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How to Prevent Collapse when Loading a Container

4 / 1 / 2020

Opening the shipping container doors and realizing that there’s a collapse of the goods inside the container is a very common nightmare which importers want to keep from happening at all costs as it is normally followed by big financial losses and in worse cases, serious injuries of the staff responsible for unloading the container.

As there is no simple recipe to follow when securing the goods inside the container, each load should be dealt on its own merits – the cargo, the way it’s loaded into the container, or the fittings in the container. But the following points, must be taken into account by buyers, factories, freight forwarders, and third party inspection companies when having a loading process assessed.

Avoiding Cliff-Type Stacking

When the volume of the cargo is less than the actual capacity of a container, the goods should be placed flattened, withstanding the door as to avoid risk of collapse.


Controlling the height of the loaded goods and leaving space at the top can help prevent uneven weight distribution, cargo ladders, cliff-type stackers, and the risk of collapse. It also does not require filling or reinforcement with fillers or net pockets. This kind of loading is the most advocated to pursue.

To flatten the goods when loading, start with the first row and first column, and then arrange the first row height by establishing a coordinated system as shown in Figure 1. The height of each row can be controlled at the back

Dealing with Void Spaces

Holding the cargo in a container secure enough against any preventable movement is extremely vital. Meanwhile, the process of loading the goods itself should not cause damage or corrosion to either the goods or the container.

In the case of products of normal shape and size, a close stow should be found from wall to wall. Nonetheless, certain empty spaces can exist in many cases. These can be accepted if protection is accomplished through friction between neighboring cartons. If the friction effect is inadequate or the gaps between the cartons are wide, the storage should be completed using dunnage, compressed cardboard, airbags or other acceptable means.

When using airbags, the directions provided by the factory about the filling stress should also be implemented carefully. The likelihood of a significant increase in the container's internal temperature above the temperature at the moment of loading should be seriously considered as it could cause the bags to swell and break, rendering them inefficient as something of a means of maintaining the safety of the goods.


Note: Filing the door space with airbags mustn't be used as a method unless safeguards are in place to assure that when the locking bars are removed they will not allow the door to open violently.

Cargo Weight

The weight of the freight must be distributed evenly across a container. If goods with various weight need to be packed into a container or if a container is not meant to be full because of limited cargo or because the maximum permissible weight is exceeded before the container is fully loaded, the goods should be positioned and stored in such a manner that the average center of the cargo weight is close to the container's mid-length.

In no situation the goods should be concentrated in less than half of the length of a container estimated from one end more than 60 percent of the load. There should be no placing of heavier goods on top of lighter goods and no positioning of liquids on top of solids.

Damaged Packages

To prevent moisture-related carton harm, wet cartons, moisture-related goods or goods likely to leak must not be mixed with goods vulnerable to moisture damage. It is not advised to use wet dunnage or pallets, and in some situations, the use of protective sheets such as polythene may help minimize damage to the goods.

Compromised cartons should not be loaded until measures against spillage or leakage risk have been undertaken.

When Loading is Finished

Attention should be paid during the final stages of loading to create a protected face of the loaded goods as to avoid "falling out" while opening the container doors. When the safety of the cargo is put into question, additional measures must be taken to guarantee security by tying straps between locking points or putting timber between the posts at the rear. One thing we should keep in mind is a container while in transit from factory to the port normally inclines and the cargo might pressure the door violently.

It is also very important to remember that when a container is bound for a region with strict quarantine laws for wood handling, steps must be taken to ensure that all wood used for packaging follows the local regulations. Putting a copy of the certificate of wood treatment in a visible location in the container is much recommended.

After closing the doors, ensure that all closures are properly engaged and secure. Usually a seal should be applied. Care should be taken that sealing procedures are carried out properly and transport documents/receipts bear the correct seal number before the container leaves the premise.


Container Loading Supervision by Third Party Inspection Companies

During the loading process, the inspection engineer in control will carefully monitor the state of the container and assure that all loading procedures will cease if there is a substantial divergence from the approved loading plan. Since the engineer needs to guarantee that the initial loading plan and the actual loading process are synchronized, it is vital for the effectiveness of the entire operation to conduct observations at appropriate steps of the loading plan to validate the quality of the loading.

If there’s any deviation, carrying on a new loading procedure should be previously agreed by both the importer - through the inspection engineer responsible for the loading plan - and the factory representative. Loading operations should not resume until the inspection engineer communicates the problem with the buyer and buyer gives a clear indication to the factory of his readiness to proceed with the loading operation. So that’s why it is essential that, during a container loading operation, the buyer is available in case the inspector on the ground needs the buyer’s authorization to proceed with something that might not be in accordance with the initial plan.

Besides supervising the condition of the container and the proper loading, the inspection engineer will also conduct a verification on quantity and assortment, the condition of the export cartons, shipping marks, correct products, and follow any recommendations given by the buyer.

To see a sample loading supervision report, please click the button bellow,

V-Trust has a solid history in taking the right steps to make sure that you receive your products and that they are in the same condition that they were when loading began.

Please feel free to contact us at info@v-trust.com for more information concerning our Container Loading Supervision service.

V-Trust Inspection Service

Helping Buyers Sleep Better TM

V-Trust team
Account Manager
B.S. degree in Computer Engineering at West Virginia University
5-year experience in QC industry
Fluent in Portuguese, English, Spanish, Mandarin

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