How to unload a shipping container

Unloading a shipping container is a simple process, especially if you are well prepared. Here are a few tips to help you have a smooth and safe experience when removing the contents of a shipping container.



  • Check what to expect. Attempt to ascertain information from the expeditor as to whether the container has been packed correctly, and not overfilled. Heavier items should have been placed at the bottom, which also improves the overall stability of the container.
  • Dress correctly. Non-slip, steel capped boots and suitable material handling gloves should be worn
  • Keep hazards away. Set an ‘exclusion zone’ around the container i.e. an area where no unnecessary vehicles and persons can enter whilst the container is being unloaded to limit collisions or accidents.
  • Keep it stable. Ensure the container has been placed on a level, stable surface. If it has been placed on ConFoot container support legs, adjust each leg to the same height setting.
  • Form a plan as to the order of how to remove the contents of the container, and where to put them.
  • Don’t give free rides. Work out a system to ensure that the driver does not accidentally move the truck whilst persons are still in the container. e.g. drive r leaves his keys with the person in charge of the unloading procedure.
  • Provide easy access. If a loading bay is not available, and the container is placed on the ground, attach a smooth ramp sloping from the container floor level to the ground.
  • Light it up. Temporary lighting should be set up, either with battery powered devices, or a temporary lighting unit to improve visibility in the container.


  • Don’t let it spill. If the container has potentially been overfilled, a strap can be placed across the doors to limit the extent to which they can open. This will help to limit the effect of any unstable items leaning against the door and forcing the doors open at speed.
  • Stand back. The doors should be opened at arms length. Then the unloaders should take a few steps back in case any of the items near the door shift or slip.
  • Air it out. If the container has been fumigated, the container should be left with the doors open for a period of time before anyone enters.
  • Let the machines do the heavy lifting. If the container is up against a loading bay/pocket on a truck trailer or set of ConFoot CFP legs, utilize a conveyer belt system or forklift to remove the stored items. The container must be fastened correctly to the bay before unloading can begin.
  • Watch your back. Repetitive lifting actions should be avoided where possible, but where necessary, ensure that you keep the correct lifting posture.
  • Secure as you go. Items in the container may be supporting other items behind or above them. If you notice that the loaded contents are becoming unstable, use temporary strapping to secure it.
  • One by one. If the items have been strapped in place, only remove one strap at a time.
  • Clear your passages. Do not leave any items in the path to the container doors which could trip someone up.


Above all, exercise caution and common sense at all times. In order to make the unloading process even smoother, consider using a set of ConFoot CFP legs. They are specially designed to hold a container flat up against a loading bay and support a forklift driving onto the container from the bay.


The contents of this article are not an exhaustive list of the safety precautions required and further training and information should be sought before attempting to unload a container.