitable for selective stresses. Corner posts can be utilised to choke heavy items of cargo as this will prevent horizontal slipping.

Rules for securing cargo

When packing a container or securing cargo, the Guidelines for Packing and Securing Cargoes in Containers for Transport by Land or by Sea (Container Packing Guidelines) issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO), must be observed.

Further considerations must be made for cargo carried by sea as freight must be secured against all ship movements including, rolling, pitching and yawing.

The most effective way to secure freight is to evenly distribute it without any gaps over the entire floor. If you cannot avoid leaving gaps in between the freight, those gaps will need to be filled with appropriate dunnage.

Individual pieces of cargo that do not take up the area of the floor must be secured by being choked and lashed. Lashing eyes can be found on the longitudinal beams on the floor, corner posts and roof.

Cargo is secured against movement lengthwise with a wooden beam inserted in the corrugation of the side walls. The outer ends of the square timber must correspond to the shape of the side wall.

The cargo is secured against movement lengthwise with a wooden beam, which is wedged in the groove on the corner post. The space up to the cargo is filled up with other wooden beams.

The crates are chocked against the side walls with large bearing areas, on the left with dunnage, on the right with air bags.

Container checks to complete after loading

  • Weight has not exceeded the maximum load limit of the container.
  • A copy of the packing list for customs inspections etc. must be visible on the container.
  • If timber has been used as a packaging material, it may be necessary to comply with the quarantine regulations of the country of destination. A fumigation certificate or certification proving the wood has been treated may have to be displayed on the container. The regulations and information can be obtained from the agricultural authority of the country concerned.
  • On open-top containers, the roof sheets must fit correctly and the ropes must be correctly inserted (customs seal).
  • For shipments of hazardous and dangerous goods, the relevant packing and separating regulations must be complied with and the correct IMO placard must be attached outside of the container.

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