Packaging requirements for shipping internationally

The Importance of Proper Packaging in International Shipments

Farrah Thompson
by Farrah Thompson

Editorial Manager


You can't succeed as an exporter if your goods are damaged in transit. It may be your responsibility to pay for the customer's refund and the return postage of damaged products if they occur during shipping. Your reputation and ability to bring in new customers could take a hit if the consumer decides to reorder from a competitor, writes a poor review, or shares their story with others.

The easiest approach to prevent harm to your cargo is to pack it according to the specifications of the items you are transporting. This sometimes necessitates the services of a logistics firm with expertise in export packing and case construction and familiarity with the specific packaging needs for certain commodities. But if you're competent and have the time, you can do it yourself. The purpose of this analysis is to highlight the most important aspects of the situation. 

When it comes to international logistics, a secondary package is an essential aspect of any product or cargo. Strong packaging not only protects the contents from harm, but also promotes a reliable public perception of the brand. When you have a good first experience with a product or business, it's easier to develop deeper connections with them and become an advocate or dedicated customer. 

Despite its importance, eCommerce packaging is often overlooked by online merchants. Customers have every right to switch to a different brand on the market, regardless of how valuable the things the store offers may be.

EU Packaging and Waste Directive 

Both the creation of packaging and the disposal of used packaging are governed by European Union regulations. Their goal is to reduce the mountain of packaging trash that is harming our planet. In addition, they hope to eliminate packaging-related restrictions inside the EU internal market. 

Even though these regulations have been widely hailed as successful, waste packaging in the European Union (EU) continues to rise, and far too many of our limited resources are being lost forever.

The flip side of the EU's waste and packaging directive 

All packaging and waste packaging that is sold in the European Union is subject to EU regulations. Everything from industrial to commercial to residential and even other types of packaging falls under this category.

The types of packaging that can be sold in the European Union, as well as procedures for disposing of and recycling used containers, are all governed by these standards. All EU-bound packaging must meet strict criteria regarding its production, materials, and potential for re-use or recycling.

Why do we have to do something about trashed packaging? 

When it comes to environmental impact, packaging ranks high. It's a major consumer of raw resources, a source of air and soil pollution, and the primary contributor to marine litter (nearly half of all trash ends up in the ocean). Although recycling rates have improved in the European Union (EU), the region's overall trash production has climbed by over 20% in the last decade, largely due to an increase in the use of disposable packaging. The amount of plastic trash produced will rise by 46% by 2030 and 61% by 2040 if nothing is done to curb the trend. (Revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, March, 2023)

Export Packaging and Its Significance

For many different reasons, efficient packaging is crucial for businesses that sell their products on international marketplaces.


High-quality export packaging not only safeguards your goods from the wear and tear of frequent handoffs, but also lessens the likelihood of theft. A well-constructed shipping container does a great job of hiding its contents from view, is difficult to break into, and serves as a deterrent to the casual thief.

Shelter From the Storm

There are a variety of ways to prevent water and moisture from getting into cargo, and the specific method used depends on the local customs regulations. There are a variety of methods, from simply lining the inside of the container with a watertight material to completely sealing the cargo in a vacuum bag with desiccant before storing it in an airtight container and covering the exterior with a waterproof membrane.

Maintaining Stability

When shipping numerous things at once, export packing can come in handy. Instead of transporting your items individually, you can lessen the likelihood of anything going missing by packing them all together in a small number of large export crates. Extra packing material can be placed within the crate to secure the contents and prevent movement or breakage during transit.

Compliance with Laws

There may be certain rules regarding the packing of your items that must be observed based on the nature of the shipment and the country of destination.

The Original Wrapping

Primary packaging, also known as consumer units, is the first point of contact between the product and the end user. The primary container is the first layer of product containment, and its purpose is to store, protect, or preserve the final product, mostly from contamination. This type of packaging is frequently designed with the final buyer in mind. Products are more convenient to use and more appealing to buyers because of the packaging. It also serves as a resource for consumers to obtain product literature in paper form.

