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Freight from the USA

Palletizing in Sea freightChargeable (Gross) Volume | Guidelines | Sipping barrels | Shipping Cargo in Crates

Palletizing and crating

International LCL freight is the cost-effective solution for shipping relatively large cargo from the USA overseas. If you ship freight overseas, then your shipping items will most likely be palletized regardless of transportation mode. We highly recommend reading this web page if you are an inexperienced, first-time international shipper.

On the one hand, palletizing your shipping items is the only way to ship them without damage and loss. On the other hand, it adds a palletizing fee and increases the chargeable volume of your cargo. After reading this page, you should avoid confusion that may occur due to the palletization of your cargo for shipping from the USA overseas.

Shipping loose boxes

If you need to deliver a few shipping items from the U.S. abroad, they can be shipped loose. If you ship goods in boxes, then for extra protection, we recommend using heavy-duty cardboard shipping boxes. Shipping loose boxes from the USA overseas has advantages and disadvantages.

international shipping of boxes in LCL sea freight

ADVANTAGE: Unless the length of shipping units does not exceed 72", shipping LCL smaller items loose should not be subject to adding freight costs in international transportation from the U.S. That is because the total sea freight cost will be calculated by combining volumes of separate shipping units.
DISADVANTAGE: Shipping a number of items separately is not a reliable way to deliver goods from the U.S. abroad.

If you ship items lose, then every single shipping box or a smaller shipping unit during international transportation will be handled by hand. Therefore there is no guarantee that your shipping goods will be handled with proper care. Cargo can be easily damaged. Loose shipping items can be separated in warehouses or inside the sea freight container. Such cargo can be partially lost or misrouted during the delivery from the USA overseas. Loose shipping items can be easily stolen.



Shipping palletized cargo

The dimension of the standard U.S. pallet used in international cargo transportation from the USA is 48" x 40" x 6" (or 1.2m x 1.0m x 0.15m). Cargo is stacked on pallets and shrink-wrapped by a plastic film called "pallets" or "skids."

Even though pallets of standard sizes are most commonly used in international cargo transportation, there are various pallets of other sizes and forms. Pallets have to be strong enough to hold shipping goods, accessible for forkliftable, and fit into 40-foot sea freight containers. Shipping items exceeding 72" are considered oversized and subject to surcharges.

If you request an ocean freight carrier's terminal (CFS) to palletize your shipping boxes or other smaller shipping units, then the cargo will be properly stacked by the CFS on certified ISPM15 pallets and shrink-wrapped. Each pallet will carry as many shipping items as it can combine.

If you palletize your cargo on your own, then follow these rules:

  • Not recommended to exceed the height of the skid more than 60" (1.52m). The height of skids depends on the strength of the shipping boxes, weight, and size.
  • The entire skid should be shrink-wrapped and secured by a plastic film.
  • Bases of shipping pallets should be accessible for pallet jacks with a minimum clearance of 3.5".
  • All skids prepared for international transportation from the USA must fit into a 40' multimodal sea freight container.

When palletizing cargo for shipping from the U.S. overseas, always pay attention to wood packing restrictions that apply in international cargo transportation.

international shipping of pallets in ocean freight

ADVANTAGES: There are a lot of advantages to shipping palletized and shrink-wrapped cargo. Compared with no palletized cargo, palletized cargo has a much higher probability of reaching destinations without damage or loss. Forklifts will safely handle palletized cargo. Being palletized, all shipping boxes are securely kept together. So, a partial loss probability is insignificantly small. Palletized ocean freight is much better protected from potential theft on any stage of transportation from the USA to the destination country.

Note that if you self-deliver loose cardboard shipping boxes to an ocean freight carrier's terminal (CFS), then the CFS should properly palletize and shrink-wrap your shipping boxes for international transportation from the USA for the fee of $35-75 per pallet, including the cost of certified pallet provided by CFS. Use the opportunity. Do not palletize shipping boxes by yourself. Deliver light shipping boxes to CFS and leave the palletizing to professionals. Besides that, loose shipping boxes are much easy to handle; you transfer responsibilities on ISPM 15 compliance to the CFS. Then your shipping boxes should not face any problems related to ISPM 15 during the shipping from the USA overseas.

