Shipping marks – Why are they so important?

Have you ever been waiting at the luggage belt at an airport, and found it difficult to distinguish your case from the others? Imagine the same scenario with un-palletised boxes for various suppliers within the supply chain, especially when shipping goods via LCL.

To help handlers to ensure that they know what products are in which boxes, and the processes they should adopt in the handling of these goods, you should ensure that your boxes are correctly marked with relevant information to guide the operational movements in the transportation and storage of your products. Doing so makes the handling process safer and saves time, which can also lead to saving you money.


Some of the key details that you should look to include are:

Port identification marks – The final destination, and any transfer points should be outlined on at least three sides of shipment. These details should be written in the appropriate languages for the origin country and destination country.

Size and weight of the consignment – These should include the net and gross weights of the shipment, along with the dimensions of the package.

Number of the carton and total number of cartons in the shipment – Specifically relevant with bulk shipments as including these details helps in ensuring shipments are complete.

Product reference – This can be a description of the product, or, as a preventative measure against theft, a pre-defined product code.  If applicable, details pertaining to the product specification such as sizes, colours or expiry dates can also be included to assist in the efficient processing of the goods at the destination points. These details can be printed as text on the packages, or alternatively, can be included in a barcode, the benefits of which, we will examine later on in the article.

Any specific handling instructions relating to the product should also be included on the outer container. As there is a potential that goods will be handled by people of various nationalities, using the universally recognised shipping marks from ISO standard 780 ‘pictorial marking for handling of goods’ can aid in developing a clear understanding as to the exact instructions for how the containers should be transported and stored.

The various icons include:

Bespoke shipping markings for specific shipment types

Certain goods require additional labelling. For example, if you are shipping into Amazon, they have strict packaging and labelling requirements that must be adhered to, else your products face the potential of being refused on arrival.

When shipping hazardous or dangerous goods, there is an obligation to use relevant symbols from the GHS (Globally Harmonized System) labels, an internationally agreed standard, to clearly define the hazard category type. It is imperative to have this information included on hazardous and dangerous shipments as it can dictate where items are stored. Even if the products may not be dangerous in themselves, if they are stored alongside other items that they may react with, not only may your goods suffer damage, but it can pose serious health and safety implications for those working within the supply chain and the surrounding environment.


Barcoding for distribution

Technology has played an important role in increasing efficiency within supply chains. One such development that has had a positive impact is the introduction of barcodes. Implementing barcodes on your shipments automates the operational process, leading to an increase in speed and accuracy.

As it is possible to define the information that is held within the barcode, there is a wealth of useful information that you can include.

Utilising barcodes within the warehouse management system enables you to upload the storage location into your barcodes making it possible to easily identify, sort and dispatch the goods to the relevant locations within the warehouse. It also decreases cases of human error in picking, and for stock checks, enables a quicker, more accurate inventory to be produced. As the stock check is non manual, there are no possibilities of errors in writing the inventory.

When the items are ready for dispatch to clients, details of delivery addresses and tracking numbers can be stored within the barcode, whilst including product specific information within the barcode as opposed to printing descriptions on the shipment containers, can help to deter theft.

Because of the benefits offered from barcoding, if you are utilising a reputable 3PL for the storage of goods, it is inevitable that they have some sort of barcoding system within their operations.


How should the shipping marks be displayed?

Upon establishing any relevant shipping marks and barcodes that you will include, you should ensure that the solution for featuring these on your shipments is waterproof. Making sure that these markings are resistant to the elements guarantees that they remain legible. Often the solution used by many companies is to arrange for these to be printed on boxes in black at the point of manufacture.


The added protection through making sure that you include the correct markings on your shipments, in the correct manner, along with providing sufficient packaging solutions for your goods, can help in decreasing the possibility of damage and loss during transportation and storage. However, don’t forget that, even upon taking these precautionary steps, nothing is completely indestructible so to make sure you don’t end up out of pocket, be assured, and make sure that your goods are insured.


Related Blogs

International shipments – External packaging solutions for your goods

Internal packaging material solutions for your shipments


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