Export packaging, also referred to as transport packaging, is the type of packaging required for exported goods. Choosing the right packaging can make the difference between damaged goods and lost revenue or goods arriving safely and efficiently for maximum profit. Factors that influence which packaging methods to use include protection, security, mode of transportation, cost and legislation. Also, the options for packaging are not mutually exclusive, so more than one method may be used.

Loose or Unpacked

Loose or unpacked is a common choice for large items such as heavy vehicles. These unpacked, or break-bulk, goods are carried as general cargo instead of in containers. This increases the risk of damage during transit so extra protective material, called dunnage, is placed around the goods to prevent damage from movement, moisture or other causes.


Drums can be made of stainless steel, polyethylene, continuous-cast carbon steel or fiber and come in various sizes. They are commonly used for transporting liquids, powders or goods that need to be kept dry.

Boxes or Crates

Boxes or crates comprise the most popular shipping options. Boxes and crates are often confused with one another when they are both made of wood. For a container to be a crate, all six of its sides must be in place to result in the rated strength of the container. The strength of a box is rated on the weight it can carry before the top and sides are installed. The boxes and crates are usually stacked on pallets and shrink-wrapped for stability. If more durability is required, the boxes or crates are also containerized. Containerization and shrink-wrapping also prevent goods from being stolen or tampered with.


Because they are easy to pack and move, containers are used to transport most exported goods. Containers are standardized metal boxes that can withstand the weight of cargo. Dimensions vary, but the standard containers are 40-foot dry freight, 20-foot dry freight, 45-foot high cube container and 40-foot reefer container, which is industry language for the term "refrigerated container." The goods inside still might need packaging, but containers provide added protection and increased security from theft.


Pallets allow smaller boxes and cartons to be grouped together. They are easy to transport by forklift trucks, which makes the process of loading, unloading and warehousing easier. Cartons grouped on pallets have become the standard option because they are easy, reliable and low in cost. Pallets and containers provide the most efficiency with excellent cargo protection.