As a U.S. Freight Forwarder, AMID Logistics highly recommends palletizing loose shipping boxes for international transportation from the U.S.

DISADVANTAGES: Additional charges that occur due to palletizing of shipping boxes and other kinds of smaller shipping items, which relate to:

  1. Cost of the pallet(s) and labor;
  2. Increasing the chargeable volume of palletized cargo.
  3. Palletizing of too many shipping boxes may not be available at certain CFSs. If you ship from the USA too many boxes (let's say 50+), then you should consider palletizing your cargo before the delivery to CFS.


Estimation of chargeable (gross) volume after cargo palletization

To avoid confusion when reading invoices for international transportation of palletized cargo, you should clearly understand that:
1. Ocean freight carrier's terminal (CFS) charges a fee to palletize and shrink-wrap loose shipping items. Typically, the fee varies from $35 to $75 per pallet, depending on CFS. The fee includes the cost of a certified pallet that complies with ISPM15.
2. If you ship many loose items, CFS may charge an hourly labor fee. Please keep in mind that palletizing many shipping boxes may not be available at certain CFSs. If you ship from the USA too many boxes (let's say 30-50+), then you may need to self-palletize your cargo before or at the time of the delivery to CFS. 
A PALLETIZING FEE IS NOT INCLUDED IN QUOTES OBTAINED IN OUR ONLINE FREIGHT CALCULATOR. The fee will be determined upon completing palletizing. It will be added to the carrier's freight invoice, billed to us, and added to your final invoice. Note that we never mark up the fee. You will see it in the ocean freight surcharges breakdown in your rated carrier's bill of lading.
3. PALLETIZING INCREASES CHARGEABLE VOLUME. Regardless of the sizes of your shipping boxes, the overall chargeable (gross) volume will always be calculated by the longest, widest and highest dimensions of your skid. See the pictures to see how it works:
palletizing in LCL international shipping

For example, a skid with the greatest dimensions of 40"x48"x 60" equals shipping of 1.89 gross cubic meters (or 67 gross cubic feet).

People ask: How much does it cost to palletize my boxes? How can I estimate it?

The answer is: A CFS should properly palletize and shrink-wrap your shipping boxes for $35-75 per pallet. The fee depends on a CFS. The fee includes the cost of a certified pallet provided by CFS. Keep in mind that if you palletize a large number of shipping boxes, then the CFS may charge you for the labor per hour.

The size of the standard U.S. pallet itself is 40x48x6 inches. It is recommended not to exceed the height of skids by more than 60 inches. Otherwise, it may become unstable. Then a single pallet most likely will not exceed two cubic meters.
To roughly estimate the number of pallets needed in your international shipping, calculate the total volume of your shipping items in our online freight calculator. Then add 15-35% to the volume, and divide it by 2 cubic meters. However, this is a very rough estimation. The actual sizes of pallets will depend on the sizes and shapes of your shipping items. To decrease the "dead" volume, we'd recommend using shipping boxes of the same size. Then they should fit into pallets evenly.

For example, you ship 20 Walmart’s LARGE boxes sizes of 22”x18”x18” and 10 Walmart’s MEDIUM boxes sizes of 17”x16”x16”. Using our online freight calculator, you’ve calculated the total volume of shipping cargo at 3.15 Cubic Meters.

 Calculate chargeable volume in sea freight

Then, after the palletizing, the rough estimation is 3.15 CBM x 1.25 = 3.94 CBM.

3.94 CBM : 2 CBM per pallet ~ 2 pallets. I.e., most likely, your cargo should fit into two pallets.

However, please understand that no one can predict the number and sizes of your pallets until palletizing is completed. The palletizing charges will be included in the ocean carrier's rated bill of lading's freight surcharges.

