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standard pallet

Kinds of shipping pallets to use for overseas shipping

This discussion goes over the kinds of pallets that can be used to prepare an overseas self pack shipment.  If you are planning a self-pack international move you are probably going to need to fill your own pallet boxes and set them on top of a shipping pallet. Pallets come in a variety of sizes and materials and depending on which country you are moving to it may be your responsibility to make sure you are using the right pallet size and type of pallet. If you do not have the correct pallet, it may cause your shipment to be delayed or refused transport or entry into the country until the problem is solved at your expense. This article is just one of the articles in “How to move abroad series” where I will be going over how to pack for an international move. So lets jump right in.

What are the Kinds of pallets are available?

Most pallets are wood pallets but some come in a variety of materials such as a plastic pallet, metal, even recycled paper. The most common wood pallets come in hard wood and soft wood. If you plan to use a wood pallet the most important thing to look for is the quality of the wood. Softwood pallets are disposable pallets they break easier and are not suitable for international shipping. Softwood is generally used for local deliveries and grocery stores. Hardwood pallets are suitable for international shipping and cost a little more but can be returned for deposit or resold.  Hardwood pallets need to meet ISPM 15 standards if they are shipped internationally.  This basically means they need to be treated with either chemicals or heat to insure they do not contain insects in the wood that may be harmful to other plants and species worldwide.

The two types of pallets used for shipping are the Stringer pallet and the Block pallet.



The stringer pallet uses a frame with three parallel beams that are called “stringers” that are placed underneath the top surface of the pallet.




block-palletThe Block pallets are stronger than stringer pallets because they use stringer on all sides of the pallet. This means the fork lift can easily lift the pallet from any direction while the pallet has better support from multiple stringers. A hard wood or plastic block pallet is ideal for international transport.




What are the dimensions of a pallet?

Believe it or not there is no universal size standard for a pallet.  Most countries have their own standard pallet size and most of them will accept any size.  Because pallet sizes vary, you will need to know your pallet size limitations for your self pack cargo. If you do not use the proper size, your pallet may not fit into the shipping container or truck your goods are going on. Pallets are measured in two ways, by the stringer size and by the deck boards.  The type of pallet you will need and your pallet dimensions will depend on the rules and regulations of the port your shipment is delivered to. To avoid a potential problem or possibly additional fees for pallet repacking, ask your shipping company for exact packing details.  For example, the Australian standard size of a pallet is 1,165 x 1,165 cm or 45.9 x45.9 in.  The Australian standard pallet is used only in Australia and fits on most Australian trucks and train containers. Ask your transport or shipping provider to provide you with specific list of acceptable pallet dimensions. You can also contact the International Organization for Standards for Shipping the ISO can help you with international pallet regulations and standards.

Question: How big is a standard pallet?

Answer: A standard standard North American pallet has a dimension of 40 x 48 inches.

Standard Pallet Size Chart:

Chart of pallet dimensions for North America
Chart of pallet dimensions for North America

*For more information on requirements for import and export of wood pallets and packaging material in the U.S. please see the he U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Chart of ISO pallet standards
Chart of ISO pallet standards


European Pallet Dimensions
Chart of European pallet dimensions

*For more information on European Union requirements for import and export of wooden pallets

Where Can I buy Pallets?

Pallets can easily be purchased from shops you may find online. Some local companies will even deliver them to you. Pallet prices may range between $9 to $27+ depending on the pallet dimensions and type of material. Try to stay away from metal or recycled pallets for international shipping. They cause problems for forklifts and meeting quality standards.

What to know about packing a pallet for shipping

Here is a little tip for saving money on your move; ask about how to get your pallet deposit back.  I asked my freight company to offer me a a ‘return deposit’ off the cost of my shipping invoice upfront for returning the pallet. So when the delivery truck finally arrived at my door, the shipping company kindly removed the pallet and took it with them and I already reclaimed my deposit. If you do not ask for your deposit back upfront, the shippers will kindly ask if they can take away your pallet for you but what they really do is recycle the pallet and claim your deposit for themselves.

When packing and preparing your move for overseas you need to ask your transport carrier if your cargo will be forwarded by air, train or truck at any point during transport. If the answer is yes, you may have pallet size limitations.  Even some sea containers have pallet size limitations so be sure you know what they are.  When buying a pallet what you want to pay attention to is the deck size because this is the surface your pallet container will sit upon. It is helpful to first choose the largest deck size allowed by your transport carrier. Then go and purchase your pallet container. The reason is that, if you plan this out a little ahead, and buy the largest pallet you are allowed that means more space. More space on your pallet means you have the ability to buy a larger pallet box and fit more stuff in it. Having the right size pallet and container may help you squeeze in a few extra things into your cargo that could save you quite a lot of money.

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