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When does it make sense to containerize coils?

Coiled metal products continue to be key commodities in today’s global economy and the transportation sector plays a pivotal role by safely and efficiently transporting them via water, rail, and highway.

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H. Scott Lyman

Director of Commercial Operations

Certain coils like galvanized or stainless sheet steel, slit steel, aluminum and tin are susceptible to myriad factors that can cause product damage and delivery delays in the supply chain. Traditional transportation methods offered by both break bulk carriers and manifest rail have historically served most of the coil tonnage shipped via water and rail. These transportation modes will continue to serve markets around the world, but also have service limitations such as irregular schedules, longer transit times and damages caused by handling (including the required final mile handling).

In the late 90s, shippers started to load coils into containers – predominately 20′ conventional designs. They found that coiled materials could be safely transported in containers as long as they were properly packed and secured. Ocean carriers, railroads and subsequently insurance agencies, underwriters and risk managers developed loading guidelines addressing the fact that coils are dense cargos with a very high mass to volume characteristic, and being circular, have a significantly smaller and problematic loading footprint. For the most part, these guidelines have been effective, but they all require extensive blocking, bracing and lashing which can be costly and time-consuming.

So, what are the factors shippers should consider when deciding between containerizing their coils or staying with the traditional modes such as flatbed trucks, flat racks or rail gondolas? Here are some questions to ask:


What is the cost of labor, time and materials to properly secure coils in a conventional container that meet carrier loading guidelines?


What are the cost savings realized by utilizing cellular ocean liner services or rail intermodal either in headhaul or backhaul transit lanes?


What are the associated risks of damage due to both environmental exposure and multiple handling interchanges when shipping coils loose?


What are the savings in packaging, damage claims, labor and transit times associated with utilizing specialized container or cradle designs that are built just for shipping coils?

The answers will vary greatly depending on the containers used, loading and handling infrastructure type and availability, in addition to the type of securing equipment used.

Several securement options are available:

Traditional blocking and lashing

The coils can be blocked and lashed into a normal container using straps, wood, and other securement materials. While this is a very typical and easily accessible method, in many cases the associated risks of damage (to the coil, the container and the people loading it) can be high, as can the costs in terms of time and materials to complete the job safely.

Specialist container-compatible equipment

Specially designed steel pallets for safely handling and containerizing coils are an option. The success of this option is still dependent on the condition and integrity of the container being used but will make the loading and securement of the coils much easier, quicker and usually safer. Pallets like this are largely offered as a part of a service by NVOCCs, which could be a benefit or a limitation for an organization with a requirement to ship coils.

The CoilBoxx™ container

In 2019, CakeBoxx Technologies launched CoilBoxx, a two-piece container designed specifically for the global transportation of steel and aluminum coils. The two-piece 'deck and lid' design allows this container to operate as a flat rack but with a lid that fully encloses the cargo when assembled for shipment. With this container, the coils can be very easily loaded/unloaded onto fully adjustable cradles without having to operate within the confines of the container walls. The ultra-strong deck of the CoilBoxx allows ample space and options for the cargo handlers to properly lash the coils for transport. When the lid is closed, CoilBoxx is transported and stored like any other ISO container and provides complete environmental protection for the coils. Once inside the CoilBoxx, the coils can be transported from origin to final destination without the need for being handled or transloaded. This saves substantial cost in reduced damage and handling cycles.

If you’re looking to optimize your coil shipments and would like to discuss potential ways to save time and money, why not get in touch with our team of experts?