How to Pack and Restrain Your Loads

When transporting containers, the risks of injury are higher than for shipping other freight, especially when driving vehicles. The containers not only need to be packed correctly, but also require sufficient and adequate webbing and restraints to prevent tipping and spillage. Any cargo that falls to the ground can be damaged. In addition, if falling from a crane, for instance, it could do serious harm to anyone in its path. 

Therefore, obviously safety is a vital topic in this industry. 


Everyone Carries Responsibility

Each person in the chain of command is responsible for the safety of the container and its goods. No person, not even the lowest in the command structure, can claim it’s not their job to ensure proper loading and strapping. 

So, what do you need to do to ensure the goods you are transporting come to no harm? And what do you need to do to ensure your container or transport vehicles are safe to use?

Have a Loading Plan

Firstly, you need a loading plan. The loading plan must be one that follows a certified template. The person who draws up such templates needs to be fully qualified to do so. The templates will cover:

  • Load balance
  • Carrying-vehicle capacity, for the vehicles that transport the container to the docks, and degree of fill of the container 

There are official templates to draw from, but they vary from container to container, and between type of goods transported.

The people who pack the container have to follow these guidelines to the letter. Then they have to fill the gaps in the container so the goods can’t slide around. The gaps must be filled with inflatable dunnage of good quality.

What is inflatable dunnage, you may ask? It’s simply packaging that fills up empty spaces in containers. It is made of material that you can inflate with air as required, so there’s no space left for goods to slip sideways or up and down.

Furthermore, restraints must be used to secure the cargo to the floor of the container. You don’t want goods jumping around during transit over rough ocean waves. 

Thereafter, those connected with carrying and loading vehicles must make sure that the load is indeed well balanced, and that it won’t cause any tipping of the vehicle. In addition, it must suit the weight capacity of the vehicle. A light vehicle won’t be able to handle more than a certain tonnage. The vehicle rating must be strictly adhered to, or serious accidents can occur, such as breaking of wheel axles, or tyres bursting. 

Use Restraints to Prevent Slipping

The next step, after loading, is to ensure that the container is weighted or strapped down on the carrier or vehicle so that it doesn’t slide around during the voyage. 

Furthermore, you will need to use lashings, webbing nets or gates to restrain the load. Bars can only be used to stabilise a load, not to restrain it. 

It certainly doesn’t pay to cut costs when it comes to restraints. In fact, it saves you money to have something strong and durable keeping your load safe, because you won’t have to pay for damages. 

Restraints will most often be used to prevent a load from spilling out and injuring people when it’s opened. The load may have shifted somewhat, and the contents could be heavy and unbalanced, causing it to fall. 

Due to health and safety laws becoming stricter, these straps are becoming increasingly popular as a means of keeping container loads safe, rather than chains. This is because straps are more stretchy and have a little ‘give’. 

All About Straps

Note that straps are made of webbing. This is a tough material, made of fibres woven in a variety of directions to increase the strap’s strength. It is also designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. 

There are a couple of types of straps to choose from:

  • The first is a strap that is connected to two solid hooks on either side of the doors. This allows the doors a little ‘breathing room’ if required. 
  • The second is a ratchet strap. Here, you also secure the webbing to the hooks on either side of the doors, but you also ratchet the strap so that it tightens against the door. This keeps your cargo very secure. 


When you transport goods, you want to make sure that the load is always packed securely, and that sufficient restraints are in place to prevent a cargo door opening and goods spilling out. The first will prevent your vehicle from tipping over or having an accident, and the second will prevent damage to either humans or goods. Either way, you save on costs and insurance.

The best way of ensuring this is to make sure everyone working with the goods takes responsibility for safety and packing. This way, safety is checked and re-checked over and over again, thus significantly reducing the risk for accidents.