When Container Seals Are Broken

In international shipping, container seals are an important part of the shipping container. They are the numbered tag that is put around the lock of a shipping container once it has been loaded. This seal number is just as important as the seal itself. The number is on documents related to the container and should be checked against the paperwork before the container is unloaded at its final destination. Some seals are made of plastic, some metal and other materials and many are tamper evident seals so you can see if someone was tampering with your seal. Most of these are also fairly easily broken. After all, someone unloading the container will eventually need to open the container. So what should you do if a container seal is broken or the number does not match?

When container seals are broken or the numbers do not match, it does not always mean that someone has been tampering with the goods or that there has been a theft. Sometimes it can mean that there has been a customs inspection or that there was some type of problem with the container. When it is a customs inspection, especially in the US, they will put on a new seal that is clearly marked so you will know it was broken by customs. They will many times also leave the original seal as well for your reference. If there is no other explanation for a broken seal, the first thing you must do is document everything. Take photos before opening the container and of the contents once the container has been open. Take care to note everything you find whether items are missing or not. This will be a key part to opening a claim against your carrier. While container seals can seem to be an insignificant part of shipping, it can be an important part of keeping your cargo safe and unauthorized people out.