Shipping containers is a great choice for a move, but be sure not to pack any of these items to keep the process as seamless as possible.


Container shipping is a convenient, safe way to get your entire household moved from point A to point B, but there are certain items you should never include in a shipment. Some are common sense, and some may surprise you, but all need to be left out of your shipping container. There are many international container shipping companies and not all of them are going to advise you about what you should not pack.

1. Live animals or plants

Live animals of any kind are absolutely prohibited from inclusion in international container shipping, and most live plants (even seeds) are barred as well. If you must bring some sort of live plant with you in your container, be prepared to fill out extensive paperwork regarding the nature of the plants included, and also be ready to pay additional duties when your container reaches port.

2. Food and alcohol

No perishables of any kind may be packed in your shipping container. Food and alcohol should also be avoided if at all possible. If you have food or alcohol that will be included (for example, a wine collection), be sure that everything is unopened, and know that you will need to declare everything, and will likely incur additional customs duties and inspections.

3. Hazardous materials

These materials include aerosol cans, chemistry sets, nail polishes and removers, batteries, paint, motor oil, propane tanks and gasoline. Items such as small as matchbooks can even be considered hazardous and should not be packed into shipping containers.

4. Important documents

While shipping containers is safe and secure, it is always advisable that you keep important documents on your person during your move. Papers like birth certificates, house deeds, and insurance documents should all be packed in zip-top bags and kept in your personal luggage.

5. Sentimental items

Irreplaceable items like old family photographs, photo albums and small, but important, family heirlooms should be kept with you during the move. The same goes for any expensive and important jewelry items. In the unfortunate and unlikely event that something should happen to your shipping container, you’ll be glad that these stayed safely at your side.

6. Keys and small electronics

Keep all keys and small electronic devices you may need access to soon after arriving with you instead of packed in your container. If for some reason your container gets held up at port, you won’t need to wait around for access to your keys or laptop.

7. Motor vehicles or engines

Any kind of vehicle will need to go through its own process at port and should not be put into a shipping container. They will need to proceed through special inspections that are separate from those performed on containers. Additionally, engines should not be placed into shipping containers as they present safety concerns.

Keep these items in mind and be sure to exclude them from your shipping containers while packing. Your containers will make it through customs much more easily, and you’ll avoid missteps and mishaps that could end up being quite costly.


Written by Einat Mazafi
Einat Mazafi is the owner of NY International Shipping, an International Shipping and moving company based in New York. She is also a specialist in providing the best relocation solutions to clients worldwide.