 Packaging requirements for shipping internationally

The Essentials, in a Nutshell

Protecting your shipment from damage is the primary goal of careful packaging. The packing also serves to protect the contents during transit. Pay special attention to the following details as you pack your package:

For shipping safety, keep your items at least five centimeters from the box's perimeter. Cushioning material should be inserted here, and everywhere else there are gaps. This safeguards your valuables against accidental harm while in transit. The filler substance you select is also important. Products that are especially delicate should be positioned in the center of the pallet.

To prevent pressure damage, load larger things at the bottom of the pack and lighter ones higher up. Make sure the weight is spread properly throughout the shipment carton. If there is a heavier or lighter side, the contents could shift around within, or the box could topple over. That could end up ruining your package. If the total weight of your shipment is more than 32 kg (it may vary between 30 and 70 depending on carrier), a pallet is required.

Take into account product handling: various packaging types and restrictions apply to various items. Beverage containers and bottles, for instance, should be transported vertically and should always be placed upright in the shipping carton. Shipping them upright is safer because they can bear greater forces. Please read the product description carefully so that you can accommodate the unique shipping needs of your other items.

Products that include liquids (such as food, medicine, or cleaning supplies) should be packaged in an airtight bag to prevent leakage. If the liquid were to spill out during delivery, it could potentially ruin your boxes and those of your customers.

Clearly label packages by affixing the packing label on the package's greatest surface area. It's crucial that the glue holds fast and uniformly so that nothing tears or breaks during shipping. Include both the sender's and the recipient's addresses inside the package for further security. The shipping company will still be able to identify the shipment, even if it has been physically altered. It's a good idea to photograph the contents and packaging of your box before sending it out. This facilitates proof in the event of damage.

The Spool of Assorted Cardboard Varieties

The strength and suppleness of corrugated cardboard make it the material of choice for most boxes. There are three distinct varieties of corrugated cardboard boxes, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. There are a variety of additional cardboard options. The characteristics of the items being shipped will determine which option is best. What matters most is:

  • Dimensions and mass
  • Package content count
  • Extreme sensitivity and vulnerability of the item
  • Potential dangers due to travel distance
 Packaging requirements for shipping internationally

Single-Sided Packaging

Single-wall containers can only handle light weights. They also may not provide adequate defense against moisture. Products and materials are to be moved around an organization and stored in these. Conventional fabrics and books are perfect candidates for single-wall boxes because they are both inexpensive and unfussy. For short-distance transport of lightweight items, single-wall shipping boxes are adequate. Single-wall boxes are fine for shipping light items locally, but they shouldn't be used when shipping big or fragile items long distances via a logistics company. You should reinforce single-wall boxes with additional packaging materials like corrugated cardboard, plastic bags, or filler if you used them for shipping.

Dual-Shielded Packaging

Even if they're more sturdy than their single-walled counterparts, double-walled boxes aren't the safest option. When shipping hefty items, choose a double-walled box. Two-wall packaging is sufficient for shipping items weighing up to 30 kg.

Triple-Walled Packaging

If you need to ship anything extremely substantial, use a box with three walls. This sort of cardboard has excellent resistance to both drops and dampness. Above all else, send heavy and fragile items in three-wall boxes, including machine parts, antiques, or tools. When shipping big items, it's crucial to use plenty of packing material to seal any openings. Heavy boxes have weak points at the openings, so be sure to seal them with high-quality tape to prevent any loss of merchandise.

Bottle Shipping Cartons

Please use proper bottle shipping boxes when sending beverages. They provide excellent defense because of the snug fit. Extra padding can be added with packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or packing chips. The sturdy cardboard construction of the packaging allows for compact shipment of bottle cartons.

Box Dimensions

Make sure the box you choose has enough room for both the items to be packed and the padding around them. As a result, you can pick from several sizes of cartons. Typical box dimensions are length x width x height. For instance, 80х30х30 cm is a common standard size. When ordering boxes with a sliding lid, you will typically be offered two sets of dimensions: one with the cover and one without. There are interior measurements and outside dimensions for cartons. This is especially crucial for three-wall cardboard boxes because variances in size result from the box's thickness.

