air freight

Air Freight Packaging Details: Ensuring Professional Shipping of Air Cargo – SUPATH

Air Freight Packaging : SAFETY first. Avoid Damage

There is no doubt that air transport is fastest cargo moving mode. However, in this article, we shall explore the importance of air freight packaging, key considerations, and
best practices to protect your goods during transit.


Air Cargo Packaging: Understanding the Importance

Air freight packaging plays an important role in the safety and security of your goods during transport. Think of possible damage and plan for protection from such damage. In order to assess possible damage scenarios, visualise  airport cargo operations. They  includes the following processes:

  1. lifting/lowering
  2. loading/unloading
  3. stacking/de-stacking
  4. paletising/de-paletising
  5. X-Ray screening/Hand search routines (when X-Ray is not possible)

Potential Risks of Damage: Strategy to Avoid Damage

What are potential risks of damage  that an air cargo could suffer?

  1. Dropping
  2. Tumbling
  3. Throwing
  4. Rain
  5. Water logging
  6. Exposure to extreme heat or cold
  7. Risk of getting crushed
  8. Risk of getting ripped
  9. Forklift damage
  10. Packing straps cutting into the cartons
  11. Pallet sides or feet (chock) getting separated or broken

The Stress Factor – Often Ignored

The three stress factors that any cargo can face:

  1. Horizontal stress
  2. Vertical stress
  3. Lateral stress

Horizontal Stress

This is the stress that a cargo is subject to along the horizontal axis. When, for example, the driver of the lorry slams down the brakes, the forward motion of the vehicle is interrupted, causing a counter action or a recoil. The fastening of the freight can get loosened, thereby setting the cargo in motion along the horizontal axis. The cargo crashes into the neighbouring piece and can suffer damage. If the inner packaging is not safe enough (sturdy or resilient) the contents can get damaged.

Vertical Stress

When cartons are stacked one atop the other, the weight of the cartons on the top will be passed on to the cartons beneath. If the cartons are not sturdy enough, they will get crushed. Under serious circumstances, the contents can spill out or break.

Lateral Stress

The stress that is passed on the cargo sideways. When the vehicle navigates a curve, the law of inertia will act on the cargo, sliding the pieces to the side of the vehicle. This will result in the weight of the sliding pieces being passed on to the pieces directly next to them.

Securing Cartons Against Damage

Checklist for securing cartons

  1. Securing corners and top edges using corner/edge protection collars
  2. Packaging straps to be applied only after corner/edge protection is done
  3. The inside of the cartons should be waterproofed with a seamless lining
  4. Carton flaps must be sealed by strong adhesive tapes.
  5. Seal all openings
  6. If contents are fragile, make sure to use the standard FRAGILE label on all the sides
  7. Avoid using Styrofoam chips! vibration will release trapped air and the chips will rearrange themselves, exposing the content to damage
  8. If contents are delicate affix labels saying NOT STACKABLE. Place a cone on the top, so that no freight is loaded on the top
  9. If the content must remain upright, affix the label THIS SIDE UP on all sides of the carton
  10. Use tamper proof cartons. An example can be seen here.
  11. Use tamper evident labels, where tampering becomes evident. An example can be seen on Alpine Packaging website

Solid Wood Packaging Materials

Be careful with using solid wood packaging materials (SWPM). Using untreated and uncertified  can lead to trouble. Phytosanitary certification is important in international air freight! Please refer to the article on Solid Wood Packaging Materials on this side for detailed information.

Dangerous Goods Packaging

Dangerous goods must be packaged according to the international regulations. It is absolutely mandatory that such a packaging is done by a company or individual that is certified to do it.

Shockwatch – Is your air cargo extremely sensitive to movements?

Can a thrust, a shock, a throw, a tilting or a dropping damage your product inside the packaging? Use impact labels. It is a label that will record any impact. Thus the label acts as a proof of an impact. However, please remember to mention this on your documentation. Freight forwarders handle a lot of freight on any given day. Hence, it is advisable to inform your freight forwarder on the Shipper’s Letter of Instructions (SLI) that a SHOCKWATCH label is affixed to the cargo.

Transporting Goods on a Pallet

If a wooden pallet is used, please read the article on  Solid Wood Packaging Materials on this website! Avoid overhang! cartons stacked on the pallet should occupy the inner perimeter of the pallet. Overhang is a potential risk of inviting damage. It is better to use an interlocking pattern to keep the structure safe. Use a shrink wrap to hold the cartons in place and secure the structure using straps. Use vertical and horizontal straps to prevent any movement of the individual cartons. Always use corner or edge protection collars to avoid straps from cutting into the cartons. Do not forget to a place a waterproof layer on the pallet before placing the cartons on the pallet.

More than one package? Number the packages. Affix Labels

If you have got more than one package, remember to number the individual pieces. E.g. 1 of 10, 2 of 10. Affix labels that identify your package.At any given time, thousands of packages are on the move. It is advisable to give your packages an identity.


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