Preparing Pallet Loads for International Shipment

Posted by Allison Myers

Almost every company is global today

At Lantech we have an enormous range of customers. Not only are our wrappers used in numerous industries, they're also found from a turntable on the dock of the smallest shipping operations to enormous multinationals with multiple high-speed wrappers lined up in a row.

pallet loads for international shipmentIn addition to volume, one of the distinguishing features of larger companies was traditionally the fact that they were more likely to be exporting and therefore preparing pallet loads for international shipment. While that may still be generally true, the internet has substantially changed the export calculation for even small companies. Today if your company has a website, you're a global company - and that means you may receive orders and have to prepare small parcels (UPS/FedEx/DHL boxes) or pallet loads for international shipment (and maybe soon be well on your way to loading containers full!)

How to Fix Common Stretch Wrapping ProblemsKey tips for international shipment

That's both exciting and a bit intimidating if you're not accustomed to doing so, so we tapped Adam Cahill owner of SUPPLY POINTe — an international and domestic shipping, packaging, and pallet supply company — to provide 11 tips on preparation. He highlighted some dimensional considerations as well as various restrictions on wood pallets (designed to prevent the spread of destructive insects.)

  1. All wood materials must be heat treated to the ISPM-15 Standard (unless it is hardwood, plywood, etc.)
  2. The pallet must have the Heat Treated stamp on both sides to verify that is has been heat treated and the pallet vendor has to be certified, meaning the vendor pays into a monthly inspection for certification (the inspection is to ensure the plant follows safety requirements protocol). 
  3. Pallet suppliers must also be able to provide proof of certification of compliance and have a certain serial number that is also listed on the Heat Treated stamp on the sides of the pallets
  4. The ideal height of pallets (loaded) should be under 60” in height (for international airfreight). Anything higher or longer/wider than 125/96 will require main deck space (freighter).
  5. Pallets should be stretch wrapped and banded for any international shipping.
  6. Labels are a must – adequate shipper/consignee labels. Any specific labels such as “do not double stack, top load, keep upright, do not turn, sensitive items,” should be marked on the shipping units
  7. If the items are sensitive they should be stowed in crates, not pallets
  8. Plastic pallets are also common and popular – but costs are higher
  9. Custom-built crates generally do not require stretch wrapping, but they should be labeled and marked as any other shipping unit would be
  10. If crates are not able to be moved with forklifts, then adequate center of gravity/lifting points, etc. must be identified and labeled
  11. Make sure pallets/crates are built to withstand the cargo in terms of height, balance, weight, etc.

These tips from Adam address the details of the pallet preparation, but whats important to consider beyond that?

Who's risk & cost?

The optimist in each of us likes to assume that everything will be delivered in the same condition it was shipped - and of course, wrapping with the appropriate containment force is an important step toward achieving that.

But sometimes things get sideways. Among frequent shippers stories abound and include such seemingly outrageous situations as:

  • product lost forever in ASRS (automated storage and retrieval system) automated airport logistics centers
  • containers washed overboard at sea
  • pallets dropped from the cargo hold while unloading

The key is to ensure that product is insured and in a commercially viable way. That sounds simple, but here are some points to consider.

Often we denote transfer of ownership and risk of loss in domestic transactions with simple UCC (uniform commercial code) references to FOB ship point or destination. In other words, freight cost and risk of loss transfer from the seller to the buyer either at the ship point or at the receiving point. Most companies have routine coverage for property they own which is in transit - so the FOB designation is commonly used simply to ascertain who's paying the freight.

In international shipment, it's a bit more complex. Not only are UCC terms replaced with ICC (international chamber of commerce) INCOTERMS, but FOB has a different meaning and is accompanied by 10 other terms - only two of which specifically address insurance. Here's why that is important - it's possible that you might ship product on terms (customer owes some or all of the value and has promised to pay after a certain time - e.g. net 30 days - or upon receipt) and transfer ownership / risk of loss as soon as it leaves your shipping dock.

If the product is destroyed or lost your insurance won't pay since it's no longer your property...yet the buyer may have failed to secure their own insurance and be unable/unwilling to pay the balance they owe you.

What a mess!

There are easy and relatively inexpensive solutions to manage the risk of loss - but it's important that you consult experts before shipping - even before pricing your product since these factors (including insurance, duties, customs clearance and international freight cost) could have a substantial impact on your costs.

Like knowing the fumigation requirements for the pallets themselves, understanding and ensuring insurance coverage takes some research and probably some outside expertise, but will save enormous expense and angst by avoiding problems.

What's the Best Way to Stretch Wrap your Pallet Load?Proper wrapping

While we're not freight forwarders, nor pallet heat treatment or Incoterms experts, we do know stretch wrapping pretty darn well. After all that kind of comes with the territory innovating the machines to wrap every day for more than 40 years....

Whether you're shipping loads down the road to a DC, across the country to a customer or half way around the globe, there are some common sense guidelines for stretch wrapping. Our on-demand webinar "How to wrap a load" lays them out step-by-step. It's free to watch and at 30 minutes is respectful of your busy schedule. Check it out here.

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This post was published on December 13, 2016 and updated on November 28, 2018.

Topics: Semi-automatic Pallet Wrapping, Automatic Pallet Wrapping

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