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Items That Are Prohibited in Shipping Containers

Moving goods from one location to another becomes easy when you load them in a shipping container. Besides holding items in huge quantities, shipping containers also keep them safe in transit. But there are certain things you should avoid packing as they are prohibited by customs or may cause accidents. To transfer your goods without complications, you need to understand customs’ rules and regulations regarding overseas shipping. This blog outlines the types of items that should not be packed in shipping containers.

Items You Should Not Pack in a Shipping Container

Perishable Goods

Shipping goods overseas takes time. For this reason, perishable items such as food are not suitable for packing in shipping containers as they are temperature sensitive and may spoil. Perishable items may also leak which can spoil other goods kept inside the container. Refrigerated containers are used to transport medicine or other perishables, so it is advisable not to transport frozen or refrigerated food when loading your shipping container.

Here is a list of perishable items that should not be packed inside a shipping container:

  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Yogurts
  • Frozen treats
  • Ice cream
  • Opened beverages
  • Opened pantry items
  • Fresh produce

Illegal Items

It is illegal to ship certain items across the world, although each country has its own set of rules and regulations. To prevent any such complications, do your research. Weapons, drugs, ammunition, firearms and some medications are common items prohibited from shipping containers.

Hazardous Items

Many shipping companies will refuse to ship hazardous materials, so dispose of these prior to shipping. Highly combustible chemicals that may explode during transit are of particular concern.

Here are some hazardous items you should not pack in a shipping container:

  • Paints/paint thinner
  • Acids
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Matches
  • Ammonia
  • Nail polish remover
  • Loaded guns
  • Gasoline
  • Charcoal lighter fluid
  • Pesticides
  • Scuba tanks
  • Pool chemicals
  • Motor oil
  • Poisons
  • Propane tanks

Plants and Seeds

It may seem harmless to ship plants, seeds or soil but they may carry germs, diseases or parasites that can destroy crops or prove fatal to native plant species. Furthermore, plants cannot survive without sunshine for long. If you are shipping garden tools, make sure to clean them properly before packing.

Important Documents

Although international shipping via containers is safe, it is still not advisable to ship valuable documents. Instead, use personal luggage to carry items like birth certificates, financial papers or marriage records while travelling. Such documents contain personal information, and you never know who may be able to access your important papers even after customs checks and other regulatory efforts. When it comes to protecting your personal information, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Expensive Items

A shipping company will follow certain rules and regulations to move valuable items. If you plan to move such valuables, it is advisable to ship them inside a separate box. Although containers are considered a safe option to ship valuables, breakage or damage is still possible. It is a good idea to carry such expensive items in your carry-on luggage if possible. Moreover, as such things are usually packed in parcels or small boxes, there is risk of them being misplaced if shipped via container.

Here is a list of expensive items you should avoid packing in shipping containers:

  • Cash
  • Jewellery
  • Family heirlooms
  • Chequebooks
  • School records
  • Photo albums
  • Car titles
  • Furs
  • Art
  • Computer software
  • Sentimental items
  • Credit cards

Toxic and Flammable Products

To ensure everyone’s safety, there are many toxic substances like chemicals, fertilizers, oils and solvents that are prohibited from being shipped in a container. Such toxic items may become gaseous during transit which may seriously hurt anyone who inhales them.

Flammable products, including pressurized aerosol spray cans, firearms and fireworks, may explode or burst into flame when packed in cargo containers. If any of these items are found by customs, your shipment may be delayed or cancelled. Consult with your shipping company regarding how to move flammable items.


Batteries are strictly prohibited in shipping containers as there is risk of fire and leakage of toxic chemicals. Before shipping your electronic or household items, remove batteries from remotes to avoid shipping delays or cancellation.

Electronic Items

Do not ship electronic goods like big screen TVs or smaller items like cameras, laptops or smartphones in a container. The latter can create obstacles during customs or other security screening procedures.

Being aware of the items you should not pack in a cargo container will help you ship your goods safely and easily. A reputable shipping company knows which items are prohibited in containers and will do what is necessary to transfer your goods to your desired destination in a timely manner.

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