Are You Maximizing the Space in Your Shipping Container?

Diana MaureShipping Guide30 Comments

Maximize space in container

When you’re just getting started in logistics, shipping items in containers can feel like a difficult task. There are a lot of options involved in the process,  including container types, sizes, uses, pallet selection, and modes of shipping. Even if you’re an experienced shipper you’ll want to make sure that you’re maximizing the space in the containers that you already use to make sure you’re getting the best return on investment possible.

When shipping with ocean containers it’s important to make sure you’re planning your shipments as efficiently as possible so you don’t waste money. Learning more about maximizing container space will help you create a more organized, productive, and cost-effective shipping strategy. You can use this resource as a guide to improving the logistics of your business.

The focus of this article will be on 20-foot and 40-foot containers. For more information on container descriptions, dimensions, and uses read our “Complete Guide to Ocean Shipping Containers” blog post.

How are Your Goods Packaged?

The first step to maximizing container space is determining how your product will be packaged before it is shipped. The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you will ship loose cargo or palletized goods.

Boxes on palletsPallets

Choosing the right pallet will maximize the storage space of your container, reduce transportation costs, and ensure the efficient handling of your goods from the point of origin to their destination. There are two factors that go into pallet selection: type and size.

The most widely used pallet types are Standard and Euro pallets.

Standard
A standard pallet is the larger of the two measuring 1 meter by 1.2 meters and comes in Full, Half, and Quarter sizes. The International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) sanctions six pallet dimensions, detailed in ISO 6780.

Euro
A Euro pallet measures .8 meters by 1.2 meters and is widely used in many industries. The European Pallet Association (EPAL) governs all the details of  pallet manufacturing regulations down to the types of timber and nails used to make pallets. All manufacturers of EURO pallets must be sanctioned by EPAL. The EURO pallet is not a good option for ISO shipping containers and slightly wider containers are usually used for these types of pallets.

Loose Cargo

If you’re shipping loose cargo, it’s best to have your cargo palletized. Palletizing your cargo will ensure that your product stays safe and secure during transit. If your product is not palletized, the carrier may not accept your shipment because the freight will be at risk of being damaged during loading, unloading, or transit. If you don’t have the means to palletize your own cargo, we can recommend a trusted warehouse where you can have your goods palletized.

Full Container Load or Less than Container Load?

If you’re shipping multiple pallets (usually 8 or more) you’re better off shipping by Full Container Load (FCL) in either 20 or 40-foot containers. In FCL shipping, your freight gets its own dedicated container.

However, If you’re shipping one pallet or only a few, it’s best to ship by Less than Container Load (LCL). LCL shipping allows you to only pay for the volume that you need in your container and save you money by consolidating your cargo with other shippers in a 40-foot container.

Consolidation

If you’re losing money due to shipping too many loads that don’t fill a container or if you want to purchase goods from multiple suppliers, but they all require minimum orders that must fill a container, cargo consolidation is the answer to your problems.

Cargo consolidation occurs when cargo from one or more shippers is combined into one shipping container. Consolidation allows you to pay a bulk rate for shipping rather than shipping all of your items separately. Consolidation gives you more options, allows you to be more flexible in shipment planning, and can increase profitability.

For more information on consolidation head over to our article “How Consolidating Your Cargo at Origin Can Benefit Your Business”.

How Many Pallets Can You Fit in a Container?Pallets in container

The number of pallets you can fit into a container depends on the pallet type, how they are arranged, and the size of container you’re loading. Below you find a quick explanation on the pallet capacity of different containers and an image for your reference.


Standard pallets
You can load 9 or 10 on one tier in a 20-foot container, depending on how they are arranged, and 20 or 21 pallets in one tier in a 40-foot container.

Euro pallets
You can load 11 on one tier in a 20-foot container and a 40-foot container will hold 23 or 24, depending on how they are arranged.

 

Do you usually ship pallets or lose cargo? Have you been using the space in your container efficiently? Share your stories in the comments below!

