How to load a shipping container

load shipping container

Shipping containers are a globally popular method of transporting and storing cargo. However, the way in which they are loaded can greatly affect how efficient, safe and cost-effective they are. Listed below are some tips to help you utilise your shipping containers to their maximum potential.

Plan ahead. Determining in advance exactly how much cargo you intend to load, and in what order it should be done can save you time and effort.

Load to unload. Consider how the container will be unloaded by its recipient. If possible, attempt to load the container in the fashion that the items required first are placed nearest the doors.

Keep within the max payload. Verify the maximum weight limits for the container you are using, and any transport methods that will be used to move it. Knowing that the total weight of the cargo you are attempting to load is not too great in advance will help you to avoid dangerous situations. Do not forget to consider the tare weight (the weight of the empty container).

Load calculator. Applications and different types of software are available to optimize loads. Consider using a load calculator such as this one provided by 

Fill it up. Using as much available space as possible and packing tightly is a great method of securing loaded cargo. Dunnage (loose materials used to fill in empty space) can be used. To get an idea of exactly how much space needs to be filled, you can find our guide to shipping container dimensions here.

Use machinery. Non motorised tools such as pallet trucks can save time and lower the risk of back injuries for staff. Motorised equipment, such as forklifts, to an even greater extent. Read about how forklifts can be used with ConFoot legs here.



Load distribution. The weight of the cargo should be spread out as evenly as possible across the container floor. Attempt to ensure that both ends of the container do not contain much more than half of the total weight.

Heavy to the bottom. The container should not be top heavy. Heavier items should be laid across the bottom and lighter items stacked on top.

Strap it up. If necessary use strapping to secure cargo in place. Containers have fittings along the interior floor and ceiling to attach restraints to.

Bulkhead method. Similar to bulkheads in ships, cargo can be stacked floor to ceiling in piles, and bulkhead walls inserted in between to keep them from falling. A bulkhead can be constructed with plywood or other similar materials.

Pick the correct container. Shipping containers are available in a wide range of different types. Pick the correct type of container best suited for your cargo. For example, for fresh produce use a refrigerated container. A guide to the different types of containers available can be found here.

Consider ConFoot legs. Loading a container can take a significant amount of time. Anytime that the container rests on a truck chassis can cost you dearly. ConFoot produces low-cost, lightweight shipping container legs allowing a shipping container to be removed from a chassis by just one man. Then you can take all the time you need to load it properly. For more information, please click here.


Shipping container loading bay

Like any other situation where handling heavy objects are involved, great caution should be taken. Further material and relevant guidelines should be followed and adhered to before loading a shipping container. ConFoot releases periodic newsletters by email. Signup below to keep up to date about our products offers and news.


We use your information only to communicate. ConFoot does not share the information with a third party.