 Packaging requirements for shipping internationally

Material for Stuffing

Use padding or filler material in the package to protect the contents during shipping. The filler substance prevents the contents of the package from shifting about and perhaps damaging the contents. Padding also prevents the package from being damaged by any shocks or pressure that may be experienced during transport. High-quality cushioning material will keep your things secure while shipping. Padding materials such as newspaper and tissue paper, for instance, are not recommended since they compress too much when used as such. Instead of filling the voids of your packing, which might allow products to slide around and be damaged by drops, you can avoid doing so.

The stronger and more plentiful the padding, the more it should be used to support the load. Therefore, light shipments can benefit from the usage of gentle cushioning options like air cushion pads. However, heavier objects benefit from the added stability provided by firmer cushioning materials.

Subsequent Bundling

Additional protection and identification information is provided by secondary packaging, which is the package's outer covering. Physical protection, barrier protection, secondary containment, compliance with regulations, etc. are just a few of the many reasons why secondary packaging is crucial. It's also crucial in the realms of dissemination, presentation, and advertising. The principal package and contents are safeguarded against damage during shipping.

 Packaging requirements for shipping internationally

Positive Outward Presentation Benefits

  1. Goods are easily moved and handled

If they are properly wrapped, it doesn't matter how big or tiny they are. In addition to ensuring that the product reaches the end user undamaged, careful packing also reduces the amount of time spent loading and unloading freight from various forms of transportation. Costly shipping and handling fees can be avoided with proper packaging.

  1. Theft and pilfering are minimized

Theft can be prevented to some extent with sturdy outside packaging. Theft can be reduced through the deployment of tamper-proof devices. This is particularly important for modestly priced items of high value. The rate of theft is quite high.

  1. Maintains a Consistent Level of Quality

External packaging that meets standards helps maintain product quality. Products can be protected from damaging elements, including excessive heat, dampness, and precipitation, as well as from accidental harm. Fruits and vegetables, which deteriorate quickly, are preserved for as long as possible.

  1. Facilitates prompt shipping

Timely delivery is facilitated by clear and accurate handling instructions, accurate weights and dimensions, and a full delivery address. The whole shipping address, as well as the weight and dimensions of the package, should be printed on the outside. Shipping in packaging with all the information printed on it streamlines the product's handling at each transfer point.

Optimal methods of packaging are rare

It is also crucial to establish how much of a loss was incurred due to poor packaging. For instance, research has found that improperly packing, blocking, or securing a load in container trucks, especially freight containers, accounts for 65% of cargo damage (Research Gate, 2023).

Before deciding on a specific form and material packing, take the following into account:

  1. Product Type: Pick containers that go well with what you're selling. General products, machinery, spare parts, perishable commodities, liquids, and hazardous cargo all have unique packaging needs that cannot be met with a universal solution. Glass or fragile products need larger containers or double packaging, and perishables should be packed in an insulated container.
  2. As with the product itself, the manner of transport has an impact on packing decisions. Different types of packing are needed for various modes of transportation. While light, flimsy packaging is adequate for air travel, shipping through water necessitates stronger packaging that can endure the harsh conditions of the open sea and the lengthy transit period.
  3. In addition to being recyclable and reusable, the packaging material you choose should not compromise the environment in any way.
  4. All of the aforementioned considerations, including cost, are essential for safe cargo transport to the final port of call. You should also think about packing costs to make sure they don't cut into your profits.
  5. Some importers have stringent packing specifications that must be met before making a purchase. There are also packaging laws and restrictions in effect in various nations. Exporters must be given precise instructions for packaging. Inappropriate packaging could result in the importer refusing to accept the consignment.
  6. Material, palletization, labeling on packages, etc., must all conform to the importer's specifications in order to be accepted into the nation. These maritime regulations are essential reading before you set sail.

Equally important to the initial packing phase is the secondary packaging phase. It safeguards not just the goods, but also the company's name and image. To this end, it is crucial for vendors to incorporate secondary packaging into their offerings and to research and experiment with new methods of packaging that are both effective and inexpensive for consumers. Your job is to see to it that your carefully packaged, labeled, and tagged items make it to their final destination.

