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What is a pallet?

A pallet is a standard sized platform, usually made of wood, on which goods are stacked. On two of its sides, it has open areas that serve as an entry for the forks of a lifting truck – forklifts are needed to move palletized goods around. The purpose of using a pallet is to help small units of goods (cartons or individual products) stay together and to provide protection from damage.

If you haven’t done much bulk international shipping, you may not know that there are three main pallet types: Standard Pallets, Europallets, and North American standard pallets. International container shipments use mainly the Standard and the Europallets, while the North American pallets are used within the US for inland freight.

How many standard pallets can fit in a container?

Pallets are recommended to be loaded as non-stackable, in order to prevent damage to the goods caused by stacking. However, some shippers choose to stack pallets regardless of this designation. You can make a careful evaluation of your products and whether or not the pallets can be stacked within a container without damaging the goods – if this is the case, more pallets can fit. If you do choose to stack whenever possible, we recommend analyzing whether or not your pallets can be safely stacked with each shipment.

Standard pallets – International
Measurement: 47.24 x 39.27 in
20’ ST/HC:             10 or 11 pallets
40’ ST/HC:             20 or 21 pallets
Europallets – International
Measurement: 31.50 x 47.24 in
20’ ST/HC:             11 pallets
40’ ST/HC:             23 or 24 pallets
North American standard pallets – USA
Measurement: 40 x 48 in
20’ ST/HC:             10 pallets
40’ ST/HC:             20 pallets

The arrangement of pallets within a container should maximize the space in length, width, and height, and should be within appropriate weight limits. In addition, there might be limitations in the loading and unloading heights (perhaps your warehouse cannot receive tall pallets). Therefore, it is best to seek the help of your logistics expert who knows the height and weight restrictions at the locations of departure and arrival of your goods. Once the requirements and limitations are clear, you’ll be able to figure out the number of pallets that can fit your container.

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