Shipping Containers

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Export / Import Information for Small Business Owners in Australia

Shipping Containers

When exporting products to foreign countries, one of the most important aspects of your logistics decisions is going to be choosing the type of containers you will use. Shipping containers are available in many different materials such as steel, aluminium, fibreglass or armour plate.

In most cases, unless you're buying or leasing your own containers, you probably won't have a choice of which material your container is made from. Be sure to ask the shipping company which types are available or which types they use. The shipping company will also ask you how you plan on transporting the containers once they arrive in their export destination.

Generally the containers are offloaded onto trucks which have special accommodations for each type of container. These are known as 'chassis' and have various styles:

  • Straightframes – these are chassis designed to hold a 20-foot container on a straight truck (no trailer).
  • Goosenecks – this is a type of hitch chassis for trailers and come in 20 or 40-foot versions.
  • Sliders – this chassis allows the container to slide into the frame for transport, and is not compatible with other containers.

There are also considerations to be taken into account for the contents of your shipping containers. How you choose your product packaging is also very important, and can be based on the following factors:

  • Fragility – are your products fragile and can break or get damaged easily?
  • Perishables – are you exporting food or drink items that need to be sealed properly?
  • Size – are you exporting in bulk, or just including smaller shipments with other exporter's goods?

What type of goods will be in the same container as your goods? These factors are important because choosing the wrong shipping solution, or having someone else choose for you, could lead to disaster.

Take the case of “Vasko”, a member of the India Travel Forum, who described his situation buying antique furniture as a “horror story”. He had arranged for the product to be shipped to the UK from India, and when it arrived, it had not been properly protected by crating or wrap of any kind, and instead sat in a storage container packed with other merchandise. The product arrived severely damaged.

Keep in mind shipping containers are always packed floor to ceiling, wall to wall, to maximize capacity. Also, when travelling overseas on a massive ship, the containers are stacked on the deck exposed to the elements, and in rough seas, they will move about quite vigorously. Choose your container, and also your product packaging, very carefully and make sure your shipping company protects your goods.

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