Labelling Packages for Export Shipments

6 Labelling Tips to Ensure Your Export Goods Get There in One Piece

••• Business Owner Shipping Goods. Image © Portra Images / Getty Images

The final step in packing your products effectively for export is labelling. Effective labelling of your export goods can mean the difference between your goods reaching their export destination in one piece, reaching it damaged or not reaching it at all. These labelling tips will give your packages a fighting chance on their journey abroad.

1. Label boxes and containers with required information.

For export, this information includes, but is not limited to, the country of origin, shipper’s mark, weight and/or volume information, cautionary marks and handling instructions (for instance, the word “glass”, the symbol of a glass, the words “this side up” or the symbol of arrows pointing upward), consignee’s mark, destination and order number, and the number of the package and size of the case if there are multiple boxes or containers.

Make sure that you have the correct country of origin labelled on the package (which may be different than your country of business if the goods were actually manufactured in another country). If you are exporting to another NAFTA country there are specific rules about country of origin labelling, see Country of Origin Marking information on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

A separate Certificate of Origin is typically required when preferential tariff treatment is being requested. Inappropriate or missing country of origin documentation can result in denial of reduced tariffs or confiscation of goods by the customs authorities of the destination country.

You will also need to determine the correct Tariff Classification (HS Code) for your goods and 

2. Do not label boxes with extra information that is not required.

If there is no need to specify the content of the box on a label, avoid doing so.

Identifying valuable goods contained in a box is an invitation for thieves and vandals. Use coded marks to identify export goods unless local laws prohibit this practice.

3. Do not use boxes or containers with old labels.

Recycling is admirable; however, all old marks, addresses or advertising must be removed or permanently obscured to eliminate confusion for handlers and carriers of your export goods.

4. Ensure labels are clear and permanent.

Labels must be large enough to read and information must be indicated in the appropriate language for the destination. Labels for your export goods must also be waterproof and resistant to the elements.

5. Label more than one side of the box or container.

Consignee marks as well as destination and transfer point marks should be applied to at least three sides of the package. If Canada Post is handling your export shipments, it is a good idea to confirm shipping requirements with them directly.

6. Symbols have international appeal.

Exporters can purchase self-adhesive labels with international carriage symbols. These are cautionary symbols providing carriers and handlers with instructions on the correct manipulation of your packages. There are commonly seen symbols such as the wine glass (fragile) and the umbrella with the raindrops (keep dry). There are also more obscure symbols, such as the penguin inside a box (keep frozen) or the penguin inside a box with a diagonal line intersecting it (do not freeze). When an export shipment involves transfers through different countries with different languages, symbols may act as the universal language that protects your goods.

Labelling is a critical element in the export process. It is often the attention given to these mundane tasks that makes the difference between shipping success and failure.

Find out more about planning your export ventures with the help of The Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting10 Steps to Exporting in Canada,, and Canadian Export Information, and How to Purchase and Print Your Own Shipping Labels on eBay.

Curtis Cook is a Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) and a Partner with Global Trade Solutions. He is the author of Patents, Profits & Power, co-author of Competitive Intelligence and writes extensively on international trade.