Skip to Main Content
International Business Institute

Preparing for and Effecting an Overseas Container Shipment

As part of the 39 Country Initiative at Ivey, a container of educational materials—including books, journals, cases, and course packs—was shipped to the business school at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, on July 25, 2013. This note summarizes the practical learning accumulated about preparing for and effecting an overseas container shipment. Without proper planning, the shipment of a container will take a lot more time, energy, and money than it should. To address each activity in the process, the discussion is organized in four parts as follows.

The packing and storage of the materials should be based on prior planning. If materials are packed in loose boxes and/ or in boxes without lids, they will need to be unpacked and later repacked in new boxes. Boxes should not be overfull, nor below capacity. Use of boxes of different dimensions will cause trouble when loading the boxes onto pallets. Generally, in the process of packing and storing materials for eventual shipment, the following issues need to be considered:

  • Plan ahead to collect empty boxes, preferably of equal, or at least comparable sizes
    It is important to have enough empty boxes at hand to put in loose books or replace boxes that are in bad shape. Doing so facilitates proper storage, efficient use of storage space, and avoids unnecessary last minute repacking. Using boxes of similar dimensions allows for easier and more efficient loading. Plus, shipping agencies require you to tell them about the dimensions (i.e., length, width, and height) of the boxes used. Using boxes of different sizes caused problems while stacking the boxes onto pallets.

  • Assign responsibilities
    Responsibilities need to be assigned for collecting the materials, unpacking and repacking boxes, properly and efficiently storing them, and regularly keeping track of weight and number (e.g., in boxes) of the shipments. Shipping agencies require the number of boxes and the total weight of the shipment to calculate associated shipment costs.
  • Find a storage room and get it ready
    The storage room ought to be in a building that has a loading dock. For efficiency and movability reasons ideally the room should be located close to the loading dock. If the storage room houses materials not related to the shipment, it would be wise to put them in a corner where their interference with the storage of your materials is minimal. If the storage room holds other materials such as used office equipment in addition to the educational materials, mobility inside the room will be limited severely.

    If there is access to pallets or skids, loading the boxes right there and then will save time and unnecessary energy expenditure. In doing so, make sure a) you stack the boxes by alternating their directions to minimize shifting, tilting, and/or collapsing, and b) to allow enough room between each stack and between a stack and a wall to shrink-wrap the piles more easily and efficiently. Pallets need to be heat-treated so that they will not be a carrier of invasive species of insects and plant diseases. They must carry the appropriate ISPM stamp as proof. Without it, customs will not allow the container to be shipped.

  • Keep tape and a pair of scissors on hand for use in the storage room
    You may find it appropriate and more efficient to bind boxes with some minor cracks than to unpack them. Plus, if you will be doing the shrink-wrapping yourself, you will need tape and a pair of scissors.

Shipment to Ghana

The images below show the work involved in preparing a shipment of course materials to be shipped overseas.  This particular shipment was destined for the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.  It was shipped in November of 2014 and arrived at its destination on January 2nd, 2015.

Ghana Shipment: November 2014