The “shipping marks” designate what is written on the export cartons. Usually, the importer specifies what the supplier should write.

Some buyers have asked me “what is required on shipping marks of cartons from China?”

What is a shipping mark?

Shipping marks need to address different needs:

1. For international freight

The shipping mark info on the cartons must correspond to what is written on the supplier’s packing list. In most cases, the following fields are printed on the boxes:

  • Purchaser’s name and/or logo;
  • Product reference and/or order number;
  • Net weight & gross weight of 1 carton;
  • Dimensions of 1 carton;
  • Number of carton (example: 1/230; 2/230; 3/230…);
  • Country of destination (for example, a forwarder might have to distinguish some cartons for Canada and others for the US).

Here’s what an export carton looks like with shipping marks printed on it:

shipping marks on a carton

Image credit:

2. For the warehouse(s) or distribution/fulfillment centers

The cartons will probably be handled in the importing country and reshipped to individual stores. It is essential to keep track of what exactly is in a given box. Here are a few classic fields:

  • Product reference (SKU) and/or order number;
  • Other relevant information about the products: season, size, color, or breakdown of the different types of goods inside a particular carton;
  • The above information is often contained in a barcode or an RFID tag, for faster processing.

3. Other considerations to keep in mind

  • Should the shipping marks be printed by the carton manufacturer (more prone to errors), or should they be on a piece of paper glued by your supplier on the cartons (easier to correct, but not as resistant)?
  • Should they be on the long side(s), on the short side(s), or on both? The most important information (SKU and/or barcode) are usually on the short side since it is still visible after the cartons are stacked up.
  • Should you allow handwriting? Certain fields (weight & carton number) are usually handwritten and can be difficult to decipher.
  • Should you impose a minimum size of characters, for easier reading in your warehouse?
  • In case the adhesive tape is not transparent, the marks and the barcode should NOT be covered.

Get help with managing your logistics, and learn more about incoterms.

You should also read this blog post: Risks of miscommunication: an example with shipping marks.

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