Solid Wood Packaging Material in International Air Freight -SUPATH 2018

Solid Wood Packaging Material Air Freight Packaging Requirements Include Environmental Care

Solid wood packaging material in air freight is nothing new and it will continue to play a major role in logistics. Transport and environment are inseparably connected and ISPM 15 has become the international standard. As packaging is a part of transport, the materials used for packaging goods are governed by internationally applicable regulations.

Wood and wood based products have been and is still being used widely in packaging, for not only land based transport but also for moving goods by air and by sea.

Irrespective of the mode of transport, environmental protection is a part of freight forwarding. Solid wood packaging is the relevant theme here I shall try to present as much information as possible. I shall be grateful to the reader for any additional information.

The regulation that is internationally recognised and applicable for all solid wood packaging materials is the ISPM 15. The full document can be downloaded here. The current adopted versions of ISPMs are available for download on

ISPM 15 – Background And Relevance

In the Uruguay round of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), 1995, an international treaty of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) was negotiated. The treaty named “Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures” (SPS in short) came into force in 1995.

As per the point International Standards, Guidelines, Recommendations, under 2.2.1 Annex A , International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is the organisation that sets the benchmark for phytosanitary measures.

Air freight packaging requirements include not only safety of the content but also environmental regulations. This is especially the case when using solid wood packaging. The following categories fall under this classification, if solid wood is used in any form in them :

  • Packing cases (inner and outer casings included)
  • Boxes
  • Crates
  • Drums
  • Pallets
  • Pallet collars or similar items of wood
  • Dunnage

Safety – The First Priority in Packaging

The very first priority in packaging is safety of the content. The packaging should be strong and stable enough to protect the content from damage resulting from

  • Shock (lateral or vertical)
  • Vibration
  • Bumps, tumbling etc. from rough and fast ground handling
  • Moisture, humidity,rain
  • Rupture (forklift etc.)
  • Temperature fluctuation

The Choice – Solid Wood Packaging

When it comes to wood packaging, the safest way to decide is to keep to the official definitions and regulations. The regulations under ISPM 15 are applicable for

  1. Softwood (coniferous)
  2. Hardwood (non-coniferous)

Definition of Wood Packaging Material 

Three technical acronyms are commonly in use, when referring to solid wood packaging materials. They all refer to the same category.

  1. WPM  : Wood Packaging Materials
  2. SWPM : Non-Manufactured Wood Packaging Material
  3. SWPM : Solid Wood Packaging Material

Solid Wood Packaging Material is hardwood or softwood packaging other than that comprised wholly of wood-based products such as plywood, particle board, oriented strand board, veneer, wood wool, etc., whoch has been created using glue, heat and pressure or a combination thereof used in supporting, protecting or carrying a commodity (including dunnage)

At times a bit of bark is found on the solid wood packaging material. This may not be ignored. ISPM 15 has  regulations for such cases.

Bark Tolerance In Solid Wood Packaging Materials

The standard outlined in the regulation sets forth solid wood packaging materials free of bark. However, there is room for a bit of flexibility.

Irrespective of the length of the bark, the width of the same may not exceed 3 cm. However, the individual area occupied by the bark may not exceed 50 square cm.

Solid Wood Packaging Materials Must Undergo Treatment : Legal Norms

Wood packaging materials that have undergone heat treatments during manufacture are exempt from treatment. However, if the materials have been repaired or recycled, they have to undergo treatment again and the IPPC seal must be embossed on the product.

The codes of the two methods used for treatments are :

  1. HT (Heat Treatment)
  2. MB (Methyl Bromide)

Once the material has gone through one of the above mentioned treatments, the IPPC seal is embossed on it and the treatment code is mentioned directly next to the IPPC logo.

The treatments do not have an expiry date. However, as mentioned above the materials need to undergo one of the treatments, if they are recycled or repaired. In such a case the earlier marking needs to be obliterated and the new one applied.

The Identification Mark As Evidence of Treatment

Treated wood packaging materials must carry the mark visibility. The mark consists of the following elements

  1. The IPPC approved symbol
  2. The ISO code of the country (two letter identification
  3. The identification number of the facility
  4. The agency trademark
  5. The treatment code HT or MB, whichever is applicable

Only approved markings are permitted. A company cannot design its own marking.

The Treatment Mark  Regulations

There are regulations attached to the treatment mark. The rules are laid down in in Annex 2 of ISPM 15.

The mark must be

  • legible
  • durable and not transferable
  • placed in a location, which is visible, when the solid wood packaging material is in use.
  • placed, preferable, on at least two opposite sides and fully visible

The regulations also discourage the use of red or orange colour for the marking. These colours are used for marking goods falling under the dangerous goods regulations

The Exceptions in the USA

The following are some of the exceptions in the US. Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP Information Centre

  • Wood Packaging Material made entirely from wood of Canadian origin, which is exempt from the treatment and marking requirements
  • Manufactured items of wood, for example fibreboard, plywood, wine/whiskey barrels, veneer etc.
  • Byproducts from the sawing of wood, such as sawdust, woodwool, shavings. All of them less than 6 mm in all dimensions
  • Wood packaging materials used for most shipments of the department of defence. This can be from those imported by the department itself or by the contractors in the service of the department of defence

For more information please visit the CBP information centre website.

Exceptions as per ISPM 15

The general exceptions as per ISPM 15 are listed in section 2.1 of ISPM.

Packaging For International Air Freight

The safest way is to keep to treated wood for all exports. Using certified wood packaging materials will save processing time in transport at airports.

The other solution is to use materials that do not need certification. Plastic packaging materials are exempt from certification and treatment. However, plastic is a known pollutant and is harmful for the environment. It is wise to avoid plastic packaging materials.

Plywood and particle boards are exempt from certification. However, try to source these materials from manufactures that do not use chroloroflurocarbons in manufacture.

Paper based pallets are available. They can be used be used for a large variety of goods. These packaging materials should be disposable using the usual ecofriendly methods.

Floor Load Tolerance Limitation

An important point to keep in mind when using wood packaging materials is the floor board tolerance limitation. A detailed article on this point can be found here.

Safety – Wobbly content

Avoid wobbly content! The content should be firmly packaged. This will prevent the content from moving during transport. Moving content will transfer the movement to the consignment as a whole, causing a situation where the packaging can sustain damage and cause damage to other pieces in its proximity.

Hygiene – Avoid Damp and Moisture

Wood can absorb moisture and can lead to mould. Moisture can also lead to wood losing its inherent strength. A weak outer packaging is a potential risk to the content. Hence, use check for moist or damp wood, when using wood packaging materials. Using waterproof wrapping for the conents will add to protection and any moisture absorbed by the wood will not seep into the inside, affecting the contents.

Weather Conditions

Weather conditions in both the country of export and in the country of import, including the transit points are to be noted.

Insufficient packaging might lead to obvious damage, when the consignment is in a country having a spell of heavy rains (monsoon). Coniferous wood can easily absorb moisture from the ambient humidity and lose strength. This will make the contents vulnerable.

Risks Arising From Not Following The Regulations For Solid Wood Packaging Materials

We need to protect the environment in which we live. That should be the primary principle we follow even in business life. Freight forwarding is a line of business, where goods along with packaging materials are transported on an international level.

When solid wood packaging materials are used, there is a risk of pests being transported along with the packaging. This risk is to be avoided by following the regulations.

In order to prevent the spread of pests the ISPM 15 regulations were formulated and implemented. However, in view of possible violations of the rules, measures were suggested to counteract such violations. These regulations are put together under the ISPM 20. The full document may be downloaded from the website of the Food And Agriculture Organisation of the United States.

The country of import will have its own regulations to handle solid wood packaging materials that have not undergone treatment (or materials that do not appear to have undergone treatment ) . The following actions can be expected from authorities (of the importing countries)

  • Re-export of the goods at the expense of the shipper
  • Treatment , sorting or re-conditioning
  • Disinfection of regulated articles (including equipment, premises, storage areas and means of transportation)
  • Destruction of the solid wood packaging materials


Avoid solid wood packaging materials that are not treated. Check your packaging materials for the correct markings. Avoid wobbly content. Source your packaging materials from certified manufacturers. Be up to date with information.

Documents Used in International Trade -HOWTO

Documents Used in International Trade – Introduction

Why is the topic Documents Used in International Trade so important? Why should an article be dedicated to it?  All shipments need documents. So why highlight the topic? As most of the articles on this site, this one, too, is kept as simple as possible. Written for shippers and consignees. It is a small concise  howto or how-to, whichever you tend to write it.

It is true that (almost) all shipments are accompanied by documents. Commercial invoices, packing list, conformity certificates, certificate of origin, consular invoices etc are some of the documents that are used widely.

However, experience has shown that many of these documents are not always drawn up  in the way they should be. True, they contain information. It is, therefore, taken for granted that the story ends there.

