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The Gfresh guide to seafood export – Packaging, the practicalities

autoreBy Steve Williamson 27 Mar 2017

Customs and airlines are tough when it comes to packaging and packing materials.

Exporters can’t afford to have produce returned - repacking can result in excessive delays and mortality, added expenses, loss of quality and potentially even the loss of a sale.

The packing of your goods is the last safeguard against compromising your produce in the transport process. If produce arrives at a lower than expected quality, your reputation as a premium supplier will suffer.

That doesn’t mean you should reinforce your boxes with steel. Heavy packages means higher shipping costs, so light weight materials are the way to go.

Safety first

Before getting into the details, let’s go over some basics.

For airlines carrying live seafood, packaging must not adversely affect human consumption and must be able to withstand leakages, vibration, shock, stacking and changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure - all of which are unavoidable risks in global transport.

As a supplier of premium seafood, you know your products best and it’s good practice to assume that no one in the supply chain is as familiar or careful with the produce as you are. This means sparing no expense when it comes to things like insulated packaging or lining boxes with absorbent pads to prevent bacterial growth.

From liner to airline

Below is outlined a basic packaging instruction for live seafood, covering both the materials used as well as an appropriate packing method. However, outside of the information covered here, it’s important that you double check with your airline or freight forwarder on your particular species, as some airlines have specific requirements that differ from others.

Outer packaging

Container Type/Material: Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) - Effective and Affordable

Appropriate For: EPS is commonly used for shipping live seafood such as crab, lobster, abalone, eel and shellfish.

Corrugated Waterproof Fibreboard box - These are the most cost effective EPS containers and are appropriate for a variety of products. Ventilation holes, where required, are permissible at each end, near the center of box tops, so that exuded fluids in the transport process remain contained.

It's the inside that counts

One Polyethylene liner of at least 75 micron thickness - for some species which require ventilation, the inner lining may be omitted if absorbent material is provided within the packing.

If you’re planning on exporting live swim/fin fish, they must be contained within 2 polyethylene inners, goosenecked and tied, or sealed otherwise, to ensure liquid does not escape.

Absorbent Material

Absorbent pads need to be placed at the base of boxes (and sides of bags where necessary). Fluid can often be a bed for bacterial growth which will compromise the quality of your seafood.

Stayin' cool

If ice is to be used as a refrigerant, it must be in a separate polyethylene bag of at least 75 microns thickness - gelled ice packs are a preferred option in this instance.

Keep it together

Adhesive tape is necessary in sealing your EPS box - 4cm minimum must encircle the lid, securing it to the base of the box, and two strips must go around the width of the container at approximately ⅓ spacing and midway down the length of the box at each end.

Packing steps

1. Place absorbent material at the base of the box

2. Insert polyethylene inner liner - goose-necked and tied or overlapped, folded and taped closed

3. Seal lid to the box with adhesive tape as described above

4. Attach labels

Double check

This is a reliable packaging method for a broad range of seafood products. However, as previously mentioned, the best way to make sure you do it right is to consistently double check with your specific airline and/or freight forwarder.

Follow these simple steps and produce will be ready to travel and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that it’s going to arrive in the same premium condition as it left.


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Gfresh team