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How to load a shipping container

man loading a shipping container

Shipping container accidents are very common. In fact, it’s estimated that around 1000 containers are lost at sea every year. Not only does this lead to significant financial losses, it can be extremely dangerous for both people and marine life – and, in most cases, it’s caused by incorrect loading.

Before setting sail, it’s important to load the shipping container properly and double-check that all cargo is securely in place. Detailed ‘best practice’ guidelines can be found online. But, here, we outline the four main steps that you need to take and offer a few handy tips to get you started.


4 steps to load a shipping container correctly

1. Check the condition of the container

Before you start to load the container, you should check its condition thoroughly.

First things first, does it have a valid Container Safety Convention (CSC) plate? If not, it will need to be returned immediately to your supplier. If it does, you can then move on to the next stage. Various aspects of the container’s exterior and interior should be assessed. For example:

  • are there any holes or tears in the panelling?
  • is it clean and dry inside?
  • does the floor space look clear (i.e. free from protruding nails/screws) and undamaged?

You should also establish the container’s official payload and ensure it meets your requirements.


man creating a plan for container stuffing


2. Consider the load distribution

The next step is to create a ‘container loading’ or ‘container stuffing’ plan.

Essentially, the weight of the cargo needs to be evenly distributed across the floor of the container. You should never have more than 60% of the payload within half of the length. Therefore, before you start to lift things into place, think carefully and decide exactly where they need to go.

It’s important to consider the weight, size and density of every item. Heavy cargo and liquids should always be placed at the bottom, whilst lighter cargo and dry products should be stowed on top. Anything that could potentially cause damage (i.e. sharp edges) must be separated accordingly.


3. Secure the cargo in place

To stop it from moving, cargo must be packed into the shipping container as tightly as possible.

Work from the bottom to the top of the container in tiers and try to use up all of the space with cargo. But if items don’t fit, either fill the gaps with empty boxes (or blankets) or secure them down.

Cargo is continuously exposed to compressive forces during transit. These forces – caused by the pitching and rolling of the vessel over heavy seas – can put a huge strain on your securing devices. Therefore, it’s important to choose wisely. Some of the most popular options include tie downs, strapping, dunnage, fasteners, direct or friction lashing, blocking or bracing.


loaded shipping containers on ship


4. Conduct a final check

Last but not least, it’s a good idea to do a final check of the container and ensure its contents are stowed correctly. Are all heavy items at the bottom? Has all of the space been used effectively? Have you managed to secure items safely into place? If not, now is the time to make adjustments. Once you’re happy, close the shipping container doors and lock them using a sturdy shackle padlock.


Contact the experts at Gap Containers

Gap Containers is a leading UK supplier of shipping containers. Not only do we supply the highest quality new and used containers – all fitted with a valid CSC plate – we have excellent knowledge of the best ways to load them up and ensure your cargo arrives safely at its destination.

So, if you have a question, why not get in touch? Whether you’d like to find out more about the shipping containers we sell, or require further advice on the best ‘container loading’ methods, we’re always on hand and happy to help. Either give us a call on 0870 240 9405 or send an email to and we’ll respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.



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