10 Tips On Loading A Dry Shipping Container, What You Need To Know

10 Tips to Loading A Dry Shipping Container

Knowing how to properly load a dry shipping container is very important for anyone looking to ship goods. To ensure your goods arrive safely it must be loaded properly.

A dry shipping container is a container that is used for 90% of all worldwide shipments. The dry shipping containers’ standard sizes are 20’, 40’, and 40’ HC container sizes. Each size has different payload weights and loading size limits, so when you prepare to load your container, what container size you choose will make a huge difference in the actual container loading.

Learning how to properly load a dry container can take a bit of time and is a skill. But, if you follow our rules and understand some basic information about dry shipping containers, it will make the loading easier for you.

What is A Dry Shipping Container?

A dry container is the most used shipping container of all containers and is used to ship mainly dry goods around the world. 90% of all goods shipped in the world use a dry container. As the name implies this means you are going to be putting dry cargo in it and it does not have refrigeration or any other features. This container is not watertight.

Dry containers are made from aluminum and steel and are suitable for all kinds of cargo. There can be slight differences in the payload (weight loading) and loading between a steel or aluminum. Most shipping companies will not give you a choice on what kind of container you can get but will give you the container you have empty in their shipping yard.

Before Loading Properly Check Your Dry Shipping Container

Before you even start to load your dry shipping container there are a few basic checks you should do. This is important since if you do not do these checks you may find the goods arrive at their destination damaged.

A few things to check before you load your container:

  • Check for container holes and damage– There can be holes or damage on the container and sometimes we have had to try to fill these holes or return the container. The best way to do this is to get in the container and have someone close the door so you can see if any light is coming through where it is not supposed to.
  • Check the container door closes properly – It is very important that your door close properly. You do not want to have the goods fall all over the road before your goods even get to the port.
  • Check the container is seaworthy – The container has to be able to make it to its destination so you need to check that the container is seaworthy and of a good enough condition. We have received some containers that were in such bad shape we refused them and told them to return them and bring a new one.

We have had products arrive at their destination wet because the container had holes in it or it is was not seaworthy. If you do some of these basic checks before you actually load the container it can save you a lot of headaches once the goods arrive damaged due to the poor dry shipping container quality.

Know the Size of Your Dry Shipping Container

You need to understand the size of what your dry container is to know what amount of goods can actually be loaded into the container. No matter how much stuff you have to load into a container you can only get as much in as will actually fit into your container

You will notice when looking at our list below that the containers all pretty much have the same width of 8’ or 2,438 mm. The width does not change in a container. So if you have something that is wider than this or bigger than this you will have a problem unless you put it in sideways.

The height of a standard 20’ and 40’ dry shipping containers are the same at 8’6” tall. Again you need to look at this and also the door opening to know what will be able to be loaded in. For most shipments, this is not a problem. The main issue is if you are shipping something that is very large.

The 40’ HC container is called a 40’ HC or 40’ High Cube container as it is higher than the standard 20’ container or 40’ container. This container will give you an extra foot at the top of the container (8’ 6” compared to 9’ 6”).

20′40′ 40’HC
DimensionsMillimeterFeetMillimeterFeetMillimeterFeet
ExternalL 6,058 x W 2438 X H 2,591L 20′ x 8′ X 8’6″L 12,192 X w 2,438 X H 2,591L 40′ x W 8′ X H 8’6″L 12,192 X w 2,438 X H 2,896L 40′ x W 8′ X H 9’6″
InternalL 5,898 X W 2,352 X H 2, 591L 19’4.2″ x7’8.6″ x7′ 10″L 12,032 X W 2,352 X H 2,591L 39′ 5.21/32″ x7” 19/32″ x7′ 10.7/32″L 12,032 X W 2,352 X H 2,591L 39′ 5.21/32″ x7” 19/32″ x 8′ 10.7/32″
Door OpeningW 2,340 X H 2,280W 7’8″ x 7′ 5.8″W 2,340 X H 2,280W 7’8 1/4″ x 7′ 5 49/64″WW 2,340 X H 2,585W 7’8 1/8″ x 8′ 5.49/64″
Dry Shipping Container Sizes

Know the Payload Weight Limit of Your Dry Container.

All the container sizes have weight limits. If you are shipping very heavy items as ceramic tiles, stones, or cement, the weight limit may be more important to you for your loading than the container size.

This is because of the weight limit that each container size has for the container. This is also why for some items that are very heavy the container may be almost empty but nothing else can be put in the container due to the container weight or payload limits.

Below on this chart, we show the payload weight capacity for a 20’ and 40’ container. The payload means the weight of the goods you actually put into the container.

20′40′
WeightKilogramsPoundsKilogramsPounds
Maximum Payload Weight25,00055,12627,60061,200
Dry Shipping Container Payload Weights

If you are shipping something that is very heavy, you may want to check with your shipping company to see if they have any other weight restrictions or requirements.

