Shipping standards

Shipping standards for industrial equipment:

I challenge you as a supplier or buyer of industrial equipment to find the applicable shipping standards for packaging of industrial equipment. Especially for shipment to an international destination.  Below are some places you can look to find the applicable regulation for a particular piece of equipment.


Wait, before you check out these links read the rest of the blog. 

Because, once you go to the links you will get lost in a never ending quest for an answer. 

It depends

This might be the best answer for what specification might apply to any unique piece of industrial equipment being transported.  The standards give consideration to weight and types of packaging utilized like, paper wrapping, wood pallets, steel containers, etc.  You will be hard pressed to find anything that specifies how to secure a particular piece of industrial equipment inside a container.  What shipping standards apply to your shipment?

Basra shipping standards
Not all shipping standards are what you think!

The US government solves this problem with the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) in their purchase orders by stating that the supplier must follow all the regulations as stated in the FAR.  Sometimes specific sections are identified. Most of the time requirements can be summed up that supplier and shipper are responsible for secure delivery of the product.

In practice it is entirely up to the supplier and usually a contracted shipper to package the industrial goods.  They alone must insure  the goods will arrive in one piece at the destination.  Shipping heavy industrial equipment to frontier and emerging markets, or areas of conflict might present unique challenges not anticipated.  You will have difficulty finding a shipping standard that applies.

Who is responsible for following shipping standards?

Most shippers or transportation companies assume responsibility for the cargo arriving in good condition.  These companies are often liable when there is damaged to the goods during shipment.  Unfortunately redress or compensation for the damage can be difficult to pursue.  As a supplier, telling a buyer that it was the shippers fault and not yours doesn’t help the business relationship.  The buyer wants equipment in perfect condition as purchased ready for installation or service.  They do not want to wait weeks or months for replacement equipment or be compensated for damage.  To that end reputable manufacturers and suppliers attempt to insure their equipment is packaged properly to arrive in one piece at the destination.

Inspection standards?

I always insist on photos or certified inspection of the equipment at the origin in the packing containers prior to shipment.  On the receiving end always attempt to be present at receipt or shortly after arrival.  Definitely, prior to unpacking the equipment inspect and photograph the condition on receipt.  If the manufacture or supplier knows that this will be done it often will affect the effort to properly package the equipment. Ask them what shipping standard they follow.

Container shipping standard
Placement in a 40 foot container is not a shipping standard.

My small team was responsible for procuring $54 million dollars of industrial equipment from global sources.  It all needed to be delivered to fairly remote locations in worse case environmental conditions through-out Iraq.  Sand, heat, poor roads, often no equipment to properly unload, less than new trucks, long customs delays, thefts, etc. challenged the best of packaging.

Many of the experienced suppliers took these conditions into account when shipping equipment.  A few had less experienced and a few just took their chances that no one would hold them accountable due to the challenges of the final destinations in a war zone.

Examples of the good: were obviously very experienced in providing equipment into challenging markets.  Their systems were designed onto steel girders designed to fit into two 40-foot shipping containers.  At the destination all that was required was for the purchasers to pull the skids out of the containers and place them side by side and connect all the cable and pipes provided.

Visit the supplier and witness the testing of the equipment prior to shipment and have them explain their packaging methodology.  Take as many photos as you can to assist on the delivery end of assembly.  Even with the best efforts there will still be issues.  Since none of the engineers at the destination could travel to the supplier to review the testing it was my responsibility to bridge the gap.  Under normal conditions that might have worked.

With only 45 minutes allowed at the destination due to security all I could do was provide the pictures and help them find the manuals and connecting cables.  The factory wasn’t ready to install the equipment on delivery which compromised the knowledge of assembly over time.  The equipment was safest by remaining inside the containers until it could be moved to a new building being constructed.  Iraqis had poor memories of instruction manuals coming up missing over time.  To this end I helped climb into the containers to secure the manuals so that they could be locked up until installation.

Oxygen generator
Built on the shipping skids for installation.

What is the shipping standard for steel balls?

Mark, one of the other engineers and program managers took on the assignment of purchasing steel balls used in the manufacture of cement.  The balls of numerous sizes are used in giant tumblers to break up the raw materials (clinker) used in the manufacture of cement.  Notice in the pictures there are a lot of these balls required.

Shipping standard for steel balls
Bags on steel clinker balls on arrival at Southern Cement

Quite to our surprise the balls were shipped in large bags.  Due to their nature the balls really couldn’t be damaged in transient.  The only real requirement is that the fiber bags stayed intact so that the balls didn’t end up rolling everywhere.  I’ve seen this same type of packaging used for rock and stone very effectively.

Notice in the pictures Mark was very pleased with his steel balls.  Although I was the one that insisted on a picture of his balls!

Steel ball shipping standard
Marks balls held for inspection!

In a previous blog I showed pictures of welding equipment from Bug-O.  They were another example of how experienced manufacturers and shippers insure that the equipment arrives in one piece.  In their case as an experienced supplier they had a third party perform inspection at the shipper and supplier photo evidence of proper packaging.

Examples it worked, sorta:

My worse example is from Afghanistan but due to limited space I’ll remain focused on Iraq for now.  Bad results can happen even with the most experienced suppliers when equipment is shipped to challenging destinations. supplies cement process equipment to manufacturers around the world.  Since they were original suppliers of the process equipment at the Umm Qsar Cement factory in Basra, Iraq, Mark turned to them for replacement equipment.  Shown in the pictures the equipment has shifted in the containers.  Fortunately, this is very sturdy equipment and there is little actual damage.  Chances are the containers were slid off the trucks on arrival due to lack of heavy equipment to unload the containers.

shipping standards, equipment
It is all there, sorta.
Inspect to insure standards are met.
Inspecting with factory engineer on arrival.

I’ll have some more pictures of the not so good deliveries in another blog.

For now, suffice to say do your homework when procuring heavy equipment for shipment to challenging locations around the world.  Good luck finding the specific standard for transportation of heavy equipment to put into a contract.  Good luck holding a shipper responsible for damages when the customer needs the equipment successful delivered and installed on a timely basis.

Check the supplier and shipper history on shipping similar types of equipment.  Ask for references and evidence of success if possible.  Ask them what shipping standard they follow.  Definitely require pre-shipment inspection by a third party or in person.  Attempt to do the same at the destination.  Secure equipment manuals and installation instructions separately from shipment and or utilized electronic media that can be transmitted and stored safely.

Next week

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll visit the businesses in Mosul, Iraq.  I often worry about what happened to these thriving businesses in the wake of ISIS takeover of the city.  Certainly hope that the offensive to recapture the city will have a happy ending for the residents and business owners.

Visit previous blog for more information on shipping standards

Incoterms for International Shipping

Copyright 2016 MEA Trading, LLC.


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