An Objective View

The simple principle is that a shipment needs to be accompanied by documents. However, they should help both the export and the import procedures to run as smooth as possible. Between the shipper and the consignee, we have three entities :

  1. Freight forwarder: exporting cargo agent
  2. Airline
  3. Freight forwarder: cargo agent and/or broker

Air freight, being a fast mode, is  expensive. Saving time is of utmost importance. Export and import clearance are to move smoothly without any hitch. The documents are important for all the three parties mentioned above.

documents used in international trade

All goods that are being exported have to go through several stages. Time is the factor that is common to all of them. Documents used in international trade consume their own amount of time. It goes without saying that care should be taken in creating these papers. The processing time is to be kept as low as possible. Not all documents used in international trade have identical formats. Readability and visually helpful layout are important. Official documents ( issued by government offices) should not have corrections on them and if they do have some amendments, rules must be followed, such as a correction approved stamp or the necessary stamp required by the issuing authority.

As a manufacturer one clearly knows the product well. The aim is to sell as effectively and as fast as possible.  In a fast moving world one has to be not only necessarily but also effectively fast . However, in this fast lane, keep documentation simple and concise but without breaking any rules. Provide as much relevant information as possible without cluttering the pages.

The customs officer looks for information, which will help him identify the product. The faster he can identify, the faster his processing. If the document only shows abbreviations and code numbers, he will need more time to decide and clearance will take a longer time.

In a typical exports control procedure, the customs officer wants to know what is being exported and to where. He will then check if the export of that product is permissible. He will also check if there is any embargo in place. Hence, the clarity of the document will help save time.

A short list

  • Identifiable name(s) of the product(s)
  • Quantity with unit
  • Weight with unit
  • Type of packaging: carton, pallet, crate etc.
  • Dimensions with unit: Length x Width x Height  cm/in/mm
  • Total number of pieces
  • Total gross weight of the consignment

Below the same list is repeated in a different way.

Not all documents can be covered here. However, the most important points are highlighted below

Commercial Invoice and Packing List

These two documents should, ideally, carry the following information

  1. Title (Commercial invoice/Pro-Forma Invoice/Packing List)
  2. Date
  3. Name and address of the shipper and the consignee
  4. Description of goods (not codings or abbreviations)
  5. Serial numbers of the products (if applicable)
  6. Currency
  7. Packaging information: number of pieces, type of packaging (cartons, pallets etc), dimensions and units (cm, in)

Item 4 is a must if the product is to be temporarily imported. When the product is re-exported after the set time, the customs authorities will demand the identification based on serial numbers.  The customs documents will carry the original serial number.

Caution : Exporting items that will return to the country of export:

Keep in mind these important aspects

There is a time limit for importing under “returning after temporary import”, a process which is used to import goods, without duties being applicable. Ask the relevant customs office!

To avails of exemption of duties applicable to reimporting of goods, it must be be borne in mind that the such goods may not have undergone any physical change. In other words, the import of goods must comply with the principle of “unprocessed goods”. Example: A machine exported may be used for demonstration purposes abroad. However no changes are to be made to the machine. That includes changing any parts, “updating” it with new parts etc. 

In addition to the above, before exporting, make documentary evidence of the goods. This is achieved by  serial numbers  embossed on the item. The number is then mentioned on the accompanying documents such as packing list, commercial/pro-forma invoice etc. 

The import after the demonstration abroad must be done within the relevant period set by customs.

Certificate of Origin

This is issued by an authorised office and most customs offices will demand the original during import processing. Hence, do not delay! You may send the document to the consignee in advance. Do not use standard postal service! Instead use a courier service. Always keep a clear digital copy on hand. A digital copy should be sent to the consignee by mail.

ATA Carnet

Some offices attach a seal to the Carnet! Do NOT damage this! No pages are to be removed.

ATA Carnet is to be kept safely. It will accompany the shipment until the return to the station of origin, where the document will be officially cancelled.

A very clear copy is to be sent to the consignee(or his cargo agent) to help prepare the customs bill of entry.

Veterinary Certificate

If you are exporting dairy products, meat etc, get in touch with the corresponding government authority or the chamber of commerce. Prepare all the necessary documents without any mistakes.

Make clear digital copies of the certificate and send it to the forwarder (cargo agent) at the airport of destination. He may need to consult with the local veterinary officer to know if anything more is needed or if the certificate is OK. Move the goods ONLY AFTER the approval has been received.

The consignee will also need, in most cases, a permit from a government office to import such goods. Not all airports will have a serving veterinary officer. Hence, confirmation regarding the airport of arrival must be obtained prior to export.

Think ahead. Successful tendering to the airline is not the end of the story. When the consignment arrives at the airport of destination, the customs need to release the goods. This can happen only after clearance. What happens if the customs offices declares your documents as insufficient or inadequate or incomplete? What happens, if the customs officer demands further documents?

Special Note: Explained again in a different paragraph here.

Items made out of wood will almost always require the scientific names of the trees from which the item has been manufactured. Provide the consignee with the official scientific name.

Items of animal origin (feather, hide etc) must be described with the corresponding scientific names.  If the item is a leather product, check for requirement of CITES certificates.  What is CITES? 


In such a case the consignment will remain under the custody of the customs office and after the expiry of the free time (between 24 hours and 72 hours calculated from the landing time) storage charges will start.

The usual demurrage is a rate per kg per day (A minimum price will apply). The rate is applicable on chargeable weight and if your shipment is a large one, the price for storage (demurrage) will be high.

Checking In Advance

Prevention is better than cure. The principle applies even to air freight! Documents in international trade need to be checked in advance.  This will help you to minimise the risks. This procedure will help you to keep a control on costs, to avoid unnecessary stress, to prevent wastage of time.

This should be an inseparable part of your quality control. Your customer needs to receive his order on time. You need to receive your payment on time.You also need to make sure that the customer is kept happy. Service goes beyond the airport.

Ask Yourself These Questions

  • Have you requested and received a list of documents your customer needs?
  • Have you passed on to your customer copies of the documents for his perusal and confirmation?
  • Have you received from your customer the go ahead regarding the documents?
  • Have you passed on very clear digital copies of the documents to the freight forwarder, at your end?
  • Can the freight forwarder (cargo agent) or broker at the airport of destination use, without any hitch, the documents to file the customs bill of entry? Remember: A commercial invoice, or for that matter, a packing list, which contains only abbreviations and codings is of no use to the broker. He needs to enter the nature and description of the goods into the bill of entry that he will sent to the customs office.
  • Does the consignee need an import licence?
  • If he needs one, has he applied for it? It is not to your advantage to say that the sales terms are EXW (ex works) and that it the importers job to think about that.  The more information you can give and the more help you can provide, the more satisfied will your client be.
  • Have you provided the shipment details, such as dimensions (with units please), weight etc. in your documents? The broker might be required to enter the nett weight (weight of the goods without the packaging) to the customs. If you say “one piece”, you are making it difficult for the broker to “guess”. A single carton might weight only one kilo, but a pallet might weigh 25 kilos.
  • Does the country of destination accept “pro-forma” invoice? Many do not!!
  • Have you entered the text “For custom purposes only” on your invoice? If you have, did you think that the country of destination might disqualify such a document? The same applies to ” No commercial value”.
  • In the case of a temporary import: have you entered the serial number of your product(s) on the commercial document or any other document, which will be used for re-export?
  • Have you placed your signature (in blue ink!!) on the commercial invoice AND the packing list? Some countries make it mandatory.
  • Have you spelt the consignee (and the address) correctly? (Some countries will give you sleepless nights, if there are “spelling mistakes” in the consignee’s name and address (speaking from experience)

There are more questions, but I do not wish to worry you. I am just speaking from experience and it is my wish that you export your goods with as less problems as possible. If you have a lot of exports and less time on your hands, let a professional manage it for you. After all Rome was not built in a day.

Documents in international trade are no cryptic puzzles. All that you need is good organisation and a good planing. Arm yourself with knowledge. Countries keep changing laws and that affects trade, as well. You know it, knowledge is power.

Special Papers – Extra Attention

Certain documents in international trade demand extra attention. This is not to frighten you. You just need to take care not to lose, damage or misplace certain very special papers. I shall name some of them here:

  • Certificate of Origin Form
  • EUR 1
  • ATR  (Turkey)
  • ATA Carnet
  • CITES Certificate
  • Veterinary Certificate
  • Documents relating to dairy and meat products

Wood And Animal Products

Does your export include products made of wood (that includes decoration articles) or of animal origin (bird feather)?

If it does, then remember to note the scientific name of the plant/tree or animal/bird on your documents. Most of the customs offices will demand the declaration in the binomial nomenclature format.

Before I close this article, I need to address a serious point.

May the Receiver of the Goods See the Commercial Invoice?

The shipper must answer this question. Who is paying for the goods? Who is receiving the goods? The party that is paying for the goods might be selling to the receiver with a profit margin. Hence, the receiving party may not see the commercial invoice.

documents used in international trade


In many such cases, the goods are neutralised. This means that the consignment will be stripped of any paper or label that will show the original shipper. The shipment is delivered as an anonymous one. the receiving party knows only the company that sold the goods to him.

In such a case, do not pass on the commercial invoice to the freight forwarder. The forwarder at the airport of destination will be given a commercial invoice for the customs clearance.

Export Declaration

This is a document that is needed only up to the airport of exit. It is issued by the local customs authority of the shipper. In some cases, the goods are not in the custody of the shipper. It may be located in the warehouse run by another company.

