From the docks of international ports to the hums of local delivery trucks, dunnage is a stalwart guardian, ensuring the sanctity of your products in transit. In the high-stakes scenarios of eCommerce, where the journey from warehouse to doorstep is laden with potential perils, dunnage helps businesses in safe transit.


Today, let’s unfurl the layers of dunnage, exploring its myriad forms and understanding its composition and role in eCommerce logistics.


What is the Meaning of Dunnage?


Dunnage is a sort of shipping bag designed to act as a protective buffer, shielding products from the mechanical ballet of forces they encounter en route to their destinations. Whether nestled in the cargo hold of an aircraft, braving the seas in a ship’s container, or enduring vibrations of road transportation, dunnage is a durable shipping material ensuring the integrity of your goods, even if you courier a parcel from home.



The Role of Dunnage in Shipping


Dunnage in Cargo Stability


Dunnage is pivotal in preventing the shifting of goods, a critical aspect in various freight transportation scenarios. Whether it’s the turbulent journey at sea, the roads, or the high altitudes of air travel, dunnage provides the much-needed anchor to the cargo.


In international shipping, for instance, where the constant motion of waves can unsettle even the sturdiest of packages, dunnage ensures that everything from delicate electronics to heavy machinery remains immovable and secure.


Protecting Shipments and Containers


Dunnage’s versatility extends beyond just steadying cargo. Imagine an inadequately protected container filled with glassware, jostling about on a bumpy sea voyage. Without the cushioning of dunnage, the potential for breakage and loss is immense. This scenario is a nightmare for the logistics team and also spells financial and reputational loss for businesses.


Shielding Cargo from Moisture and Contamination


The sea’s salty air and the closed environment of shipping containers can foster condensation, posing a moisture and contamination threat to the cargo’s integrity. Dunnage, with its moisture-resistant properties, acts as a barrier, keeping the goods dry and safe from contamination.


Ensuring Cleanliness and Dryness of Cargo


By absorbing moisture and preventing the ingress of dirt and debris, dunnage materials like desiccants, vapor barriers, and absorbent pads play a critical role. They not only protect the cargo but also enhance the efficiency and reliability of the shipping process.


Safety Measures in Transit


By preventing packages from falling out of trucks, ships, or trains, dunnage protects the cargo and ensures the safety of the personnel involved in shipping and handling.



The Types of Dunnage Used in Shipping


1. Bubble Wrap


Bubble wrap dunnage, characterised by its air-filled bubbles, is a godsend for fragile items like glassware and delicate electronics. Lightweight and reusable, bubble wrap is the go-to for items that need cushioning against the jolts of transit. However, its environmental friendliness is a topic of debate, nudging us to ponder over greener options.


2. Solid Plastic


Solid plastic is a moldable and robust dunnage that wraps around high-value or uniquely shaped items, offering almost bespoke protection. Ideal for securing items that merit extra care, this type of dunnage comes with a price tag and an environmental impact that cannot be overlooked.


3. Air Pillows


Imagine the gentle support of air pillows, filling voids, and cradling lightweight items in a protective shield. These inflated wonders are space-efficient, making them a favourite for ensuring smaller items remain stationary during their journey. However, their utility diminishes with heavier goods, revealing the need for a more robust solution.


4. Wood


Wood dunnage is the stalwart of shipping. Heavy-duty and versatile, it is used for securing bulky cargo like heavy machinery. Wood constructs barriers and provides a sturdy platform, making it a sustainable choice. Yet, its weight could add to the shipping cost, a factor that demands consideration.


5. Foam


Foam shapes itself to the contours of electronics and delicate items, ensuring a snug and secure fit. The shock absorption of foam is unparalleled, although its tendency to tear and environmental impact are points of contention.


6. Corrugated Paper


Corrugated paper is the unsung dunnage. Fluted for strength, it’s ideal for separating items during transit and preventing wear and tear. Lightweight and recyclable, it is environment-friendly, though its protective capabilities are less suited for extremely fragile items.


7. Kraft Paper


Kraft paper is a minimalist packaging material. Strong and tear-resistant, it’s perfect for filling up those extra spaces in packages, especially for smaller items.


8. Steel


Steel dunnage is the heavyweight dunnage. Offering unmatched protection, it’s the go-to for safeguarding heavy and high-value cargo. While its protective abilities are unmatched, steel comes with a hefty price tag and significantly adds to the shipment weight, a factor that could influence overall shipping costs.


9. Custom Dunnage


Custom dunnage is tailored to fit the unique needs of complex or sensitive items. This bespoke solution ensures a perfect fit and optimal protection, but it requires investment in terms of cost and production time.



Importance of Using Dunnage in eCommerce


Moisture Protection


Dunnage plays a crucial role in protecting products from moisture-related damages, which is especially vital in maritime shipping. The sea’s humid air and the closed environment of shipping containers can foster conditions ripe for moisture damage. Materials like desiccants, vapor barriers, and certain types of foam dunnage effectively absorb or repel moisture, thus protecting the goods from water damage, mold, and mildew.


Damage Protection


Freight transportation can be rough. Here, dunnage serves as a shield, protecting the products from physical damage. Various materials, including bubble wrap, corrugated inserts, and airbags, ensure that the products, irrespective of their nature – fragile, bulky, or irregularly shaped – are securely cocooned, minimising the risk of breakage, scratches, or other forms of damage during transit.


Shock Absorption


For fragile and sensitive items, the shock-absorbing capacity of dunnage is indispensable. Materials like polyethylene foam, air pillows, and bubble wrap excel in this regard. They disperse the impact of shocks and vibrations that are common during transit, especially in air freight or overland shipping.


Easy Handling of Heavy Items


Dunnage also simplifies the handling of heavy items. For instance, sturdy materials like wooden planks or heavy-duty foam inserts can be used to distribute the weight of heavy items evenly. This not only makes the transportation process smoother but also reduces the risk of injury during manual handling.


Reducing Returns


An often-overlooked benefit of proper dunnage is its role in reducing product returns due to damage. By ensuring that products reach customers in pristine condition, businesses can significantly reduce the costs associated with returns and replacements.



Difference between Dunnage, Cribbing & Bracing


Aspect Dunnage Cribbing Bracing
Definition Materials used to protect goods during transportation. Wooden blocks or beams are used for structural support. Methods of securing cargo to prevent movement.
Primary Role Acts as a buffer to safeguard items from damage. Provides support and evenly distributes weight. Anchors cargo firmly to prevent shifting.
Use Cases Ideal for cushioning fragile items and filling voids. Used for heavy machinery or large equipment. Essential for securing large, heavy items.
Materials Includes bubble wrap, foam, air pillows, and wooden blocks. Stacking of wooden blocks or beams. Straps, chains, and bars for anchoring cargo.
Application Placed to prevent shifting absorb shocks in containers. Used in transport/storage of heavy equipment. Used in various transports like rail, truck, or ship.
Importance Prevents cargo damage due to movement or moisture. Prevents structural compromise or accidents. Ensures balance and safety during transport.





The judicious use of dunnage is more than a logistical necessity; it significantly contributes to the overall customer experience. eCommerce businesses that master this aspect of shipping are delivering trust, reliability, and the promise of excellence. Let NimbusPost, one of the best shipping aggregators, help you ship goods with our latest technology integration and comprehensive logistics solutions.


With best-in-class fulfillment centres, a global network spanning 196+ countries, and features like carrier integration and same-day delivery, NimbusPost ensures your shipment is in good hands and the customer’s interest is served.

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