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Here Is What Happens When You Don’t Label Your Cargo Correctly


Here Is What Happens When You Don’t Label Your Cargo Correctly

When shipping internationally, it’s easy to forget the importance of labelling the correct marks and numbers on cargo.

If you’re shipping on a less-than-container load (LCL) service, that means your goods will be consolidated with other cargo. This process involves your goods passing through a Container Freight Station (CFS): a shipping dock where cargo is loaded into or unloaded from containers.

But unfortunately, across Australia, we’re seeing increased cargo moving through our sea freight CFS with inadequate marks and numbers on the cargo and within cargo reporting.

The ultimate result? Cargo gets lost and your shipment is delayed.

Here Is What Happens When You Don’t Label Your Cargo Correctly

Read on to understand what marks and numbers are specifically required on cargo to ensure your shipment proceeds smoothly.

Marks and Numbers for LCL and Groupage Cargo: Don’t get them wrong

As an importer or exporter, it’s imperative you adequately label your cargo to avoid your stock getting confused with other cargo.

They’re like the “ID card of cargo”. Their purpose is to identify cargo – importantly, not the buyer.

Marks and numbers are actually much more important in an LCL/Groupage shipment as opposed to a Full Container Load (FCL) shipment. This is because your cargo in an LCL shipment will be mixed with other shippers’ goods.

These marks and numbers also reflect what is being reported on the commercial invoice, certificate of origin and the bill of lading (if you’re not sure what that is, read about it here). This will allow your goods to be easily identifiable and will enable stock to be out-turned accurately.

It’s critical that your marks and numbers match with those on each shipping document, so nothing gets missed.

If your numbers don’t match, there’s a huge risk that the carrier will simply be absolved from all their responsibilities over your cargo – whether this be delays or shipping your goods to the completely wrong destination.

What marks and numbers are required?

For exporting:

  • Actual Shipper and Consignee Details
  • Origin & Destination
  • Number of Packages (i.e., 1 of 2, 2 of 2)
  • Shipper and Consignee Reference numbers

For importing:

  • Actual Shipper and Consignee Details
  • Number of Packages (i.e. 1 of 2, 2 of 2)
  • Shipper and Consignee Reference numbers


We recommend outlining your marks and numbers and simple as possible – such as the following:

Here Is What Happens When You Don’t Label Your Cargo Correctly

Warning: Your marks and numbers will be checked

At the border, your cargo will be inspected by the Australian Border Force (ABF).

Please ensure that when you report your cargo reports to the ABF, that you are reporting the marks and numbers that are actually marked on your cargo.

Whatever is reported to ABF the CFS will be used when out-turning your cargo.

Most unfortunately, we’re seeing cargo reporting being labelled with marks and numbers that simply do not exist on the cargo, so cargo turns out as a surplus.

We know that exporters may not physically see the cargo (nor do the buyers), but it is imperative that you refer to the parent bills of lading, as marks and numbers will be on those documents.

You should then report those additional marks that may have been entered on the parent bill.

What if my cargo is Dangerous Goods?

If your cargo is classed as hazardous, labelling and documentation requirements are based on the classification of your cargo and become a lot more comprehensive.

The markings for dangerous goods include:

  • Class 1: Explosives
  • Class 2: Gases
  • Class 3: Flammable Liquids
  • Class 4: Flammable Solids
  • Class 5: Oxidizing Substances
  • Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances
  • Class 7: Radioactive Material
  • Class 8: Corrosives
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

These goods must be accompanied by an accurate Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – often referred to as a Safety Data Sheet or SDS –  as well as a Dangerous Goods Declaration and M041.

You can read more about these requirements on our blog about shipping dangerous goods.


What if my goods are travelling in a full container?

If your goods are in a full container, then it’s only your cargo being shipped. There’s little chance of a mix up in these circumstances.

But that shouldn’t matter. It’s important not to become complacent just because you’re shipping an FCL shipment.

If you ship a combination of LCL and FCL, it is always best practice to get your supplier in the habit of labelling all cargo and to avoid issues when shipping LCL.

Just to re-emphasise

Marks and numbers on containers are so important that the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe actually passed a resolution in 1992 called Simpler Shipping Marks.

The Commission recommended that governments around the world should:

adopt a Standard Shipping Mark comprising Abbreviated Name, Reference Number, Destination and Package Number … and note opportunities for further simplification made possible in certain modes of transport and by the use of a Common Access Reference (CAR).

Even nearly 20 years ago, the Commission recognised that the ultimate purpose of shipping marks was to “identify cargo and help in moving it rapidly, smoothly and safely without delays or confusion to its final destination and to enable the checking of cargo against documents”.

The key message: get those markings and numbers on your cargo accurate!


If you’re still a little unsure about getting the marks and numbers for LCL and Groupage Cargo across all your documentation perfectly spot on, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

With decades of experience in freight forwarding, we can help you make sure your cargo is marked accurately. That way, we can reduce the risk of your cargo being delayed.

Request A Quote

or call us on 1300 227 461

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