In the latter case, the export declaration is issued by the local customs office of the location of goods. For example, the shipper is located in Paris but the goods are physically stored in Frankfurt, Germany. The local customs office, under whose jurisdiction, the warehouse is, needs to issue the declaration.

The local forwarder will know when the document is required. In Germany, when the commercial invoice(s) carries a value of 1000EUR or more, an export declaration is mandatory. The document carries an 18 digit (character) code called MRN (Movement Reference Number). The last digit is called a check digit.

The German export declaration (called ABD, the abbreviation for Ausfuhrbegleitdocument. It means “Document accompanying the goods for export) is valid for 90 days from the date of issue.


Draw up a check list of the documents required. Ask yourself the questions mentioned in the section above. Plan without loopholes. Keep your lines of communication open. Documents used in international trade have no short cuts.  You may get in touch with me here.

Air Freight Packaging Requirements At A Glance

Air Freight Packaging Requirements – Introduction

Safety in transport is of primary importance to all the parties involved, either directly or indirectly. This important factor begins with packaging materials and the concept of packaging itself. Air freight packaging requirements can be simplified. One does not have to be a scientist to ensure the safety of the contents being packaged.

An Important Clarification

As far as possible, for the sake of readability, I shall not use technical terms. However, some terms cannot be avoided. This article is written with the common man in view. However, it is not a complete  reference document either and the author cannot take responsibility for decisions taken based on the information provided here. Air freight packaging requirements  are many, but only the most important ones are mentioned here.

This documents aims to present the reader with the most important set of information. Professional packaging services are available for specialised freight. Air freight packaging regulations have been set in place by the concerned authorities.

As and where required technical help from experts in the field should be requested. Information is being given here to acquaint the shipper with factors that he has to consider before making his air cargo “ready for carriage”

Security Factor – Tamper Proof Packaging

Air Freight packaging requirements are not complete without the term tamper proof. Airlines, freight forwarders (air cargo agents) and even lorry companies (truckers) have the term “secured freight” on the top of their lists.

Aviation security officers (government officers) can march in any time, into the warehouse and inspect shipments ready for air transport.  Every aspect of security will be  considered during inspection. Tamper proof packing is, hence, a mandatory requirement.

Tamper Proof Packaging – Measures

The primary question is : Is the packaging prone to an entry? The question means, can someone access the contents of the shipment? Are there any slits, holes or any openings? A foreign object such as an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) can be smuggled into the package through an opening. Since the opening was already present, an entry cannot be noticed. There is no visible damage. Hence, any package, which has any form of opening will be classified as not safe for air transport.

The regulations demand that the openings be sealed. When a shipment is tendered to the airlines for transport, the airline reserves the right to refuse acceptance of the freight, if any such opening are present.

The simplest measure is to package the goods in such a way that no external source can get any access to the inside.

Stress – In Air Freight Mode of Transport

Goods in transport are  subject to various forms of stress. In a broad sense, stress can be classified two main categories

air freight packaging requirements

Dynamic stress is that which the shipment is subjected to during movements. This can be

  • Stress due to Impact
  • Stress due to various forms of vibration

The content of the shipment must be able to survive any of the forms of stress. This is achieved by having a packaging done which will withstand several factors, thus keeping the content safe and sound.

Some very basic points to be considered are

  • Wobbly content : the content of the packaging can move freely, when the shipment is moved (tilted, pushed, shaken etc.) . Solution: provide additional stuffing/dunnage to prevent the freight from moving.
  • Thrust Shock: Any shock from outside (e.g. a hit/ a thrust) can damage the content. If the shipment is “thrown” , the landing can cause damage. Solution: Just as in wobbly content, provide additional dunnage. 
  • Projection : A carton on a pallet with the edges of the carton as overhang. Solution: use a bigger pallet.
  • Exposed freight: uncovered freight on a pallet. An easy case for potential damage. Shrink-wrap alone will not help. Either use a overlapping carton with enough dunnage inside.
  • Sharp edges : Pallets may have short edges. Solution: file the sharp edges
  • Pallets without protected chocks (feet) : Very rare case. Almost all pallets available have the chocks covered by long sheets of wood. This helps to distribute the weight of the shipment evenly on the pallet. Exposed chocks are risky. Read the article on floor load tolerance

The shipment will be lifted, moved, set down and probably even dragged. It may be subjected to movements caused by acceleration or deceleration. For example, when the lorry carrying the freight comes to an abrupt stop, the moment might shift the goods forward. A reverse force might propel item backwards. If the stress caused by such a an impact is transferred to the contents, there is a chance of damage.

In the same way, vibration of the engine will cause loose items to move, thus letting the trapped air to escape, causing a collapse of the top layer. This is especially visible in packagings containing styrofoam chips. The air escaping from the gaps will cause the chips to restructure themselves and sink, thereby exposing the top of the freight they covered. Air freight packaging regulations require that the packaging protects the content from almost all possible forms of stress

Stress – Possible Forms or Causes

Each freight is an individual unit and possesses its own strong and weak points. It is advisable for the shipper to formulate his own air freight packaging requirements. Only the shipper knows his wares better and he can draw up a list a of measures to be be followed. A few points are mentioned below, according to which a list can be prepared.

Stress caused by Impact: Vertical Force

  • Vertical fall, or free fall: Consignment falling from the lorry, from the forklift
  • Tipping: Piece is tilted resulting in the object tipping of the side
  • Bumping: Other pieces bump into the piece or while hoisting or setting down
  • Tumbling:  Careless placed shipment rolls over the edge of the surface

Stress Caused by Impact: Horizontal Force

  • Jolt caused by acceleration of the transport vehicle
  • Bumping into the side of the lorry when the latter navigates a curve
  • Other cargo bumping in when the lorry goes up a gradient.

Stress Caused by Vibration

  • Stress caused by the vibration of the engine
  • vertical force impacting on the freight due to movement of the vehicle: plunging, rising
  • Horizontal impact: Forward acceleration, reverse movments
  • Vertical impact :  upward acceleration: take off, landing, lowering, lifts etc
  • Lateral impact :  Impact caused by sideways movements: banking port ward and leeward

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Air freight packaging requirements are put in place not only to avoid foreseeable risks but also to prevent incidents of damage that would cause unnecessary processing time with insurance cases.

Packaging Material – A repetition

If you are using wood, please read the article on wooden packaging! You should keep yourself up to date on ISPM 15 (

Most of the aircraft have temperature regulations in place. It is your responsibility to use a packaging that is well insulated to avoid any temperature influenced damage. If the content is to be protected from frost, an extra label to the effect should be affixed to the outside of the shipment

Waterproofing is not a must, However, precautionary measures are never a bad decision. If the content cannot be damaged by moisture or by water, no extra steps are needed.

Dangerous goods packaging must be fully compliant to the standards set by the IATA. The current copy of the Dangerous Goods Regulation should be available for reference.

Always use sturdy materials. As mentioned above the shipment will be subjected to stress and the packaging must be able to withstand almost all of them.

If cartons are used, see that the flaps at the bottom are secured by adhesive tape.  The inside floor should be reinforced by a protective board or shock absorbent material layer.

Experience has taught me to discourage  packing peanuts. If you really prefer to use them, it is advisable to fill the packaging with the chips and subject the shipment to vibration (shaking, tilting, jolting) to displace the air between the chips. This will change expose the top of the packaging so that more chips can be used to cover the exposed section.

air freight packaging requirementsCourtesy;  yum9me

Blister-wrap (bubble wrap) is a good alternative but also expensive. Combine the materials as you wish. Always better to test packagings before actually implementing them. Your air freight packaging requirements must be tailor made to your needs and products. The goal to avoid any form of damage.

Smoothen sharp edges (pallets). Avoid using metal under the chocks (feet of the pallet). Metal against metal is not permissible in air freight transport. Avoid using pallets with exposed chocks. Always use pallets that have the chocks covered by strips to give an even running lower side.

Heavy Engineering Goods

Shipments of a higher weight category may not be packaged. The airline will give you instructions on what is to be done. Sufficient space must be available under the shipment for a wooden floor which will be mounted on the air freight pallet (also called ULD = Unit Load Device).

Protect the bottom of the shipment with proper earthing as the load will be placed on a protective plastic sheet (static electricity) .

Vibratory Stress – A Note For Sensitive Equipment

If you classify your shipment as sensitive to vibrations, you should inform your packaging company to use materials that insulate the contents from strong vibrations. Your list of air freight packaging requirements must mention that packaging materials should be able to withstand and protect the contents from vibrations levels which can reach up to 500 Hz

Air Freight Packaging Requirements for Oversize Freight – Very Long Heavy Pieces

Shipments are secured to tie down slots on the floor of the aircraft. Strong belts (lashes) are used to secure the freight. The air freight pallets and ULDs (Unit Load Devices) are locked in place using the locking down slots on the aircraft floor. Providing rings or hooks along the length of the freight will help the loading staff to save time and also give your freight that extra amount of security.

Requirements For Temperature Sensitive Shipments

Is your freight temperature sensitive? You must mention it on your SLI (Shipper’s Letter of Instructions). If your freight does not need “active cooling” during the flight, but should be kept within a certain temperature range (usually between 2°C and 8°C),  no cool container (also called Envirotainer) is needed. The freight will still be transported within the temperature limits.

