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

Your export packaging options


You have a wide variety of options when choosing how to package goods for export, with materials such as wood, paper, metal, plastic, glass and textiles commonly used.

The main types of export packaging include:

  • Loose or unpacked - a common option for large items such as heavy vehicles. Making sure they're stowed securely is more important than adding a layer of protective packaging.
  • Boxes or crates - one of the most prevalent options. They are often stacked on pallets and shrink-wrapped for stability. Less durability is required if goods are also containerised.
  • Drums, usually made of metal or plastic - commonly used for transporting liquids and powders or goods that need to be kept dry.
  • Wrapping - often used with goods stacked on pallets, wrapping - such as shrink-wrap or foil - both adds to stability and protects goods.
  • Pallets - allow smaller packing units such as boxes and cartons to be grouped together. They allow easy mechanical transporting (eg forklift trucks), which eases the process of loading, unloading and warehousing.

These options are not mutually exclusive, so you may want or need to use more than one.

Containers and break-bulk

For logistical efficiency, containers are used to transport most export consignments. Containers are standardised metal boxes, often measuring 6 metres long and 2.4 metres deep/wide. The goods inside might still need packaging, but the container offers added protection, and increased security from theft.

The term 'break-bulk' refers to goods carried as general cargo, rather than in containers. This increases the risk of damage during transit, so make sure adequate dunnage is used. Dunnage is protective material placed around the goods to prevent damage from movement, moisture or other causes.

You must also comply with general export procedures.