Cargo Damage: How Can You Prevent It?

Cargo Damage: How Can You Prevent It?

Imagine receiving a call from your consignee and finding out that the cargo you’ve shipped out has arrived in an unusable state. It can be even more painful if you realize that the damage was completely preventable! Now you’re stuck with an upset consignee, wasted cargo, and a handful of additional costs to send replacement goods or make amends…

This is certainly a scenario that no shipper wants to find themselves in. Fortunately, you can minimize the chances of this ever happening if you know how to prevent your cargo from taking damage in transit! Here are some detailed guidelines to prevent the 5 basic types of cargo damage, as listed down in the first half of this article series.

How to Protect Your Cargo Against the 5 Types of Damage

1. Physical Damage

Safeguard your cargo against bumps, dents, cracks, and drops by remembering the following points:

• Use the Right Container. Be sure that your container of choice can hold your shipment without breaking! Pay attention to container markings, which usually include weight allowances.

• Don’t Skimp on Lashing and Dunnage. Use enough to secure cargo within the container. Feel free to ask a cargo surveyor for help.

• Abide by SOLAS VGM Requirements. There’s a very good reason the International Maritime Organization has developed the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention, including the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) regulation. Failing to declare your cargo’s weight can put both cargo and human lives on the line. Be sure that your cargo undergoes weight verification before it is loaded! 

• Optional: Use Timber Bracing. Keep heavier cargo such as granite blocks from shifting within a container with the help of some timber bracing.

It definitely helps that there are numerous options for protecting your cargo against physical damage. Here’s a list of common accessories and their specific uses:

• Wooden Container Floor – anchor cargo with wedges and timber connectors

• Internal Walls – support lightweight goods

• Bull Rings and Lashing Bars – serve as attaching points for ropes, wires, chains, steel straps, spansets and other material for lashing 

• Corrugated Steel Walls for Open-Top Containers – provide anchors for crossbeams

• Wooden Beams and Planks – shore and relieve both vertical and horizontal pressure

• Intermediate Decks and Walls – divide a container into levels or sections

• Bars or Rods – secure load into sections 

• Nets – secure fragile cargoes 

• Inflatable Dunnage (ex. Air Bags) – absorb impact and to prevent load from shifting 

• Timber Connectors – secure pallets, skids, and cases to the container floor 

• Rope, Wire, Steel Straps, Terylene Straps, Spansets – fix load to bull rings or lashing bars 

• Styropor Blocks, Corrugated Paper, Used Tires, Empty Pallets – block off empty spaces and keep cargo from shifting into those spaces

• Corner Posts – help secure cargo by bracing

2. Water Damage

Want to keep your cargo safe and dry until it reaches its destination? Here are some important points to go by:

• Know the End-to-End Shipping Route of Your Cargo. This can help you take proper precautions, especially if you’re dealing with cargo in cartons or materials that easily take damage from water. Take note of climate conditions as well, as these can create condensation inside a sealed container.

• Ensure Watertight Protection. The doors and rubber seal gaskets of your container must be able to provide complete protection against leaks.

• Go for Additional Water Protection Features. Use anti-humidity materials or ventilated containers as needed.

3. Contamination

The steps for preventing contamination damage depend on the type of cargo you’ll be shipping. Check out these tips for both liquid bulk and solid bulk cargo:

• Liquid Bulk 

· Get a Tank Cleaning Certificate. If you’re using an ISO tank container for your liquid bulk cargo, you’ll need to be sure that the container has been recently and thoroughly cleaned. Insist on a tank cleaning certificate, which tells you when the tank was last cleaned and how it was treated.

· Have Your Tank Inspected. A professional liquid bulk cargo surveyor can help ensure that the tank will keep your cargo safe against contamination.

· Choose the Right Tank. Oddly enough, not all food tanks will be a good fit for your food cargo. Not all chemical tanks are ideal for holding your chemical cargo, either. Be sure to provide complete information about your shipment to the ISO tank operator to get the most suitable option! You’ll ideally have your cargo’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on hand for this.

· Check for Compatibility. Did you know that the liquid that was previously in your chosen ISO tank can actually contaminate your cargo? This may be the case even if the tank has been thoroughly cleaned. To be safe, do a compatibility check between the previous and present cargoes. 

