Guide

How to label and package goods being shipped out of the UK

What to mark on your package for export

Required information can be marked directly on packages or you can use adhesive labels, which are often more legible. Ensure markings or labels are durable and water-resistant.

Identification marks

Every package in your consignment should be clearly identifiable. Ensure the following details are provided:

  • the country of origin - if necessary, also on the goods themselves
  • destination - the port or other place of destination is sufficient, rather than a full address - check for places with the same name elsewhere in the world and make it clear where goods are destined for
  • seller's name and order number
  • sequential number of each package and the total packages in the consignment, eg 'Package 7 of 20'
  • the size of the case if there are multiple boxes or containers
  • weight and volume
  • special handling instructions
  • hazardous goods

Make sure your markings are clearly visible. Packages may have goods stacked around them so include handling instructions or labels on multiple faces. Packages containing hazardous goods must be clearly marked.

Handling instructions

A set of internationally recognised symbols is used to indicate how cargo handlers should handle packages, eg:

  • a picture of a wine glass indicates fragile goods
  • sets of cross-hairs on two sides indicate centre of gravity

These symbols are contained in the standard ISO 780. Find examples of handling symbols on the Transport Information Service website. Note that certain markings have to be correctly positioned to be of use, eg the crosshairs used to indicate centre of gravity must be placed on sides at a right angle to each other.

Other packaging information

Labels should provide details of package weight and dimensions. It's usually necessary to mark your packages' country of origin. Check regulations in the destination country. Different export markets can require the country of origin to be marked in different ways.

Packages should appear as anonymous as possible - don't mark them with brand names or any indication that there might be valuable goods inside. This will only increase the likelihood of tampering or theft during transportation.

All fruit and vegetables destined for the EU must be labelled with their country of origin.