However, if the flight needs to go through transit, the hold will be opened to remove the freight required for the stop over destination. This will cause a sudden change in temperature conditions within the hold. Hence, include special insulation in your list of requirements.

Packaging Requirements For Temperature Controlled Freight – Passive Cooling

Passive cooling means no temperature controlled container is used. Cooling is done by the type of packaging used. An insulated carton can keep the outside temperature (ambient temperature)  from reaching the content. Calling gel or similar material is inserted into the carton to keep the content at the required temperature. Dry ice, too, may be used for cooling.

Passive cooling is to be used only for freight booked on direct flights. When a transit is involved, there will a lay off time for freight before it goes on to the connecting flight.

Hence, consider, how long the cool packs or gel packs can keep the content cool. Never use a consolidation mode for transporting temperature sensitive freight. Use air freight packaging requirements on a case by case basis.

Additional note for temperature controlled shipments flown using envirotainer containers (RKN):  If you shrink-wrap your shipment, remember to leave the bottom of the pallet open. If you cover the bottom of the pallet with the shrink wrap film, the cooled air will be blocked from circulating.

Cartons On Pallets

Cartons on pallets must be secured using strong steel or plastic straps. Use a contour protection (angular hard board frame lines) to prevent the straps from cutting through the carton. Straps cutting through the cartons will cause the freight to be classified as “in danger of manipulation”. If this happens, the consignment will have to be “made secure” after inspection. This means the slits need to be sealed and secured against any possible manipulation. Air freight safety regulations are very stringent.

An Advice Oft Repeated

All small shipments, flying on long haul flights, save time and energy if kept below the 160 cm limit. Anything above the 160 cm height limit needs a freighter.

All small shipments that need to be re-loaded on the connecting flights  should be below the 160 cm limit. However, there a lot of destinations, to which only “narrow body” aircraft operate. For example if the connecting flight is a B757 (Boeing 757) the height of the freight may not exceed 70 cm and a weight of maximum 150 kg per piece (some airlines may demand a lesser weight per piece).

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Air Cargo Handling Process – For Shipper And Consignee

Introduction To Air Cargo Handling Process

Knowing air cargo handling process is  one of the first steps to a successful planning an air freight shipment. Getting your freight to your customer punctually is the set goal Detailed planning is an important part of air cargo forwarding. Careful planning is made watertight, when right information about freight handling procedures is used.

Air cargo handling procedures commence from the moment the freight is picked up and is sent on its way to the airport. Here is a short list give you a quick view:

  1. Pick up punctuality
  2. Pick up order clarification
  3. Physical condition of the freight before pick up
  4. Driver’s receipt
  5. Warehouse procedures
  6. Airline procedures

air cargo handling processCourtesy: Bernal Saborio

Air Cargo Handling Process : A Concise Overview

The sections below will explain, in a language as simple as possible almost all the points that need to be looked into before preparing a consignment for air freight forwarding.


One of the first points in freight handling is documentation. Without documents a shipment may not even leave the airport warehouse. Invoices, packing lists, Certificate of Origin etc. all fall under the single heading of export documentation.

Pro-Forma or Commercial Invoice and Other documents

Some countries will not accept a pro-forma invoice as a legitimate document for customs clearance. Let your consignee confirm in writing all the documents that are needed. Many countries demand that the document is signed in blue ink! No point in fretting! If the law demands a signature in blue ink, you have no other option!

The documents must accompany the shipment. In many cases copies will be enough. In the majority of cases, originals must accompany the consignment. Retain good electronic copies of all. Make them accessible via email.


One may not believe, but the truth is, many companies do not pay attention to the packaging. I have experienced this on an almost daily basis. Air freight handling procedures include checking the packaging. Stability, possibilities for manipulating (air freight security), overhang, dimensions etc. are all important.

Packaging Materials

Are you using wood for packaging? Including dunnage? Remember to use exclusively treated wood, which carries the IPPC logo and the treatment used. See example below. for more details, please read the article on wooden packaging.

air cargo handling procedures

Packaging Security

Close all the slits, openings etc. No opening should be visible. Secure the cartons on pallet using strong bands. The bands or strips should not cut into the packaging. Affix shipper and consignee details on at least two sides. Make sure to use “This Side Up” label if the box should may not be turned or tipped to the side. The text DO NOT THROW should be mentioned clearly and boldly, if needed. The same applies to fragile contents.

Pick Up

The driver should sign your shipment slip with his name (block letters), registration number of the vehicle, date and time.  It is the driver’s duty to note any damage that is visible on the outside of the consignment. The documents are to be handed over to the driver in person. Attach copies of documents to the shipment in waterproof pockets.

Export Warehouse

The warehouse staff will check:

  • Condition of outer packaging
  • Dangerous goods requirements, if the shipment is classified as such.
  • Outer dimensions
  • Gross weight (nett weight/quantity is not relevant except in the case of dangerous goods)


As of the time of writing this article, every consignment must have “secured” status. If the shipper is not classified as KNOWN CONSIGNOR (by the legal authority concerned), the shipment must be screened and declared SECURED by the staff authorised to do that.

Opening the shipment might be needed in certain cases. The piece(s) will be closed after inspection.  This usually happens, when the content has a very high density factor, which prevents the x-rays from penetrating the material.

Screening is an inseparable part of air cargo handling process practised all over the world.

Dangerous Goods

  • Is the Shipper’s Declaration correctly drawn up? (also called DGD = Dangerous Goods Declaration) . Minimum of two originals! Some airlines demand three.
  • Have all the regulations been met in the description?
  • Correctly labelled? No overlapping is permitted.
  • A copy of the DGD (Dangerous Goods Declaration) affixed to the consignment pieces.
  • correct packaging material used?

Remember, if the airline rejects a consignment, because of errors, a recheck fee will be applicable, in addition to the standard dangerous goods fee. When it comes to dangerous goods, the airlines practise a zero tolerance policy!

It must be noted that airline can offload a dangerous goods shipment quoting various reasons. Dangerous goods have no priority!

Floor Board Tolerance

The amount of weight applied on a square meter of space by the freight on an aircraft. Especially important when a pallet with chocks (feet) is used. The amount of weight focussed on one chock is the method of calculation. For detailed information, please read my article on floor board tolerance.

Avoid pallets with exposed chocks. See that the weight of the freight is distributed evenly on the pallet. Avoid overhang (freight projecting out of the pallet area.

Packaging, Dimensions And Weight

Deliberately keeping this point as the last one, so that it sticks to memory.

Air cargo handling process always include these three factors.

Specify the art of packaging on the SLI (Shipper’s Letter of Instructions): Carton/Pallet etc

If there are a number of cartons on a pallet, specify the number on the SLI

Mention the outer dimension AND the unit (cm, inches etc).

Always use the sequence: Length x Width x Height

On long haul flights, the usual maximum permissible height of the consignment per piece is 160 cm. If the freight will need a transit, it can happen that a smaller aircraft will be in operation. This will mean, the shipment must be shorter (about 70 cm in height) and a maximum of 150 Kg in total gross weight per piece!

The air cargo agent or broker must declare the nett weight of the shipment in his customs bill of entry. Mentioning the art of packaging on your documentation will help the export freight forwarder to include it on the Air Waybill or in his pre-advice to the agent abroad.


The salient points of air cargo handling process once again:

  • Complete and correct documentation
  • Right packaging materials and procedure
  • Correct dimensions and weight

Further Reading:

http://Air Cargo How It

Flying Heavy Engineering Goods: A Practical Approach

Introduction To Flying Heavy Engineering Goods

Flying heavy engineering goods by air  is not an impossible task. However, the shipper will be at an advantage, if  all necessary preparations have been made in advance, especially those abroad. Local preparations are to be done together with the freight forwarder.

Keep It Simple

Air freight is fast, effective and expensive. Optimising the planning to save time and avoiding confusion should be the core of the whole process. Set priorities, draw up lists, and set up a team. Flying heavy engineering goods will be a smooth process if a few points are kept within view.


Here is an article for you you.

Timing is the key to sending heavy engineering goods by air successfully and without any stress.  Below is an infographic, that will give a small list of some of the most important points. The list is not complete but a help to draw up your own detailed list.

flying heavy engineering goods
Flying Heavy Engineering Goods – Supath Business Services International


Assign an employee to co-ordinate the whole project. It would be ideal to make another member of the staff available as a back up. Communications lines are to be kept open. Keep all the documents in one file and that includes all the details of the contact persons. Flying heavy engineering goods will require  the best of co-ordination and smoothness in operations.

