Sealing and Locking a Shipping Container for Export

Sealing and Locking a Shipping Container for Export

We are often asked to provide padlocks for shipping containers that are being used for exporting goods. However, you don’t need a padlock fitted to your container when exporting goods. The standard method of providing visible and effective security to shipping containers used for export is through the use of bolt seals.

Bolt seals are cheap, yet effective in providing security for your cargo. Each bolt seal has its own unique reference number and once you’ve loaded your cargo for export, you fit the bolt seal and note down the number printed on the seal or your freight forwarder will do this.

At every stage of your container’s journey, the unique number of the bolt seal is recorded by every one that handles the container from all the transport companies, terminals and shipping lines. In theory, therefore, if your container has been broken in to, it is relatively easy to trace back where the seal was broken.

Bolt seals are very much the industry standard and are essential for any exports going to or through the USA.

So, why not use padlocks instead? Simply put, should customs wish to examine the cargo in your container, they will cut off the padlocks using bolt cutters. Thereafter, they will apply one of their bolt seals and you have lost a perfectly good padlock.

In fact, having padlocks fitted might look rather odd and attract more attention to your container that those secured using bolt seals. A padlock on your container may increase the chances of checks and as you may not be aware, in most cases all charges for customs checks are passed onto the exporter or shipper.

If anyone was intent on breaking in to your container, a padlock will not deter them and if your insurer insists on using a padlock, find another insurer who deals with insurance of export freight in shipping containers. They will know that bolt seals are the norm within the industry.

Please note, that whilst padlocks aren’t the norm for export use, they are great for securing containers that are being used static onsite storage. Of course, padlocks are still vulnerable and should be used in conjunction with a padlock housing or lock box and, if you are still concerned about security, take a look at our shipping container alarms. These are mains or battery operated devices that upon activation, send a text message to one of more mobile phones and have an audible sounder too.

Export insurance for shipping containers

Whilst theft from containers is relatively rare, you should consider insuring your goods. Cargo insurance is relatively cheap but it is not normally included as standard. So, if you are shipping expensive items or the entire contents of your home, we really do recommend you take out insurance and, in our experience, its often best to avoid the cheapest insurance deals out there. Its cheap for a reason and may not cover all the options you require. Cheaper cargo insurance is often termed as ‘total loss insurance’, in this specific case you are only insured if your entire shipment goes missing. If your boat sinks en route to destination, but they recover 1 item from your shipment thy can attribute to you (quite possibly floating in the water) – then you will not receive any pay out from this insurance policy whatsoever. If shipping your own goods around the worlkd a good quality insurance policy is well worth a little extra outlay.


If you have any questions about this article, our products or service please call our friendly team for free on 0800 999 8988 any time 08:30-19:00 weekdays or send us a message via the contact form on this website and we will get back to you.