IMPORTANT! Please keep in mind that if you require to palletize your cargo at CFS, but at the time of delivery to CFS, a CFS's cargo recipient says that he/she is not aware of the palletizing, please do not worry. Most likely, the employee did not yet receive a work order to palletize your cargo.

Do not argue. Just submit your shipping boxes lose. Ensure that the cargo recipient wrote the number of boxes submitted on the copy of your dock receipt, dated, and signed it. Keep the copy as proof of your cargo delivery.

Upon receipt of a warehouse receipt from the CFS, we'll reconfirm the palletizing work order. Your goods will be properly palletized, and we will inform you about that in our update email.


Guidelines on palletizing in shipping freight LCL

That's a good idea to consider how your shipping boxes will fit into a skid(s) before purchasing shipping boxes.

Your boxes, most likely, will be stacked on a U.S. standard pallet(s) with a base of 40"x48" (~1.00 x 1.20 in meters). If possible, always purchase boxes of the same size and so many boxes that they completely fill the rows of boxes on the pallet(s).

If you do not (or cannot) follow this rule, then it may result in a sharp increase in the "dead volume" of your internationally shipping goods. Below are pictures that show how the chargeable volume almost doubled, comparable to the "net" volume of shipping boxes, due to the improper set of boxes chosen for shipping from the USA. The sizes of shipping boxes are different:

Ship boxes from the USA abroad


Below are shipping boxes of the same size, but they do not completely fill the second row:

Shipping boxes from the USA overseas


Ocean freight terminals do their best to make skids as compact as possible. Below is a sampling of how mixed sizes of boxes and bins can be palettized by decreasing the "dead volume" to the minimum:

Send boxes from the USA abroad

In the pictures below, you can see how perfectly shipping boxes fit into skids if you follow the rule above. Professional exporters know that, and the "dead volume" for such shipmates is minimized and virtually does not impact the cost of international cargo transportation:

Deliver boxes from the USA abroad

Here are the helpful hints if you self-palletize your cargo and deliver to a CFS entire skid(s):

Sipping barrels. Not recommended.

Occasionally people want to ship goods in barrels. For some reason, shipping barrels are commonly used in shipping from the USA to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Even though we'd recommend to pack goods for shipping overseas in heavy-duty cardboard boxes, you can also ship in barrels.

However, keep in mind that besides the difficulties of handling heavy barrels, the barrels will be palletized and shrink-wrapped. Then a dead volume will occur due to palletizing, especially if you send a number of barrels that is not a multiple of four.

shipping barrels


Shipping goods from the USA in crates

Crating cargo for international transportation from the USA overseas can be quite expensive. However, in certain circumstances, the crating of shipping goods is absolutely necessary.

Shippung International LCL. Smaller Crate.

Crating cargo would be necessary if you ship valuable or fragile goods such as assembled furniture, large but fragile items, or certain kind of irregular and fragile items that require extra protection in their transportation from the USA overseas. Regular or custom-made solid crates can be purchased from packing companies or ordered online.

You may also hire a professional packing company to crate your shipping goods to international shipping from the U.S. As a U.S. Freight Forwarder, we'd suggest you ask a suck packing company if they are familiar with regulations in international cargo transportation. Particularly with wood packing restrictions.

Note that crates built for shipping from the USA LCL, the same as pallets, must be forkliftable and fit into 40' multimodal sea freight containers.

Forklift in sea freight

If a custom-made crate exceeds 48" in width, it will most likely not be accessible by a regular forklift and is not suitable for international cargo transportation from the U.S. overseas LCL.

International Shipping. Custom built crate.


Mixing different types of shipping units

Depending on shipping, it is sometimes a good idea to ship freight in different shipping units. That means that you can palletize and shrink-wrap smaller shipping boxes, crate most valuable or fragile items, and leave oversized items loose. This approach can give you peace of mind about your shipped goods' safety and save gross chargeable volume in your international shipping from the USA.

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