Freight – Points To be Noted Always: General Information

  • If shipment is 10 tonnes or more, do NOT package it without having a consultation with  the airline.
  • If wood is used in packaging , please  read the packing article.
  • If a crane is needed, have hooks been provided on the shipment? Protection sleeves for chains or cables? or soft but strong abrasion resistent padding to avoid damage to the machine surface while handling.
  • Pressure chambers in the machine (if any) removed? (pressure chambers may be classified as dangerous goods).
  • Pick up: Is a gantry crane available at the facility? Is an external crane service needed? Any special requirements? (Metal rods or solid shafts)
  • Dimensions : Length x Width x Height with unit of measure. Keep the details accurate.
  • Weight: total gross weight of the goods “ready for carriage”. It is good to make the nett weight of the freight available to the airline.
  • Tie-down points are to be made available to the airline. Tie-down points : slots/rings/hooks to secure the freight to the air freight pallet.
  • Pre-export Check
  • Last but not the least, There should be a possibility for a wooden floor to carry the machine. Metal on metal (air freight pallets are metal) transport is not permitted

Airline staff usually inspect the machine before tabling a quotation. Once the airline contract is in place, a loadmaster will inspect the goods and advise, if anything special needs to be done. It is important that, by this time,  the consignee is ready for the import (documents are in place, broker is informed, equipment ordered etc.). The airline that will fly the heavy engineering goods needs to plan the transport through one or more channels. Airport of despatch and airport of departure and airport of destination.

Airport of despatch means, it is not the airport from where the consignment will fly. The shipment needs to be transported to another point, from where it will finally fly. Heavy engineerings goods need detailed planning: warehouse, positioning in the aircraft and moving it in the right order when the loading process begins

Documents are to be passed on in advance (always better to send them in PDF format). The consignee needs all papers in advance, so that he can pass them on to the broker who will be responsible for the customs clearance. The consignee is usually located in a different time zone and he cannot wait for you to be in office.


Remember: Consignment sitting in a customs warehouse means cost! A large shipment will cause an enormous amount of charges which will need to be paid immediately.

Resources Centre

Anybody needing help or advice to plan air freight, please get in touch using the contact form below. However, consultation with your freight forwarder/air cargo agent cannot be stressed enough. 


Your feedback is important. Please share your thoughts and ideas. They are welcome.


Experts in the field: please point out any errors or changes. A feedback from readers will be highly appreciated. Please share your thoughts by commenting. Any recommendation on bettering the content is welcome and will be highly appreciated.


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Planning Air Freight Consolidation – A Short Description

Planning Air Freight Consolidation

Planning air freight consolidation is directed at those who are new to air freight consolidation. A few points are for the attention of shippers (aka consignors). Unnecessary theory will be avoided. Only practical points.

Air Freight Consolidation Goals

An example of what happened in the real world : A large piece of freight belonging to the class of heavy engineering goods was picked up at the customers facility, transported to the airport, right to the apron for a nose load (freight loaded into the nose of the aircraft. Boeing 747). Freight is placed on the lift platform to load and lifted. all goes well, until the moment of shock. The size of the freight is too big! It cannot be loaded into the aircraft!  No names mentioned and none will be revealed.

Those who are curious to know what a nose loading process is, here is an image that shows exactly what it is. 

Why did I post this example. What can be deduced from the above? The above occurrence points us to one particularly important item on the list of a freight forwarding professional : organisation. The incident above point out:

  • Carelessness
  • time wasted
  • loss of money
  • dissatisfied customer

Such a terrible mistake should never happen. However, they open our eyes to where the focus has to be in the field of air freight operations. Consolidating freight is only one side to the freight forwarding industry.

So what are the goals that need to be kept in mind while planning air freight consolidation?

The whole process of consolidation can be wrapped up in one phrase, air freight optimisation. All the activities that go into what is technically called air freight consolidation (“consol” as freight forwarders name it) is aimed at optimisation.


Although people talk about quality, there is no doubt that the market of today is price driven. Cheapest possible price, rock bottom price etc. are terms that a freight forwarder hears every day. Planning air freight consolidation  does not need a university degree in logistics. It is a simple and straightforward process.

Optimising Price

Consignments travelling to a one destination are booked under one master air waybill. One can call it a “single freight consisting of several pieces”.  The airline does not sell flights, but freight space. Freight space is booked in advance and is filled as the week goes by.  The more the freight, the lesser the rate. Since it is space that is being sold, it should be clear to the shippers that “volume” is of importance.  20 Kg of cotton and 20 Kg of iron weigh the same, but occupy a totally different area.  Heavy freight occupying less space (high-dense pieces) should be found to contain the volume weight within limits.

Optimising time

All the pieces of freight move in one lot and not at different times of the week. Shippers and consignees can organise their order processing to achieve a price benefit. This will help, all the parties involved, to save money.  Move the freight on a weekend consolidation to save money and nerves! While planning air freight consolidation one should always keep the focus on time. Air freight is a fast transport mode and time is precious.

Optimising co-ordination

What the shippers and consignees conveniently forget is that the freight forwarder has snot finished his task once he has given the shipper the flight data. It is the freight forwarders job to co-ordinate the freight at the destination. The air freight agent at destination needs to be informed, documents need to be passed on, customs formalities need to be put in place are all unavoidable tasks. The advantage of consolidation is all the freight can be co-ordinated at once in one go. Planning air cargo consolidation is all about co-ordinating various aspects  within a tightly defined frame.

Destination based freight management

Once the freight has cleared final export customs clearance and has been tendered to the airline, the air freight agent at the airport of destination needs to be informed. documents need to be passed on. The customs bill of entry needs to be processed, data capture has to be done. The agent at the airport of departure (AoD) should be in a position to help his counterpart, when it comes to any documents, information etc. Planning air freight consolidation means planning a co-ordinated movement in such a way that it is smooth and efficient. Managing the freight abroad by managing communication lines.

A new business going to the US for example needs a few things to be checked in advance.

  • Has the consignee a bond in place?
  • Does he have his own broker?
  • If the consignment is NOT going to the airport closer to the consignee, but to a destination far away, would the broker be prepared to do a remote filing?
  • If he cannot, he should be ready to give a sup-power of attorney to your agent at the airport of arrival.
  • A bond has to be in place BEFORE the arrival of the freight, in order to save warehouse charges (demurrage)

Attention Shippers.

Pay attention to your packaging. If you are using wood keep to the ISPM norms. For more information click here.  Avoid overhang! If you are using pallets, try to use pallets with encased chocks (feet) .

Planning – A Concise Layout

Accurate dimensions are important. An aircraft has limited space and freight is always transported on or in  ULDs (Unit Load Devices)

Reference : ULD Unit Loading Devices

  1. AKE LD3 Lightweight
  2. AKE LD3 – 45
  3. AKW LD3 – Val
  4. AVA LD3 – Val
  5. AMH 10 Ft
  6. AMJ 10 Ft
  7. PMC 10 Ft
  8. PLA Half Pallet
  9. PLW Wings

Only those with valid certification are permitted to build  ULD consols  (built up units). Visit Lufthansa site for detailed information on ULDs.

Weight: No guesswork, please! Consignments are often weighed by the airline. Wrong weights mean, loss of time. Since several pieces make up  a consolidation, a few wrong weights can accumulate to form a large difference. An overloaded ULD might  collapse under weight. Think about floor load weight tolerance limits. Planning air freight consolidation doesn’t have to become a thesis. It just needs to be as accurate as possible

Documents : Original documents should be included in the consol pouch. Recheck if needed. Be a pedant when it comes to freight going to South America. Spelling mistakes can invite penalty (Venezuela, Brazil), Signatures on AWBs (Brazil). War risk declaration (Israel), No weight discrepancy (India) on AWBs. No “Pro-forma” on invoices (India)

ULD Consolidation

Check dimensions of the pieces! No sharp edges! Check the ULD before loading the freight :

Some of the points to be checked:

  • Rivets missing?
  • Tie down slots damaged?
  • Torn walls/Slits?

Third Party Freight In Consolidation

Check the pieces. Neutralised effectively? Labelled properly. Documents removed? Accompanying documents in consol pouch or on the consignment?

No ghost pieces! Consignee and shipper details to be mentioned on pieces.Airlines do not deliberately misplace freight. Since air freight is a fast mode, handling is a fast process and human beings can make mistakes.


Table calculators may be good. But not for consolidation jobs. Use a spreadsheet. Enter the consignment details (length, width, height, gross weight). Get the computer to calculate the volume (cubic metres ) and the volume weight.


Update the airline on time. Freight management can function well only when the agent and the airline work in harmony.

Update your agent at the airport of arrival. He needs to make preparation for the bills of entry.

Update your customer with flight details. He will update his customer abroad of the arrival of the freight.

Planning air freight consolidation : keep the aircraft in mind

Attention shippers: Keep your consignments, as far as possible to a maximum of 160 cm in height. That is the limit for all “lower deck” (belly load). If your freight is going to smaller airports (no direct flights) , try to keep the pieces to 70 cm in height or less and if possible limit the weight to maximum 150 Kg. On long haul flights 160 cm is quite normal. However, if the freight needs to be offloaded at the main airport and then go by transit to another, it is quite possible that a “narrow body” aircraft is used (B757 maximum height 70cm. Lufthansa takes 80cm. A319/A320: 110 cm)

MD 11 Main deck loads : maximum 244 cm in height.

B747-400 : standard is 295 cm height. In certain versions a bit more may be possible.

Remember: the length and the width of the consignment matter!!


To be continued….

Planning Airfreight Consolidation – Focus Points

Planning Airfreight Consolidation – Starting Point

This article is mainly aimed at those who are new to air freight consolidation or the line of business itself. Certain parts of the article is also meant for shippers.

The first and foremost point before you take any step in planning airfreight consolidation is to remember the most important point in freight forwarding: client satisfaction. All the other points are dependent on this one pivot. It is needless to say, this is the pivot of all businesses. This is the key factor to success in businesses and freight forwarding is no exception to this rule.