Check Your Load Calculations Before Actually Loading

Check the sizes and loading capacity of what you are actually going to load into the dry shipping container. This may seem like common sense but many people do not do this and think they will figure this out when they are loading the container. I cannot stress this enough – you must check the loading capacity before you actually start to load a container.

You can do this by knowing the following calculations:

Check The Carton Size

You need to measure each side of the carton to get the carton area size. This can be done by measuring the length x width x height of the carton to get the overall carton size. The math formula to figure out the CBM of each carton in either inches or cm is below:

  • Carton sizes In inches – (L x W x H) x 0.0000163 For example (20’ x 17” x 7”) = 2,380. Then multiply the 2,380 x 0.0000163 = 0.038 CBM per carton.
  • Carton sizes in CM – (L x W x H) / 1,000,000 For example 40 cm x 50 cm x 35 cm = 70,000. You will then divide the 70,0000 by 1,000,000 or 0.07 CBM per carton for this size.

Once you have the carton sizes then you can add up all the cartons to see the total CBM for your shipment. We work with CBM as we find it is much easier to work with them Cubic feet.

Check Carton Gross Weight

Check the gross weight of each carton. This should be the product including any packing materials and the carton itself. You can then add up all the cartons and their weights to get the gross payload shipping weight. This is the easiest way for you to see if your dry shipping container will be overweight.

Understand Your Container Loading Capacity

Not all dry shipping containers will load the exact same amount of goods. So it is very important you understand the container loading capacity for each container size.

Here is the loading capacity in cubic meters and cubic feet for each of the different dry shipping containers.

20′40′40′ HQ
Internal CapacityCubic MetersCubic FeetCubic MetersCubic FeetCubic MetersCubic Feet
Loading Capacity33.21,17167.82,39476.42,700
Dry Shipping Container Loading Calculations

When shipping a lot of items in a container, especially if some of the items are quite large, you need to account for some extra space in the container for the loading. This really is very tough to know as even a few cm difference in a container size or carton can make a difference into how much you can actually load. Following some of the rules, we have given below on loading a container can help with your dry shipping container loading capacity.

Understand If Any Cartons Have Special Loading Requirements

When loading a container the first thing you need to understand is if there are some goods that have specific loading requirements. Here are some of the special loading requirements:

  • This end up – If a carton has a “this end up” on it then you really cannot lay it on its side without causing damage to the goods inside the carton. Those cartons should be loaded with the “this end up” loading in the correct position.
  • Handle with care / Fragile – if there is a very fragile item you may have to consider where and how you load it. Maybe it cannot be loaded on the bottom but must only be loaded on top. This can also affect how you load the container.

Put Cartons Out In Order of Loading

In our warehouse we will put the products out in the order we will be loading them in the container. We have found to do it this way makes the container loading much easier.

Usually, when you are loading a container the truck driver who drove the container to you is waiting for the container and they will only wait for so much time. So you have to be organized in how you load the container.

There will usually always be a time limit of how much time the driver is willing to wait. As a general rule, our trucking company allows us 4 hours to load a container. If we go over those 4 hours we must pay extra for the drivers time.

Before you load a container this is something you should check out as to how much time you have to load the container. All shipping and trucking companies expect you to do this in a reasonable time frame.

Load Container from Back to Front

Load the container working from the back of the container to the front of the container and do not try to work side to side. If the container is going to have any space it is best that you have that space at the front door so that you can secure the goods in the container.

When loading a container you want the goods to be secure and to move as little as possible. This is why it is easier to do this if the back is packed tightly so the goods do not move and if you need to you can secure the goods at the front door area. In the past, we have used ropes, netting, or even other cartons to secure the goods at the front door so they would not move.

Load the Largest Cartons First

We will load the largest cartons first. This makes sense as usually the larger cartons are the ones that are the heaviest and also they will take up the most space in the container.

Once you have loaded the larger items then you can have a better idea of what space you have left and where space is. You do not want to have these largest items be left to the last minute or they may not fit in.

Put the Heaviest Cartons on the Bottom and Lighter Cartons On Top

As a general rule, the heavier cartons should always go on the bottom of the container. If you put them on the top then they will more than likely damage the lighter cartons on the bottom. This is why whenever possible put the heavier cartons on the bottom and the lighter items on top of them.

Conclusion

Being able to properly load a dry shipping container can take experience and understanding about how to load the container. If you understand the dry shipping container, how to calculate the loading, and how to actually load the container this will help you when you actually need to load the products.

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Anita Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Hummel. I am the President of Mondoro. I am passionate about helping you CREATE, DEVELOP, and MANUFACTURE home decor and home furnishing products. I am also an avid blogger with a love of travel and riding my motorcycle around the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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