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International Forwarding Association Blog » Cargo Moving » Reasons Why Cargo Damage Occurs and Tips to Prevent It

Reasons Why Cargo Damage Occurs and Tips to Prevent It

There is nothing worse than inspecting your freight only to find concealed damage. It will not only incur significant financial losses but can hurt your reputation, customer relationships, and company growth. Knowing some of the common situations that cause freight damage is your best weapon so that you are able to properly inspect cargo upon arrival. If you are on the shipping side, there are some preventive measures to take protect and ship cargo safely.


Cargo Damage Occurs


How Does Cargo Get Damaged?

Some damages are unforeseen while others can be prevented by proper handling. Common reasons for freight damage include:

  • Reckless driving, rough roads, unpredictable weather conditions, and car incidents can cause mishaps
  • Stacking boxes unevenly, placing cargo haphazardly, and not following instructions
  • Careless handling
  • Poor packaging, incorrect sealing, and improper cushioning
  • Uneven weight distribution, excessive cargo weight, and improper handling of oversized cargo
  • Negligence by the warehouse or shipper
  • Putting cargo at risk due to taking shortcuts to save money and time. This typically occurs when shipping blocks of material, granite, steel, and other heavy items
  • Lack of knowledge about the type, dimensions, and weight of cargo to be shipped
  • Not inspecting cargo to ensure it is properly secured


Common Cargo-Related Claims

Each year insurance companies get hundreds of thousands of complaints by both shippers and consignees. Physical damage is the most common cargo claim, followed by reefer related, containers lost overboard, theft, wet, shortage, sinking, contamination, and infestation.


Physical Damage

Physical damage typically occurs when items get damaged due to knocking, breakage, rolling, and dropping.


Reefer Related

This typically occurs due to power failure, mishandling, or breakdown of reefer equipment. It can also occur due to not precooling cargo, incorrect setting of temperature, improper packaging, and overloading of cargo.



Infestation damage is caused by rodents, animals, or insects in cargo. It can occur when containers from previous cargo are not properly inspected for insects. Infestation can also happen when insects or rodents are transferred from an infested warehouse during the loading of cargo. The presence of a large number of pests can cause disease and damage to containers and cargo itself.


Preventive Measures

When packing cargo for shipping, there are some steps to take to prevent damage:

  • Place on cradle, crate, and box heavy items
  • Place heavy items at the bottom for maximum stability
  • Distribute weight evenly
  • Be careful not to exceed maximum weight and dimensions
  • Observe packing guidelines for hazardous goods

There are also some measures to observe to prevent reefer related damage, including that containers are cleaned, pre-cooled when required, and set to the correct temperature during transit. Placing containers in open and humid environments should be avoided. When shipping cargo by sea, you should also take some measures to prevent infestation damage. Request that your carrier provides food grade containers when shipping food cargo and ensure it is kept free of rodents and insects during storage.