Diana Maure
Starting in 2010 as the Foreign to Foreign Manager for LILLY + Associates Diana has worked with many international clients who ship cargo on a regular basis around the world. Most recently, Diana has joined the Business Development team, continuing to provide customized logistic solutions for her client base.

30 Comments on “Are You Maximizing the Space in Your Shipping Container?”

  1. John Carston

    I like the advice you’ve given for maximizing productivity through effective packaging in shipping containers. I’ll have to use your method of looking at the way things are packaged and considering how they can be consolidated to save money on shipping. I expect this should save a lot of money by making the items in the shipping containers more organized and productive, like you said. Thanks for the helpful post.

    1. Diana Maure
      Diana Maure

      Hi John – I’m glad you found the article useful and hope you use our tips on future shipments!

  2. container hire Christchurch

    Your blog is very interactive and knowledgeable. I like it so much. I think I need to subscribe it and make the most use of it by reading it regularly and keeping myself updated.

    1. LILLY + Associates
      LILLY + Associates

      Glad you enjoy it! I can add you to our newsletter list and our newest articles will be sent to you on a monthly basis.

  3. Patrick

    Hi Diana, is there a system you know to automate this. That allocates pallets /lcl based on size, weight type etc

    1. LILLY + Associates
      LILLY + Associates

      Hi Patrick – a member of our team is always here to help! cbmcalculator.com can also be used for a quick reference.

  4. Ross Black

    Thanks for the tips on pallet sizes and capacity Diana! We often have customers asking how many pallets can fit in a container. The diagram really helps. You are a great writer… keep it up!

  5. Shipping Containers

    I like the advice you’ve given for maximizing productivity through effective packaging in shipping containers. I’ll have to use your method of looking at the way things are packaged and considering how they can be consolidated to save money on shipping. I expect this should save a lot of money by making the items in the shipping containers more organized and productive, like you said. Thanks for the helpful post.

  6. Lisa manuel

    I really appreciate your the tips on pallet sizes and capacity Centro! We frequently have customers requesting how many pallets can easily fit in a container. The diagram really helps. You best writer… keep it up!

  7. Harry Hendy

    Diana,
    We are shipping 24 skids of material to New Zealand. Each skid is 36″ x 36″. We will have
    12 skids on the floor of the container and 12 skids stacked on top.
    What is the cheapest way to fill the void between the skids so that the skids on the top row
    do not move

  8. Linda

    Hi Lilly,

    May I know how do big companies ship their goods from Asian countries to Europe? Do they use Euro pallets (EPAL) or single-use pallets with dimensions which can maximize the use of capacity of the container? I am wondering how would the flow of EPAL be like if they do shipping using EPAL. Thank you very much in advance for your answer!

    1. LILLY + Associates
      LILLY + Associates

      Hi Linda – thank you for reaching out! The type of pallet used can vary from shipment to shipment depending on your supplier and product type being loaded into a container.

  9. Anonymous

    I like this article. I am very happy to find this useful article. You blog is very informative. Thanks for sharing this information.

  10. John

    Thanks for the informative article. Is it difficult to consolidate shipment amongst multiple suppliers? Who takes responsibility for damage?

    1. LILLY + Associates
      LILLY + Associates

      Hi John – no, consolidation is common. The loading facility or party would be responsible for any damage.

  11. Hilary

    Pls i intend to ship process woods from Nigeria to China. I need to know how many cbm of the woods can fit into a 20 feet container

    1. LILLY + Associates
      LILLY + Associates

      Hi Angela – palletized cargo is easier to move and load, generally keeping your cargo more protected. On the other hand, pallets take up space in a container which could reduce the amount of product you could ship.

  12. Dayo

    Tnx but I was actually hoping to get recommended % space utilization during transit for loose packs. I currently average 75% space utilization per container but want to know if it is safe to go up to 90%?

    Will be glad to know if there is a recommended standard.

  13. Islam

    Great article
    Point 1
    I was wondering about the minimum free space shall be left, and found u relate that to the product nature.
    Point 2
    The luxery of palletizng the product may not be avaliable at all the company,
    Thank you

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