A Guide to Packing Barrels and Drums for Shipping
So you have decided to ship a barrel to Jamaica, but don’t know where to start with the packing? Buying up goods and packing your first barrel is like going through a rite of passage and not necessarily an enlightened one if not done right.
It takes time, patience and cunning packing skills to ensure you start on the right foot. Cutting corners could mean the end result puts you off from doing it again. To end your barrel packing dilemmas and nightmares, I have put together my top tips and tricks on how to pack a barrel for shipping to Jamaica the easy breezy way….
More Information: Missed the brief on what to buy, Read What to Pack in a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica
How to Pack a Barrel
Packing a barrel effectively can take some time, patience and experience. But once you get the hang of it you will be able to make the best use of space and keep the contents safe and secure in transit.
I would highly recommend tackling the packing when you have a couple of hours (at the very least) to spare and when you aren’t tired, hungry or generally in a bad mood. Packing a barrel can be tedious to say the least and it’s best to get into it when the timing is right. Instead of leaving it to the last minute, resulting in bags of breakfast cereal being popped and thrown around the room in frustration!
- Grab a drink and maybe a snack and leave it to hand, packing a barrel can be hungry and thirsty work – I recommend a nice cup of tea or coffee, or alcohol… it’s one of those tasks that demands it!
- Move away of all items that you do NOT want to pack in the barrel, so they don’t get accidentally shipped to Jamaica (goodbye remote control!)
- Wait until you have all (or most) of the items you want to ship, before attempting to pack your barrel
- Have plenty of tape, newspaper, bubble wrap, containers, plastic bags, food bags and a black permanent marker to hand
- Sort the items into type; dried foods, tinned foods, detergents / cleaning products, toiletries, clothing and fabric based items, delicate and breakable items and so on
- Apply strong parcel (brown tape) or gaffer tape around all the covers and caps of items, especially if the bottles contain liquids / sauces
- Double wrap items in plastic packaging, such as rice, couscous, dried beans, legumes, breakfast cereal – if the bag gets snagged and sends the whole contents plummeting to the bottom of the barrel
- Wrap any glass jars, crockery, china and breakable containers in newspaper or bubble wrap; for extra security you can put the wrapped jars inside a plastic storage container to keep them contained and protected
- See if there is any additional packaging that can be removed, such as, the boxes toothpaste tubes are packaged in, or breakfast cereal boxes
- Remove ‘air’ from packaging; make a small hole in plastic packaging and squeeze the additional air out of the package, seal back the hole with packing or gaffer tape – such as bags of rice and pasta
Loading the Barrel:
- If you are shipping two or more barrels, put the chemicals, detergents, toiletries and the tinned foods in one barrel, and put the other foodstuffs and delicate stuff in another barrel, to prevent transfer of scent and to protect food from accidental contamination
- Pack your barrel in layers to prevent damage to the contents and the transfer of smell / taste; which is why it is important to sort the items into type
- Put heavy and bulky items to the bottom of the barrel to make a strong foundation for the rest of the contents to sit on
- Any chemicals, should be packed to the bottom of the barrel so that they cannot spill over the other items
- Stack tins, in tall turrets, one on top of the other to conserve space
- Pack small items, such as tubes of toothpaste and sachets of food, in empty plastic containers or plastic bags and push them into any gaps
- You can restrict the transfer of scented items, such as soap and perfumes, by sealing them inside air-tight containers – do not pack them near to dried goods which have a habit of ‘sucking up’ the scent (soap flavoured rice and pasta does not taste good!)
- Delicate food items, such as dried goods, snacks and breakfast cereals should be packed at the top of the barrel and double wrapped where they cannot be squashed or burst
- Use soft items, such as, towels or clothes to form a barrier between the heavy items at the bottom of the barrel and the soft and food items near the top, this also helps prevent the spread of scent
- Place any receipts for proof of the cost and age (non-food items) of the contents in an envelope and put it on the top of the contents in case you want to show it to customs officials at the wharf to prove the value of goods; new non-food items will attract more import taxes, so if you can prove that dish set or electrical item is used it will lessen the blow
- This may seem ridiculous, but… don’t clean, shine and spruce up used household items – the wear and tear ensures it is obvious it is a used item (see above point) – this is probably not appropriate if sending items to others, but if it is for your own use just scour that old dutch pot to within an inch of its life when you get to Jamaica
- Leave a few empty plastic bags at the top of the barrel in case you need to put anything in them that wont fit back in the barrel after customs have gone through it
Making the Best use of Space in the Barrel
Before you put a single item in the barrel consider this. Your barrel will be squeezed and stacked among enough barrels to fill a 20ft or 40ft container. The containers will be stacked sky-high on a cargo ship, which will transport your heaving barrel across the ocean waves to Jamaica. Where it will be unpacked unceremoniously on a table in the wharf for clearing through Customs. After all of that it will be repacked and covered for the last leg of the journey, to your home in Jamaica… Quite an adventure for a humble barrel.
