Originally published in 2013 / Updated in 2017
Questions I’ll discuss in this blog post:
- Do you take care of lashing the car inside the container yourself or does the shipping line do this?
- What lashing materials are needed?
- What other preparations are necessary to make sure your car is securely loaded?
Container Loading – Tips on Preparations
Before our Land Cruiser entered the container we took the following actions:
- Our fuel tank was practically empty as most shipping lines demand an empty fuel tank, or a tank filled to a maximum of 1/4th or 1/8th of its fuel capacity.
- If there are any other inflammable fluids in the car, they have to be taken out.
- Disconnect the batteries.
- It may seem a no-brainer but I made a special note not to forget to take all valuable papers out of the Land Cruiser such as car documents, shipping documents, passports, visa cards, etc.
- If you have a car alarm system, don’t forget to disconnect it.
Who is Responsible?
There are two options to load a container:
- Do it oneself.
- Have it done by a third party.
A third party will obviously charge for its service. Sometimes the shipping company requires that the lashing is done by a lashing-service agency, leaving you without a choice.
Our reasons to take care of the lashing ourselves was not so much a question of budget but of having more faith in oneself than in the lashers. Incredible (or arrogant) as the latter may sound, reality shows that this may be not be unfounded. Even when outsourcing the lashing of the car, you better check the final result before the container is sealed.
How to Properly Lash your Vehicle
There are many types of lashing materials and each agency/port will have its own system. Among them are:
- Wheel chocks, or simple wooden blocks to position a car into place.
- Straps such as rachet straps or turnbuckles are used to lash the car on four sides from the chassis to the container floor and the car is pulled halfway down in its suspension.
- Some lashers use nylon rope instead of iron wire. Make sure that the rope is strong enough! As an overlander advised us (based on his experience): if this happens, stand on it and jump up and down; if it breaks, it is obviously not strong enough to keep a car in place in case of a storm. In this case, the rope did break and he ended up doing the lashing himself once more.
- Higher vehicles may also be lashed from the roof to the sides of the container to avoid tipping from side to side.
Sealing the Container
Before the container is closed, the customs department will run the last check and lock the doors with a special seal. This seal contains a number which is copied on the Bill of Lading, the most important shipping document. As an extra security, you may add a lock of your own on the doors, which we did.
A Couple of Tips
Before going to the port or warehouse, you may want to check on the following aspects:
- At what height is the container? If it is not on the ground, is there a ramp available? (Never just assume there will be one).
- In our case, the rooftop tent has to be taken off the roof rack, which is very heavy. We have asked for a forklift, which was provided.
- Are there any loose objects to be fastened inside the container? This may be the case when you have things that need to be taken off the roof in order to fit your vehicle into the container, such as spare tires, spare diesel cans, roof tent, roof rack etc. Are there decent straps to properly secure these objects along the wall of the container?
A final tip: Do the loading (and unloading, for that matter) with two people. In case of distractions, such as something simple as a call of nature, or the customs department demanding the car owner to come to the office for whatever reason, the second person can (and should) stay with the car. This way you are assured that no unwanted objects are hidden inside the container, which might lead to a lot of trouble at the port of destination.
We would love to hear about your lashing & loading experiences in the comment section below.
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Thanks and enjoy the ride.
Yes, I’ll do that!