Problems with the packaging waste proposal 

The European Commission proposed a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 28 February 2023. The goal of this plan was to establish uniform standards for packaging and trash collection across the European Union. The suggested date of implementation is 2025, and comments were accepted until the end of May.

Regulations concerning labeling, marking, and disclosure

Furthermore, beginning 3.5 years after the proposed regulation's implementation, the package would be required to bear a label detailing its material composition (article 11). The packaging used for online sales would be subject to this requirement, but shipping containers would not. Deposit and return systems would also require distinctive labeling for packages. A digital data carrier (such as a QR code) providing information on packaging reusability and facilitating the tracking of the packaging would be required on all packaging beginning four years after the proposed regulation goes into effect. The labels and digital data carrier must be put, printed, or etched in a way that is easily readable and cannot be erased.

To facilitate the independent collection of each material-specific fraction of packaging waste, all waste receptacles for the collection of packaging waste would also be required to be labeled by 1 January 2028 (article 12). It is recommended that within 1.5 years of the proposed regulation's entrance into force, the Commission enact implementing measures to establish a harmonized label and specifications for the labeling standards and formats for the labeling of packaging and trash receptacles.

Responsibilities of Business Entities

Article 13 stipulates that producers must check that their packaging meets all applicable standards in terms of design, production, and labeling. Manufacturers would need to conduct or commission a conformity assessment method and create technical documentation and an EU declaration of compliance before releasing packaging to the public.

Article 21 of the proposed regulation would impose new requirements on businesses that sell grouped packaging, transportation packaging, or online retail packaging to reduce waste caused by excessive packing. Empty space is defined as a space not occupied by any objects. The requirement wouldn't apply to packages purchased through online marketplaces, although the regulations about packing minimization would still apply. Single-use plastic grouped packaging used at the retail level to group goods sold in cans, single-use plastic packaging for less than 1.5 kg of fresh fruit and vegetables, and single-use packaging in the hotel and catering sector, containing individual portions used for condiments, sauces, coffee creamers, sugar, etc., would all be banned (article 22).

Article 23 requires businesses that introduce reusable packaging to the market to establish a method to facilitate the packaging's subsequent re-use. In order to offer reusable packaging to customers again, businesses that employ this practice would need to join a re-use system and sanitize the containers in accordance with industry guidelines. Article 25 of the agreement specifies that they must also follow regulations for consumer information and refill station characteristics. They would have to make sure consumers are not given free packaging at refill stations or else provide packaging as part of a deposit and return system. Article 26 would also establish diverse re-use and refill targets by industry and package type to be met between 2030 and 2040.

Some exceptions to these goals (such as for micro-companies) would also be included in the proposal. Through delegated acts, the Commission would also have the authority to adopt goals for products not covered by the proposed rule. Within 8 years of the proposed regulation's implementation, the Commission would conduct a review of the current state of packaging re-use.

The significance of being familiar with international packing standards and shipping requirements 

The very first thing you should know about international shipping is that each country has its own set of restrictions. There are many justifications for these restrictions on what can be imported into the country. Some nations put restrictions on some products to stimulate their economies and encourage domestic consumption. There are also other regulations in existence that forbid the transport of certain items.

There may appear to be an infinite number of regulations to follow while sending out your merchandise. You can't participate, though, until you figure out how to play by the rules. Time and money can be saved by learning about shipping rules and restrictions in advance.


Shipping internationally might be a complicated process, but it doesn't have to be. Every company that ships goods internationally needs a well-thought-out plan that takes into account the specifics of their target market, applicable laws and regulations, and the financial realities of international shipping.

Every company has to deal with bureaucracy, paperwork, and legal concerns that get in the way of doing what they do best: pleasing customers. You may, of course, create your own foreign shipping process from scratch; nevertheless, there are significant advantages to collaborating with a third party.

However, import and export processes can be challenging for firms. The amount of goods entering a country at once, their prices, and any limits or prohibitions are all determined by international shipping regulations. The rules in this regard change from one nation to another. Businesses must be familiar with the fundamental principles and terminology of the rules governing international shipping.

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