Here is a small infographic, made deliberately compact to help you focus. Later on in the article, I shall come to the small text in red. It has an important role to play in freight forwarding.

airfreight consolidation_air cargo consolidation

Client Satisfaction – Primary Factor in Air Freight Consolidation

Planning air freight consolidation is not a difficult task. Dedication to client satisfaction should be a point that should never go into the background. The reason is simple. The more clients you have, the more the freight you get. This will determine the success of your consolidation strategy.

Planning airfreight consolidation must take prices into consideration. It is true that price rules the market, however, good service is not a point that gets no attention. The last 15 years have shown me that there are companies that are focussed on prices alone but these have, in the course of time, lost a lot of business. Why? The logic is easy to understand. A person buying your product is paying for it and when the  value is not available, the client will move to another supplier.

In the case of air freight, timing is of utmost importance. It adds value to the product the client is buying. A consignment arriving by air freight ten days after being picked up is an extremely poor service and there is no justification for that span of time

Air Freight Consolidation Pricing

Freight is consolidated for purposes of optimisation

  • optimising price
  • optimising timing
  • optimising organisation
  • optimising coordination
  • Optimising destination based freight management

Since planning airfreight consolidation has price optimisation as a point, we need to see how this goal can be achieved. Getting a profit is the basis of any business. Without profit no business will survive, let alone succeed. A freight forwarder who does not go into consolidation will soon find his finances in difficulty.

The buying price for 100 Kg cannot be compared to that of a consignment of 1000 Kg. The more the weight, the more the advantage in buying. Manage your numbers by managing the weight

If you do not pay attention to the weight and volume relationship, you are going to make a big blunder one day and end up with a loss. So always keep the gross weight and volume ratio in mind, when doing your calculation

For shippers who are reading this article: When you request or demand consolidation of your freight (or in other words: you want that your consignment to go with a consolidation), you should not forget that a freight forwarder needs information regarding your freight much in advance. The earlier you advise, the better. Planning airfreight consolidation will need information regarding the dimensions and the weight of your consignment. At least the approximate values. You can always mention that the figures you’re giving are approximate values, so that the freight forwarder is prepared. Air freight is not all about weight, it about volume. You are paying for the amount of space your freight occupies. Pay attention to your packaging. External dimensions are taken into account diligently, as the space is limited. Avoid overhang! Anything above 300 cm might be considered as oversize. Avoid the risk of crossing the floor board tolerance limits by using pallets where the chocks (the feet) are covered by a plank all along the length

planning airfreight consolidation

Dimension Problems In Planning Airfreight Consolidation

Do not get carried away by weights. Keep an eye on the dimensions. Overhangs can cause difficulties in consolidation! Keep your thinking clear.

planning airfreight consolidation

Standard height limitation for lower deck consignments is 160 cm external dimension. Do not be misled by aircraft hold dimensions. Freight will be loaded into or on to ULDs by the airline (if you are using a loose consolidation). Keep in mind the limitations of the ULDs. Planning airfreight consolidation will involve these units, since freight is not loosely loaded into aircraft.

Reference : ULD Unit Loading Devices

  1. AKE LD3 Lightweight
  2. AKE LD3 – 45
  3. AKW LD3 – Val
  4. AVA LD3 – Val
  5. AMH 10 Ft
  6. AMJ 10 Ft
  7. PMC 10 Ft
  8. PLA Half Pallet
  9. PLW Wings

Only those with valid certification are permitted to build  ULD consols  (built up units). Visit Lufthansa site for detailed information on ULDs.

Main deck height limits vary from aircraft to aircraft.  Long haul flights do not use B757 aircraft. Yet, I have mentioned this aircraft above, because There are several situations where your freight is not going to fly directly to the destination. It will be offloaded at the main airport and then transferred to another flight to continue the journey. This flight may be on a narrow body aircraft. Various airlines use various limits. On a B757 80cm is loadable, however Malaysian Airways used to limit it to 70 Cm. Remember, smaller freight is usually loaded by hand into the aircraft ( ATR72 for example). So keep in mind these limitations. Else your consolidation will face difficulties.

planning airfreight consolidation

A319/320 aircraft are usually limited to 110 Cm on the lower deck. Lufthansa might allow 114 Cm. The airline will usually inform you when you book. Lufthansa will always inform you while booking. Yet, it is always better to be informed beforehand.

MD 11 aircraft can take in 244 cm in height and B747-400 can take in 295 Cm (Length and width matter, as well!!!). Certain versions of the jumbo can take a bit more. Give the airline the exact dimensions.

Large Machinery

This information is mainly for shippers and is not for consolidation purposes.In General, airlines will refuse any packaged consignment of 10 tonnes or more than that. Hence, the airline loadmaster will request an inspection of the cargo. The shipper should make a drawing available to the loadmaster.

Since the machine will be loaded on to an air freight pallet, it should be remembered that standard regulations prohibit a “metal-on-metal” transport. Provide wooden beams and at the same time keep an eye on the height.

Weight Volume Management in Planning Airfreight Consolidation

Keep a spreadsheet ready. It should have the following columns (apart from the destination and the MAWB and the shipper details)

No. of pieces L W H Gr.Wt CBM  Vol.Wt  Ch.Wt.
  • L = Length
  • W = Width
  • H = Height
  • Gr.Wt. = Gross Weight
  • CBM = Cubic Meters
  • Vol. Wt = Volume Weight (cbm x 166.6666)
  • Ch. Wt. = Chargeable Weight

Agents And Co-ordination in Planning Airfreight consolidation

As mentioned earlier Optimisation is the main foundation and goal of consolidation. Although the consignments are addressed to their respective consignees, all the pieces are brought under one roof : the Master AWB, which is addressed to the air freight agent at the airport of destination.

Keeping a flow of communication with this agent is very important in air freight (or in any branch of transport) . Sent a pre-alert with all the documents (in clear print). Special documents are mandatory, if included with the freight: e. g. Certificate of Origin.

If neutralised consignments (Consignee may not know the physical origin of the consignment) are included, never sent any papers from the original shipper! Please see below.

Third Party Consignments or Neutralised Consignments in airfreight consolidation

In a third-party consignment, three companies are involved.

  1. The manufacturer (can be OEM ) or supplier
  2. The exporter
  3. The importer

The exporter buys from the manufacturer . The supplier invoices the exporter. The transaction between the manufacturer and the exporter is of no concern of the importer. TIn most of the situations, the exporter may not even know who the original supplier is. The documents of this transaction is not to be exposed to the importer (breach of contract).

The consignment is to be neutralised by removing all documents from the piece. In certain cases the content may need to be repackaged by the exporter (shipper / consignor). Include only the documents that the shipper has handed over.

Very important: keep the airline informed and updated. The airline needs to plan the flight and weight control and capacity management is an extensive task. Booking staff, sales staff, warehouse staff, freight management staff in the handling departments all need to get information at the right time. The staff at the station of departure, airport of departure,  the airport of transit and at the airport of destination need to get information so as to prepare.

Send the airline your update on time. The best is to send a spreadsheet as shown above. The earlier you send it, the better. It is usual in air freight that consignments are advised late by shippers. Pick up delays can happen.  Approximate data will help. Keep it realistic. Booking ten tonnes of freight and tendering two tonnes is not fair. At times the airlines can, in such a case, increase the rate and it might be to your disadvantage.


Considering the cost of air freight and the fast service it demands, punctuality should never take a backseat.  For a consolidation to work well the following points must be followed. This section applies to the shippers, as well

  • SLI (Shipper’s Letter of Instruction) MUST be complete with ACCURATE details (number of pieces, dimensions, weight, address information of both shipper and consignee, the terms of sale . Shipper Consignee dialogue punctuality.
  • SLI must reach the forwarder on time. Preferable a minimum of one day in advance. If the consignment is of a very high weight class,  the forwarder is to be informed at leat two days in advance!
  • Advance bookings. Forwarders usually have advance bookings (monthly bookings / allotments)
  • Pick up timing! Asking a freight forwarder to pick up freight late in the afternoon is, certainly, not fair. Airlines do not have “elastic” capacity and forwarders do not have “extra” staff on standby.
  • Any special requirement at the airport of destination needs to be sent to the air cargo agent at the airport of destination on time (cold storage, crane requirement etc)
  • Check the airline track and trace information on time. Changes, delays etc can happen
  • Keep shipper and agent informed on time. Consignee / agent may need to prepare for equipment (heavy-duty forklift, crane, cold storage, special transport etc)

Planning Airfreight Consolidation – Shippers’ Contribution

The freight forwarder and the airline are only two “processing” links in the transport chain. The functionality of these two links is dependent on the contribution by the shipper and the consignee. The role that these two parties play is not a minor one.

The airline and the freight forwarders move the freight from A to B but everything around this small process is controlled by the clients.

Known Points of Conflict in Air Freight

Packaging : Many clients are not informed about the packaging requirements. Please refer to the article  on wooden packaging. Wrong packaging can, under certain circumstances, hold up a whole consolidation

Dimensions: Wrong dimensions can break up a consolidation! Extreme deviations from those originally given to the forwarder will wreck the organisation. If the freight forwarder has planned a consolidation on a Unit Load Device; say for example a PMC that can carry 10 cubic meters; and the consignment is bigger than originally advised, then the agent has a difficulty is “reorganising” his consolidation. Unit Load Devices are not free.