Five Things that went wrong
Whilst I do highly recommend using up all the available space and nooks and crannies in your barrel, don’t go overboard. I have noticed if I pack too zealously things go wrong. I have a few incidents that spring to mind…
- The time a can of soda was pierced with an unidentified sharp object, which left strange brown stains over everything below it – Result: I am more aware of what is nestled beside each other
- The time a pack of dried chickpeas popped, spilling to the bottom of the barrel – Result: I double / triple wrap flimsy packaging now in plastic carrier bags
- The time my brand new large plastic container cracked so badly at one end a piece fell off – Result: I don’t over stuff the inside and I leave a bit of breathing (or should I say heaving) room around the outside, to be extra cautious you can wrap soft and cushioning fabric items around it
- The time two champagne glasses had their stems broken – Result: I drank it out of sanitary cups… just joking! I now wrap every breakable item in bubble wrap
- The time my Mum secretly packed some Christmas goodies at the top of a barrel, but left scented items with chocolate coins – Result: I put anything porous or scented inside an airtight container to stop the transfer of smell, as the chocolate tasted of perfume
In Conclusion – Highlights of my Packing Tips!
I find that by having everything you want to pack in the barrel in front of you, you tend to plan the packing more efficiently which lessens the chances of mishaps.
Heavy items and hazardous chemicals should always be put in the bottom of the barrel first and the caps and covers should be taped. It is not uncommon for the contents of bottles to be squeezed and compressed so much that they force their way around the cap spilling into the bottom of the barrel. Not good if it is bleach or shampoo. Top Tip! Tape the caps really securely with strong brown tape of gaffer tape, ensuring any items with a pump cannot be dispensed.
Soaps and clothes detergents have very strong scents which can penetrate through a plastic bag and soak into dried goods and even chocolate bars! Make sure you separate these types of items and preferably put either the offending items, or the food stuffs into airtight containers to control the transfer of perfumed goods. Better still, use both if possible. I like to use mason jars and empty ice-cream tubs to stuff small items inside, as they come in handy for storing foodstuffs when I get to Jamaica. Top Tip! Put dried foods and scented products in reusable airtight containers.
If I am bringing any breakables or delicate items I buy a big plastic box with a cover, and pack the items inside after wrapping them individually in bubble wrap; this container can be used to store your supplies of dry goods afterwards to keep them away from insects and vermin. Make sure the container can pass through the mouth of the barrel! It will usually have to be stored on its end in the barrel, so pack the heavier items to one side of the box and place that end into the barrel first; I would also recommend taping the cover to the box, so that it cannot come open when being removed from the barrel. Top Tip! Many warehouse stores and Ikea sell large plastic storage boxes – don’t forget to tape the cover on!
Look for ‘hidden’ space lurking in the barrel, or create it. Any empty vessels can be stuffed with something, such as pots and pans; remove the handles where possible, then tape the handle and screw together before placing it inside if it will fit, along with some stuff that will fit inside (breakables or easily squashed foods are ideal as the temporary metal vessel it travels in is highly protective). Release excess air from items that will not spoil by doing so. Put something else in the ‘dead space’ in packaging, such as the top of a bulk pack of clothes washing detergent – I recommend using a bottle of fabric softener, or something that won’t be affected by the strong scent. Remove unnecessary extra packaging, if it will not be in detriment to the items arriving safely. Top Tip! Look carefully for extra space you can find or save to maximise the contents
If you are packing dishes or glassware which are sold in a cardboard box, I would recommend opening it and placing a sheet of bubble wrap between each item before replacing them back in the cardboard box. This may make it hard to fit everything into the box, so a good old piece of tape might be needed to secure a box bursting at the seams! Top Tip! Use Bubble wrap, or the very least newspaper to wrap breakable items and tape boxes at the seams!
Use soft items, such as towels, curtains and clothes to form a ‘barrier’ between the items in the bottom of the barrel and the delicate items at the top; it creates a great scent catcher too! Top Tip! You may prefer to place these types of items in a plastic bag to keep them clean.
Further Information About Shipping
We have plenty of guides about shipping a barrel or crate, or anything else for that matter. Check out our other posts to read the whole series on Shipping to Jamaica:
Sweet Jamaica Guides to Shipping
Want to know what a barrel is all about and where to get one? Read A Guide to Barrels and Drums – Shipping Basics
Want to learn the best contents for packing in a Barrel? Read How to Pack a Barrel for Shipping to Jamaica
Want to learn the process involved in shipping in the senders country? Read The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part One
Want to learn the process involved in collecting a shipment in Jamaica? Read The Art of Shipping a Barrel – Part Two
Want some additional information on Shipping to Jamaica? Read Sending a Barrel or Crate to Jamaica
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Looking forward to hearing from you.
Bless up, Jules
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