How To Properly Load And Prepare A Shipping Container

Arranging for a shipping container is easy.  Quality companies offer both new and used standard and high cube shipping containers. Depending on how large your load is, you can choose from 20 foot or 40 foot standard containers, high cube, or quality open top shipping containers, ideal for shipping vehicles or watercraft along with other dry cargo. For best results, use some of our suggested packing and loading tips. 



Preparing Your Cargo for Loading

Before the shipping container company you hired arrives to load and transport your cargo, you need to package it properly, especially if you move the contents of your home or office in addition to your vehicle, motorcycle, or boat.  By using some of these tips, it’ll make the process easier for everyone involved: 

  • Use new boxes for packing. Cardboard book cartons work well for items like books, movies, or general household items, while specialized linen cartons hold your bedding and other kitchen appliances. If you have fine china, consider picking up actual dish packs to carefully place them in.
  • Use bubble wrap or even some of your linens to cushion your china or other fragile items like photo frames.
  • If your household owns lots of good clothes, consider putting them in a wardrobe carton, which takes up about 10 cubic feet.
  • Double check all your items are secure, and close them with strong, adhesive tape. Label each one with its contents, and the number of the box, such as kitchen appliances, box 3 of 15. Keep a running tally of your items.
  • Wrap your couches and recliners in a stretch wrap to protect them from dust and damage in the container. In addition, wrap other fine furniture like your dining room table with actual furniture pads and remember to lay them down a long furniture pad inside the container.
  • Arrange your furniture and boxes in one room in the order that you plan to load it onto the container.


How to Properly Pack and Load a Shipping Container 

On the day of your scheduled shipment or move, professional shippers will carry and load your belongings or cargo or you can opt to load it yourself with a bunch of your friends and then the company will deliver it to its destination.  Some companies offering different varieties of intermodal containers give you two free hours of loading time, and begin charging you by the hour after that. With help and if you’ve prepped your belongings, it typically takes around three hours to load a 20-foot container and up to six hours to load a 40-foot container, less if you’re using quality open top shipping containers. 

These are some basic guidelines you should follow whether you are packing and loading the container or professionals: 

  • Check the container when it arrives. Check its cleanliness and condition. Check the locks and the serial number, writing it down for reference.
  • Distribute the weight of your cargo, furniture, and other boxes proportionately throughout the shipping container. For reference, a 20-foot standard container contains around 1,170 cubic feet of space and can hold a maximum of 62,000 pounds, while a 40-foot standard container holds almost 2,400 cubic feet but holds around the same payload because it is distributed differently.
  • Load the largest items in first, remembering the distribution rule. If you put your clothes dryer in one corner, balance the container by placing a couch or a recliner in the other one.
  • Load the rest of your furniture along the corners and walls, facing the walls. Remember to lay down extra furniture wraps so that fine wood dressers or end tables don’t get scratched.  Use some nylon rope to attach the legs of your dining room set to the rings in the floor or sides of the container for extra protection.
  • Add your mattresses and bed springs. They can be positioned on their side to save space and set along the wall or in the middle of the cargo to distribute space and weight better.
  • Pack like items together, such as put a row of boxes, containing heavy books or cookware on the bottom, before loading in more fragile items like glassware near the top. In addition, avoid packing any liquids with other sensitive items, and keep liquids on the bottom, secured carefully.
  • If you’re loading your vehicle, motorcycle, or boat with you, follow the laws by draining all the gasoline from it and disarming both the alarm and battery system. After that, create a barrier in the shipping container out of plywood. Build a wall separating your cargo from where you’ll store your vehicle for the remainder of the journey. Make sure the license plate faces the door, per specification.


How loading quality open top shipping containers varies from standard ones 

Open top containers feature a removable roof, either a hard steel one or one with roof bows and a tarp. While open top containers can be used for any kind of dry cargo, they typically are used for loading difficult shaped cargo inside. After loading the container and securing it with roof bows and the tarp, you have the option of using flat racks to carry cars or boats on top of the container if you prefer. Like the standard ones, they are created out of sturdy steel and wooden floors. Their dimensions are similar as well. It really depends on the easiest way for you to load your belongings to which kind of shipping container will best suit your needs.



  • Michael Pierce is a writer/contributor of Media Buzzer (, a News Trends website, registered in the United Kingdom.

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Michael Pierce is a writer/contributor of Media Buzzer (, a News Trends website, registered in the United Kingdom.

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