Terms Of Sale (Incoterms): When using FCA please write it in full: FCA, named place. Simply writing FCA is asking the freight forwarder to guess. FCA, your factory premises is as good as EXW (Ex Works).However, if it is FCA, airport of departure, the pick up charges need to be raised on the shipper and not the consignee. The freight forwarder draws up the House AWB earlier during the day. Hence, he needs to know about the invoicing. In the evening, the consolidation will be “closed” and any correction will mean revising the MAWB. That is being unfair to the freight forwarder, as he can go home only after the consolidations are all closed.

Transport Insurance: is NOT automatically covered. A written request is mandatory for the insurance cover to be done.

Dangerous Goods in Consignment: Illegal! No matter how small, no dangerous goods (as per IATA regulation) may be included in a consignment. any dangerous goods must be declared and the mandatory steps be followed. If dangerous goods are discovered in a consignment, the consolidation will have to be halted, the problem consignment will be removed and the charges will be raised on the shipper.  If the piece was included in a built up unit consolidation, the airline will raise the charges for opening up the ULD on the freight forwarder, who in turn will raise the charges on the offending shipper.


In a fast-moving world it is not easy to keep track of all information. Daily tasks are many and managing an export section can be demanding. Rules keep changing, airlines keep changing rates, security rules are updated every day. Regulations in other countries undergo changes. Customs formalities change. Keeping abreast of all these can be challenging. Leave those tasks to experienced professionals. SUPATH

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Luftfracht – Sendungen nach und aus Indien

Indien – Der Markt der Zukunft

Exportieren Sie nach Indien? Beziehen Sie Ware aus Indien? Kommunizieren Sie viel mit Indien? Haben Sie Schwierigkeiten mit der Abwicklung von Geschäften? Verlieren Sie viel Zeit und Geld mit den Abwicklungen?

Mit über 18 Sprachen (keine Dialekte!) ist es nicht einfach mit Indien Geschäfte abzuwickeln. Die deutsche Organisation und die indische Gelassenheit  sind nicht immer eine gute Kombination.

Es gibt aber Wege, Lösungen und durchaus positive Seiten. Wege und Lösungen kann ich für Sie finden und ermöglichen, denn ich bin gebürtiger Inder, ansäßig hier in Deutschland seit 18 Jahren. Fragen? Gerne.

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International Air Freight Consolidation – In Short

International Air Freight Consolidation – A Short Explanation

This article is for those who are not conversant with the process of international air freight consolidation, or for those who are newcomers into the field and as such it will be kept as simple as possible.

Why Use Freight Consolidation?

The simplest answer to the question is saving money. On a broader view it is more than just that. Competition is stiff and ways and means need to be found to save money, reduce expenses and organise freight.

The salient points of international air freight consolidation

  • Single airport of departure
  • Single airport of destination
  • One master air waybill
  • Several house air way bills
  • Both pre-paid and collect AWBs can be combined in one go
  • Easy for airlines to handle and organise
  • Keeps expenditure low
  • Co-ordination of freight is easy
  • Increases  the freight forwarders’ capacity to negotiate prices
  • Rate flexibility for clients

When To Use Consolidation

If you have a number of consignments going to the same destination, try to consolidate your freight. As much as possible quotations to the customers are to be based on consolidation. There may be exceptions to this: consignments being forwarded under L/C (Letter of Credit) form one of these. The banks might put up a condition demanding direct air freight. Such a condition has to be adhered to.

Dangerous goods (as per the IATA regulations) may not be transported under consolidation. Refer the actual DGR manual for any amendments.

It is especially advisable to use consolidation if you have a number of consignments falling under the “minimum” category, going to the same destination. This helps you to offer competent rates to your clients, reduce your own expenditure and co-ordination time

Organisation is the alpha and omega of any freight forwarding mode.  Especially when it comes to air freight, or better still, to international air freight, organisation gets the highest priority. Time management is  very important in a fast-moving mode such as air freight and consolidation offers the best possibility to manage time to the optimum. International air freight consolidation is the key concept that covers organisation and time management under one roof.

International Air Freight Consolidation Using ULDs

Several small-sized consignments of minimum weight can be a used as a reason for using ULD (Unit Load Device consolidation). A separate article will discuss this topic. General information for the ULDs are available on this site. Please refer to them for configuration, load limits etc for various ULDs.

The  Various Modes In Consolidation

Three major modes of consolidation  are available in to main categories. This applies to ULD consolidation, as well.

international air cargo consolidation







The two main categories are

  1. Own consolidation
  2. Third party consolidation

The three major modes in these two categories are

  1. Pre-paid
  2. Collect
  3. Mixed

Own Consolidation

You consolidate your freight under your own master AWB. You have your own stock of AWB numbers and you process the whole consolidation. You may use third-party freight, as well.

If no third-party AWBs are included, all the house AWBs originate from your company and are processed at one point. If you are including third-party freight (freight from other forwarders) then you are physically transporting the third-party freight and the House AWBs are processed by that party and handed over to you for inclusion in your master AWB. The airline will invoice you, as the contract is between you and the airline. You will have to raise your own invoice on the third-party giving you freight.

Third Party Consolidation

You may use another freight forwarder to transport your own cargo thus saving money. As explained above, the partner forwarder who carries your freight on his own consolidation will raise his invoice on you. You will not receive any invoice from the airline as you are not a contracting partner.

Pre-Paid, Collect And Mixed

The three major modes are easy to understand. You may include all pre-paid consignment under one master AWB and execute a consolidation, or you put together all the collect consignments (consignments paid for by the consignee) under one MAWB and fly it out. The last category is a combination of pre-paid and collect consignments.

There is one difficulty when it comes to collect consignments. Your MAWB is addressed to one air cargo agent (deconsolidator). If any part of the charges is being paid for by the consignee, the air cargo agent must have the authorisation tim import on behalf of that consignee. If this is not the case, the agent will have to hand over the papers and the rights to the consignment to the broker appointed by the consignee against a charge.

In the field of international air freight consolidation, freight agents have agreements (at times even exclusive agreements). These topics will not be discussed here. as it will make the narrative complicated. Another article will be dedicated to this theme.

Costing, Invoicing etc

  • Keep in mind the following points
  • Your total expected amount of freight for your MAWB
  • Your buying rate from the airline and the base minimum weight requirement put forward by the airline
  • Your total expenditure (approximate)
  • Your selling rate should be able to cover the expenditure and also provide you a profit
  • The higher the freight weight, the lower the rate (keep an eye on the volume)
  • If you are getting voluminous freight, you need high-dense cargo to capture and contain the volume
  • You need to have a realistic assessment of the freight you are going to get

While calculating your prices, keep in mind that the figures should tally at the end. It is quite possible that on some consignments a loss might occur, however, there will be a total profit that will cover the whole consolidation


Do you have a large number of small consignments? If you do, then consider using a ULD consolidation. If the amount of freight is large enough but not too large use an LD3 container.

Some consignments may have a larger volume. Combine them using shipments that are high-dense (1:3 ). This will be a topic for another article

Optimise your pricing. Simply increasing prices in order to raise profits will not work. Try to spread the costs. Combine pick up on a straight route.


Prices may dominate the market but that does not mean services don’t count. Using a cheap airline might cost you your business.  A consignment in the minimum range taking 10 days to reach the destination is acceptible to nobody.

Keep your customer updated. Communicate with your agent abroad. Force feedbacks. Send reminders. Learn about customs formalities. Keep a file with information on various topics. Your client may not have time to wait for information. Have it on hand. If you do not have it on hand, explain that you will get it as soon as possible

Keep your promises! Be punctual with information. International air freight consolidation is not only about consolidating freight. It is also about consolidating relationships.

International Air Freight Consolidation – Organising Freight

  1. Number of pieces
  2. Accurate dimensions of the pieces
  3. Accurate gross weight of each piece
  4. Packaging control : wood used? IPPC logo? Damage?
  5. Packaging control: Dangerous goods included?
  6. Packaging control: visible damage? Slits? wobbly content?
  7. Packaging control : Information: address of shipper and consignee
  8. Packaging control : labels attached? readable? waterproofed?
  9. documents : all documents checked? Latin American countries usually do not tolerate any  hand written amendments!!
  10. Insurances?
  11. Checked pricing? cost control?
  12. Checked booking?
  13. Have you chose the optimum routing?
  14. Country restrictions taken care of? A carton “showing” particular countries on the outside (or inside) may not be imported into the destination of your choice!!
  15. Checked for import restrictions? Some countries require import licences for certain products!

There are more but I cannot list them all here

Questions?  Here is the contact form.

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Howto: Calculate Shipping Cost Carefully – A Guide

Calculate Shipping Cost Carefully To Avoid Wasting Money

Have you wondered why you are paying a lot for your air cargo consignments? Did you calculate shipping cost for each of your consignments? If you haven’t, you would want to start now.

As with all the articles on this site, this, too. is written for the person new to air freight. Those who are experienced will have to bear with me.

