How are Shipping Containers Unloaded? 

Forklift putting boxes into containers

The easy answer to the title question is: as quickly and as safely as possible. While each link in any supply chain is critical to its overall success, it is when the shipping containers arrive at their destination and are unsealed, that the culmination of everyone’s efforts along its route becomes apparent. Unloading shipping containers is a craft, one that requires skill, efficiency, proficiency, and experience. At Labor Loop, we resolve supply-chain professionals’ unloading issues by deploying our teams of seasoned, highly-trained personnel as needed, and only when needed for as long as they are needed. This assists transportation carriers and operations managers to hold the line on their bottom line while increasing the scale of their supply chain safety and efficiency.  

There are two techniques generally used to unload a shipping container. If the truck is towing a tilt-bed trailer with a moving axle, then the operator can angle the trailer downward to allow the container to slide off the back and onto the ground. Otherwise, once the receivers have completed their assessment of the condition of the container’s exterior, and the seals are removed, lumpers, as our freight unloaders are also called, can open the rear door and assess the container’s contents. They can also inspect for any damages such as crushed or damaged packaging, boxes, or toppled pallets. If any damages are noted, these items must be removed and put aside. Before any further unloading, the damages/losses must be assessed and inventoried, so receivers can submit an insurance claim. 

Once unloading of the shipping containers actually begins, the type of cargo inside, as well as how it has been loaded, will determine the proper method to be used to unload the freight. Generally, large items, either boxes or simply shrink-wrapped, will be floor loaded, that is placed directly on the container floor. These items must be removed manually. Typically, based on the size and weight of these items, lumpers will use a combination of tools and equipment. Floor mounted freight must be removed manually using ramps, hand-trucks, and/or by two or more lumpers carrying these individual items from inside the container to where the receivers can retrieve them. At Labor Loop, it must be noted here, that in the absence of qualified staffers who can swiftly accept unloaded freight and place it inside for storage, that our teams are also available, upon request, to perform this service.

As for cargo that has been palletized, that is first placed on a wooden pallet frame, then stacked on top of each other, the approach is slightly different. Palletized goods require unpacking to the extent that these items will have likely been wrapped in plastic and then strapped into place to reduce the possibility of any load shift during transit which could damage these items. Any dunnage will also have to be removed prior to unloading palletized items. Dunnage is the padding material used to protect both the goods and the container walls while being transported. Once these items are removed, then using ramps and a forklift, skilled lumpers can quickly unload the freight. 

Unloading shipping containers is a skill that requires knowledge, experience, and attention to detail. Labor Loop supplies the freight unloading teams that many operations managers and transportation carriers rely upon to ensure their cargos arrive and are unloaded quickly and safely. This is not only an efficient way to perform this critical supply chain link, but also it is very cost-effective. 

Learn more about how our on-demand lumper services can maintain and/or improve your bottom line by contacting our team today!