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Damaged Goods? How to Make Sure Your Supplier Uses Proper Packaging

To protect goods while they are in transit, the use of proper packaging materials is a must. If not sure, communicate with the seller and logistics service provider.

Trade and packaging

For any trade business, the safety of the goods being transported is of utmost importance. After all, that is what the business is all about. Receiving goods in a good and safe condition. However, for this, the goods need to be packaged effectively and efficiently. This is essential for all cargo operations because incorrect or improper packaging can impact not only the safety of the cargo but also incur extra costs and could ultimately affect the sale of the goods.

Whichever Incoterm is used, the responsibility of packaging of the goods rests with the seller. The seller must ensure that the goods are packaged in such a way that the cargo can withstand the journey to the destination with possible multiple handling along the way.

Protection and Handling

The packaging used must effectively protect the contents from damage, loss, and theft so that the receiver receives the goods in a perfect and resalable condition. The packaging must be able to withstand the various dynamic and static forces en-route.

The packaging must be strong enough to withstand any storage on top of it, and if it has not been designed to handle this, then it must be marked clearly on the outside of the packages so that the people handling it are aware and do not place any packages on top of it.

The packaging should indicate how it should be handled using terms such as "handle with care," "maximum stacking height," "this side up." Instructions regarding exposure to sunlight, damp or extreme temperatures, etc. must be given on the packaging.

The seller needs to ensure that not just the packaging but the CTU (Cargo Transport Unit) used for the transport of the goods is also the right one.

While packing cargo into the container, if there are packages that are susceptible to forklift damage (like cardboard cartons etc.) these must be palletized using forklift friendly pallets for easy and safe handling.

If the cargo being shipped is fragile cargo like ceramics, glass, porcelain, artworks or other easily breakable stuff, the cartons should have some protective packaging like packing peanuts (the bio-degradable variety please) or dunnage airbags which will protect items inside the standard-size corrugated shipping containers.

If you are shipping any machinery or equipment that cannot be palletized, you need to make sure that the machinery has suitable hooking and lifting points.

If the cargo that you ship is of the same dimensions, weights, etc., you could devise suitable packaging units to carry this cargo.

For example, some customers have even gone to the extent of creating corrugated cartons that fit exactly into the interior corrugations of a container so that they optimise the use of the space inside the container while also ensuring that the cargo does not move during transit, thereby avoiding damage.

Branding and transportation

While a product packaging also plays a vital role in the marketing and sales of the product, the branding need not necessarily be used during transport due to security reasons.

For example, if some bad elements notice that there are high value branded shoes being packed in big cartons and transported, it may be susceptible to hijacking, pilferage (by the cargo distributor) or theft.

But if these high-value items are packed in neutral non-branded packages, it will be difficult for them to make out what is inside the boxes.

If you are using a freight container as a CTU, there are some general items to be checked as shown below.

  • Check that the empty container received is clean, dry and free from any unusual smells, stains on the floorboard
  • Check that there are no roof holes
  • Check that the doors shut tight and without gaps
  • Check that the lock rods close and lock properly
  • Check that the slots for the seals are present and usable
  • Check that the floorboard is not cracked or broken

These quick checks if done, will prevent any major damage or loss to the cargo.

But how can I make sure that my supplier uses the right packaging material?

A simple answer for this would be "communicate". Since all packaging is under the control of the seller, it is highly recommended that you as the buyer discuss and communicate that the seller follows the minimum safety standards for the safe packaging and handling of the cargo.

Or you can use a suitable Incoterm which will give you quickest access to the cargo such as EXW (Ex Works) after which you can enhance the packaging quality if you are not thoroughly satisfied with the minimum standards.