Classifying the charges that arise in shipping by air is a good way to start. However, if you are not into air freight or new to it, you need to start right at the beginning. Having a clear view of the processes will help your familiarise with this mode of shipping. There is no shortcut to acquiring knowledge, however, you don’t have to go through 500 pages of information which might bring in only fatigue and also confusion.

Building Blocks

Before trying to understand the process of shipping by air, it is better to break down the structure into small building blocks. Once the structure is clear, you can understand the factors underlying the charges. When you calculate shipping cost, do not be misled by the value of the freight. Keep the points below in mind, make a list and you will be on the safer side. Of course, not all the costs can be listed before the freight leaves your facility.

calculating shipping cost

Three Main Entities

  1. Consignor (also called shipper)
  2. Freight Forwarders (air cargo agent or air freight agent)
  3. Airline
  4. Consignee

Consignor or shipper is the person or company exporting the goods and it is his/her name that appears on the air waybill.

The freight forwarder is the connecting link between the shipper and the airline that flies the freight.

The Sub-Entities

  1. Lorry companies
  2. Customs authorities
  3. Brokers

Although the lorry company picks up the freight, it is not a direct contractual partner of the shipper. This point is of importance when it comes to freight damage. We shall come to this topic later. 

Customs Formalities: Questions You Need To Ask

  • Is an export permit required?
  • Is an export declaration required?
  • Number of pieces on the commercial invoice tallies with the actual number of pieces?
  • The total gross weight of the consignment: (that includes the pallet/carton) tallies with the declaration in your invoice/packing list?

The customs authorities have a direct say in the shipment. Without their consent, a freight may not leave the borders. Each country will have its own rules about the procedures. In Germany, for example, a consignment with an invoice value of under 1000 Euros should have an accompanying invoice as customs declaration. Any consignment with an invoice value of 1000 Euros or above must have an export declaration. This rule however does not apply to consignments going to Iran. No matter what the invoice value is, an electronically issued export declaration is mandatory for all shipments going to Iran. This is a regulation issued and monitored by the Federal Office of Economic Affairs and Export Control. Restrictions imposed by the German customs authorities can be see seen on this page. The list of countries under embargo is listed on the page of the German customs. Link

Customs authorities can order inspection, which might cause charges to be raised. However, any costs raised by the customs will be documented.

The Costs

  • Packaging
  • Security
  • Customs formalities
  • Transport


Don’t save on packaging! Strong resistant cartons or crates (If using wood, please read the guidelines) are important. Waterproofing is not necessary but is a good measure, if it is raining in the country of destination. Use light weight but strong packaging materials. Try not to increase the total weight by using heavy materials. Wooden packaging can increase the weight!! 


This is one of the most important words in the freight industry and it cannot be repeated enough. Are you certified as a known shipper? In the case of the US is your company in conformity with the C-TPAT? Don’t compromise on this. It is important to all of us.

Minimum Security Requirements as per C-TPAT.

Exporters in the US please click here to access the CBP site

Customs Formalities

You may need to transport the goods to customs for inspection before export. In the case of import, customs might demand an inspection in the bonded warehouse.

  1. Inspection charges
  2. Labour charges
  3. Duties (Excise duties in case of India)
  4. Taxes (various forms dependent on country)
  5. Warehouse charges

All these charges cannot be determined in advance to calculate shipping cost. However, they need to be taken in account to avoid surprises.


The charges included here fall into various categories.

Pick up charge

This will depend on when you advise the freight. Dedicated pick up is expensive. It may be dependent on the distance the lorry has to cover. Waiting charge is one you should always keep in mind. If the lorry has to wait because the freight is not ready to be loaded, the charges cannot be raised on the consignee.

Dedicated Transport charges are unpredictable. It will depend upon the availability of the vehicle, time taken for executing the pick up and the delivery after the customs formalities.

Air Cargo Charges

The most important point here is to remember that there are two weight categories. Many companies have made the mistake of not taking this into consideration. If the difference in the two different categories is negligible, there is not reason to worry. However, if the two weights are very far apart, there is reason to worry. The nett weight is of no consequence in air cargo, except in the case of dangerous goods, where the net quantity is mandatory.

The Two Weight Categories

  1. Gross weight
  2. Volume weight

Gross weight is the total weight of the goods, including the packaging. Airlines will weigh the consignment and if there is a discrepancy, charges will be raised. Even if the terms of sale show Ex Works (EXW), the shipper has to pay for this, as it is no fault of the consignee. The transfer of risk is stipulated by the incoterm EXW. The costs that arise after the freight is picked up by the lorry company are to raised on the consignee. However, the consignee is not responsible for the weight of the goods. The shipper who has made the freight available along with the details of the same, should pay for the discrepancy. The goodwill of the company is to be thought of here.

Volume weight is the space taken up by the goods. It should be made clear, here, that the charges on air freight are raised on the space the freight occupies. The gross weight is only one of the factors involved. Before you calculate shippings cost, highlight the two weights, if there is a difference. If the volume weight is less than the gross weight, you may safely ignore the former.

How To Calculate Volume Weight

This is to be done after the freight has been packaged.

An example will clarify this. Before we start, we need to remember the weight volume ratio used in air freight. The standard ratio is 1:6. This means 1 cubic meter is 166.666 kg. It is better to calculate without rounding up.

A consignment consists of one piece with a weight of 125 Kg. The dimensions are

Length = 120 cm

Width = 120 cm

Height = 120 cm

Method 1

Keeping the measurement in cm.(Not going into details to avoid regression)

L x W x H = 120 x 120 x 120 = 1728.00

since the weight volume ratio is 1:6 we need to divide the result by 6000

Volume weight = 1728/6000= 288.00 Kg

Comparing the two weights

Gross weight = 125 Kg

Volume weight = 288 Kg

Since the volume weight is greater than the gross weight, air freight rate will be charged on the former

Assuming air freight rate is 1.00 EUR for a Kg, the difference is big.

Airline Surcharges

Fuel Surcharge and Security Surcharge (also called War Risk Surcharge or Risk Surcharge) are the two most common charges. The trend is to base these charges on volume weight.

Security Charges are raised if the freight needs to be screened (x-ray). Airlines and freight forwarders have to keep the laws that demand these measures.

Customs Duties And Taxes

This will be as per the tariff in the country of import. A shipper who exports goods sold under terms that do not include duties and taxes of the country of import, does not have to worry about these factors. However, if the shipper is exporting under the terms DDP (Delivered Duties Paid to named place of destination) he has to consider the charges involved. No invoice will be raised by the local customs office or the broker or the freight forwarder on the consignee for these amounts.

A word about HS Codes

 HS Code stands for Harmonised System of Tariffs.  Only the first six of the 11 digits are harmonised. The rest of the numbers will vary. Hence, do not waste time on finding the exact match. The consignee can give you the number, if the customs regulations in that country demands that the number be mentioned in your invoice.  The HS Code will determine the customs duty that is to be paid for the item(s) imported.  If you are not shipping under DDP terms (Delivered Duty Paid), you need not waste your time on this point. It is not a part of shipping cost.

Recapitulation Of The Costs

  1. Packaging : airworthy packaging
  2. Security : x-ray charges, sniffing charges (if the freight cannot be screened)
  3. Customs formalities: Inspection, duties and taxes, repackaging after inspection
  4. Transport : pick up (export), delivery (import), airline charges,
  5. Inspection charges
  6. Labour charges
  7. Warehouse charges : storage charges, demurrage charges

A Short Note On Storage And Demurrage Charges

Storage charges are raised on cargo that are made to wait in the warehouse. If the shipper is not at fault, then no charges are to be raised on him.

Demurrage charges are raised when the consignment is made to wait in the bonded warehouse. The cargo may not leave the premises of the bonded warehouse until and unless the customs formalities have been finished fully. Moving the freight out of such a facility is a punishable offence.

Important: Demurrage charges are noted as rate/kg/day. There will be a minimum price involved. The weight mentioned will be the higher of the two (gross and volume). Holiday and weekends are usually never exempted!

Dangerous Goods

This is a vast topic. Consult your freight forwarder for the charges. Any serious error in packaging is an offence that must be reported to the authorities. Absolute care is a must here. No dangerous goods are to be processed (packaged or labelled) by uncertified personnel. Packaging and documentation (Shipper’s Declaration /Dangerous Goods Declaration) are to be done exclusively by personell holding valid certificate. 

Keep a spreadsheet to calculate shipping cost. This will help you to discover loopholes that can be covered in the next shipment.

A Common Point of Conflict:

 Two shipping terms have proved to be a headache. My own personal experience.


Always remember: FCA, named place. that is the combination. If shipper is  making the goods available (for export) at his facility, it is as good as ex works (EXW) but not the same. The shipper has to make the export declaration (if needed as per customs regulations) available.

If the shipper is making the freight available at the airport of departure, he will not only make the export declaration available but also the transport cost. All the cost, after loading from the vehicle will be on the account of the buyer.

Hence, if you are a shipper (aka consignor), mention the “name place” after the term “FCA”

FOB is NOT a term for air freight!  However, it is being widely used in that field. All the charges up to the aircraft (loaded into the aircraft) is to be paid by the seller. This is the practical side.