Shipping Porcelain

How to securely pack when shipping porcelain...
Only two or three methods are suitable for shipping ceramics internationally. These are proven to be less prone to breakage when shipping very long distances. They all involve artificial packing materials which are flexible.

Other methods may be feasible, but those involving newspaper are definitely NOT suitable for shipping porcelain! If you are the buyer and buy porcelain from a seller packing with newspaper – RUN!

Bad example -- the packaging material shown below was actually used, resulting in two broken porcelain plates:

There is a very high risk that a porcelain item packed with newspaper does not arrive intact if sent to the other side of the globe. The longer the journey until arrival the higher is the risk that it breaks.

Yet, many sellers use newspaper. This may be fine if you send only a short distance inside your country, but with international mail or shipping this is a wholly different matter!

Newspaper and other "natural" materials are NOT proper packaging material for shipping porcelain! Newspaper doesn't really have any elasticity. The crumpled paper only appears flexible because of the air in between, when the crumpled paper is pressed on. With continued pressure from the packed item's weight, and the vibrations or shaking during transport, etc. filling materials like newspaper easily get compressed.
The items surrounded by crumpled paper tend to move sideways or downwards with the continuous vibrations of vehicles, airplanes, and the inevitable conveying systems used by large handling centers of the postal services and airports.

The initial, apparent flexibility is lost and the paper settles or moves inside the box. Once it settles (is compressed) its flexibility is greatly reduced and, at the same time, the volume of the package content decreases too. This again leaves less voluminous loose filler material and more empty spaces. The problem is - the filler material should be tightly holding the porcelain in place!

Continuously exposed to vibrations and shaking during a long journey all flexibility is lost. The content shifts inside the box and often moves dangerously close to the bottom or side walls of the box. Always be aware that while items packed that way may be fine during short-distance shipping, domestically, within Europe, etc., the long journey to other continents will often break them if packed that way.

Is it a wonder? Today's parcels are exposed to vibrations all the time when they are in transit. First on the different transport vehicles when they are moved from a post office to an airport handling center, then they may be exposed to conveyor belts or trolley vibrations, or worse even, they are running directly on the iron rollers of a transport "slope", etc.

They may have to pass through X-ray examination equipment before they can be brought on a plane. Then, they are exposed to vibrations as they are transported on the tarmac to the plane. Airplane containers run on steel rollers when they are moved in and out of the plane. There are more vibrations on the runway, during the flight, another airport, other transport equipment...
When shipping porcelain internationally a parcel containing porcelain is exposed to much, much more vibrations than any domestic parcel would suffer during the entire journey from seller to a domestic buyer.

To be sure, the volume to weight ratio of a parcel containing porcelain (specific weight) is quite high. If it contains newspaper the danger that the paper gets compressed and becomes completely ineffective as buffer material increases considerably with the length of the journey. With time the item moves dangerously near to the bottom, or it shifts sideways until it touches the outer wall of the corrugated cardboard box. That is what we find when opening parcels received from the other side of the world.

Unfortunately, a number of "home" businesses still insist in using this method for packing highly sensible ceramic items.

Recently we have had two parcels arriving wet. That means even wet on the inside. Most likely they were exposed to heavy rain while waiting to be loaded on a plane.  As a result the wet cardboard boxes had completely lost their rectangular shape, and the layers of the cardboard had started to disintegrate. The newspaper in one of them was just...well, you know how wet newspaper looks... a completely formless mass and useless as padding. The nuggets and bubble wrap had saved the items from destruction, however.
Shocking parcels
A double box may avoid these risks. Never ship costly items in single boxes.

Suitable materials:
Extra strength corrugated cardboard boxes bubble wrap nuggets polystyrol air bags (but are they safe from puncturing?)

Suitable filler material:

Proper item wrapping:

The item should be wrapped so thick that it is impossible to feel the edge of the porcelain item with the finger. Only that is sufficient.

Good examples

Proper packing example 1:
(suitable for small items)

Proper packing example 2:

Another example of the same type. This method is suitable for small items only. We observed that the tape fixing heavier items like plates does deterioriate (gets torn slowly, bit by bit) during transit, probably because of lateral shaking.

Proper packing example 3:
The space between wrapped item and box is either filled with more bubble wrapping foil (as shown here), or with nuggets. Recommended minimum space between item wrapping and box wall is 3-5cm.

Sideview - A central cardboard or polystyrol board is used for suspending small porcelain items horizontally. Larger items should be wrapped individually in bubble wrap before attaching them to the central board.

The central board in the example is made of extra strong (3-layer) corrugated cardboard as base for suspension.

A dish is stuck to the board using strong tape.

(Enlarged cross section shown left)
Polystyrol boards are also used for this.

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