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Importing From China: Shipping Marks EXPLAINED!

January 13, 2020 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments
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Shipping Marks

When you first start importing goods from China, you will face many new terms that you haven’t heard of before, like various shipping terms (DDP, FOB, etc.), payment methods, contract rules, etc. One of the questions I am often asked is about shipping marks—what are they and what information should we put in them? Let’s find out!

Basically, shipping marks are the details your supplier will put on the outer cartons/boxes that your goods are packed in. With bigger orders, this information can be printed on the boxes, while with smaller orders, suppliers usually use labels. In many cases, suppliers won’t even ask you about these shipping marks, but sometimes they will. If that happens, you will need to provide information to them.

Legally, you’re not obligated to put any information on these boxes. The supplier can send them to you completely blank, without any shipping marks. But that approach may not be the best, especially if your order is small and sent as an LCL shipment (less than container load).

Imagine that there are orders from twenty, thirty or more suppliers all in one container. Someone is responsible for unloading and sorting those goods at the port. Make their life easier and minimise the chances of your goods getting mixed up or lost by at least putting some basic information on your boxes.

By basic information, I mean:

  • Company name (your company name)
  • Carton number
  • Carton size
  • Net weight
  • Gross weight
Basic Shipping Marks

These would be the minimal shipping marks to use, and they will clearly differentiate your goods in the shipment from others. Additionally, if you want to, you can put your email or phone number on the box. However, it’s not really necessary as your contact information will show up in the shipping documents.

Then, there are also symbols/graphics that are sometimes used. These are called “handling marks” and they display specific warnings about the goods contained in the boxes, like:

  • Food
  • Fragile
  • This way up
  • Keep dry
  • Etc.
Shipping Marks Symbols

Of course, these are simply illustrative marks. It doesn’t mean that the person who is doing the unloading will follow them. But if you do ship fragile products, it makes sense to put such warnings on the boxes to hopefully minimise potential damage.

I personally wouldn’t rely on them, though. If you do ship fragile items, make sure you have packed them so carefully that they can’t break during the shipping process, no matter how rough the people dealing with the boxes are.

You have to be smart about the way you create your product packaging, any additional protection, inner boxes you use, etc. Work on this with your supplier. Always keep in mind that your items will have to travel all the way from China, then be unloaded at the port, then loaded/unloaded several more times before they reach Amazon’s warehouse. 

If you send your goods directly to Amazon FBA, or if you plan to use the same boxes for shipping goods to the Amazon warehouse AND your boxes are heavier than 15kg, it’s a good idea to ask the supplier to apply the Amazon “heavy package” label. I mean, if they’re happy to do it for free, why not do it to simplify the process in the UK, right?

Amazon Heavy Package

Then there are special labels that you need to use for shipping dangerous goods, such as flammable liquids, gases, toxic materials and similar. However, in most cases, the shipping company will take care of this. If needed, they will typically provide additional information on what extra warnings and labels you need.

Ok, that’s about it! This is super simple stuff, but I know that it may not seem like it for newbies. Now you will know how to reply to your supplier if they ask about shipping marks for your products!  

Andrew Minalto

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  1. Honestly, when you write articles they are so clear and full of detail. Thank you for the time and energy you put in to help total strangers! `I have a question, at what point do you ask for the carton size, carton weight, and no. of cartons? Is it usually once you have confirmed you are happy to go ahead with production? I know that this information is needed to get shipping quotes. Small question, but it’s confusing me 🙂

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tim,

      Many thanks for that, I really appreciate your kind words! 🙂

      You can ask for that information at any stage really – as you say – you will need that information to get a shipping quote from freight forwarders, so it’s perfectly fine to ask for this information even at the negotiation stage.

      The supplier will be able to give you this data, even if it’s approx. it will be good enough to calculate shipping costs.


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