• Solid Bulk 

· Go for Food Grade. Nuts, tobacco, and fabric are especially prone to odor and rust contamination. Make room in your budget for a food grade or A-grade container specifically built to hold your particular cargo. These container types will have the following specifications:

Food Grade A Grade
Structural Condition IICL5 or CW with valid CSC plate

New or refurbished

IICL5 or CW with valid CSC plate

New, used, or refurbished

Interior Paintwork 95% mark-free or better 90% mark-free or better
Floor Clean. No transferable marks, stains, or scratches over 2mm deep Clean. Minimal non-transferable oil marks or stains. No scratches over 2mm deep
Exterior Panels Minimal surface rust and denting Minimal surface rust and denting

4. Reefer Related Damage

Refrigeration by itself can help preserve your cargo, but you still need to take steps to keep your shipment safe! Here are several key points to remember:

• Pre-Cool Your Cargo. During pre-cooling, products are cooled to a certain set temperature before being packed for shipping at a cold storage facility. This improves the shelf life of your goods!

• Insist on a Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI) Certificate. PTI is performed before a reefer is released to certify that the cooling unit, temperature control, and recording devices of the container are all fully functioning. It also ensures that the reefer is clean and structurally sound. Take note that pre-cooling your cargo may prove useless if you skip PTI certification and end up with a damaged reefer.

• Turn Off Reefers and Trailers During Loading. This prevents unwanted icing. It will also keep exhaust fumes from contaminating the ambient air inside the reefer.

• Load in the Right Location. A humid and open loading environment can undo your efforts to pre-cool your cargo. Consider using a loading dock with a cold tunnel instead.

• Be Keen About Temperature Management. Make sure you set the container to the correct temperature and humidity. Pay extra attention to – / + values so that you don’t accidentally set the temperature to -5˚C when it should be +5˚C.

• Stow Your Reefer Cargo Correctly. You might be surprised at how much care reefer cargo requires. However, you run the risk of suffering shipment losses if you skim over the following points!

· Do not stuff the cargo past the end of the T-floor or above the red load line.

· Stabilize cargo with tight wedges to prevent shifting.

· Make sure that dehumidification controls are fully functioning.

· Pre-cool your cargo. You may only pre-cool the container if it is in an air-locked cold tunnel in a cold storage facility.

· Stow your cargo so that air can still circulate correctly. This can differ between chilled cargo and frozen cargo.

• Chilled: Air should flow through the cargo to remove gases and hot air. Be sure to use ventilated cartons.

• Frozen: Air should flow around the cargo. Pack your goods in blocks and do not leave gaps between the cargo and the walls, as well as the cargo itself.

• Pay Attention to Your Goods. Reefer cargo can look okay on the outside yet be spoiled on the inside. Be sure to measure the core temperatures of your goods before loading them into a reefer. Also check for dehydration, desiccation, fluid migration, odors, color and flavor changes, and signs of thawing and refreezing.

• Take Extra Care of Produce. Even when shipped in reefers, fruit and vegetables are still delicate goods. Check them for pre-cooling damage and signs of decay such as mold, dehydration, discoloration, bruising, chill damage, and foul odors.

5. Infestation

Aside from inflicting losses for you and your consignee, infestation damage can also pose health risks to anyone handling the affected cargo! Prevent this from happening with the following tips:

• Provide Your Shipping Line with Details. Specify the type of goods you’ll be shipping. If you’re dealing with food cargo, you need to use a food grade container to protect your goods.

• Perform Sanitary Checks. Determine if the warehouse that held your cargo is clean and free of pests or rodents.

• Use Treated Dunnage. Raw and unprocessed wood is more likely to introduce or spread pests. This is why several countries require wooden shipping materials to be fumigated before they are used for exports. 

ALSO READ: Everything You Need to Know to Pack Your Cargo Properly

Still need help keeping your cargo safe from shipping damage? Feel free to ask for professional advice from WSI, a reliable B2B courier company in the Philippines. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, our experts are armed with all the best practices for proper crating and packing. Contact us now for inquiries!


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