There are general cargo and special cargo in international trade. If you have any doubts about the types and shipping regulations of your cargo, then the following post will help you understand more clearly.

General cargo meaning and examples

General cargo refers to goods with no special requirements for packaging, transportation, loading and unloading. Such goods do not require commodity inspection, so you can ship them in any way. As the most common type in international trade, general cargo mainly contains the following types.

  • Textiles, fiber products
  • Non-branded clothing, shoes and bags
  • Electrical appliances without built-in batteries
  • No politically inclined newspapers, magazines, books and other publications
  • Science, precision instruments and accessories without electricity or magnetism
  • Most products such as school supplies, household products, care products, beauty tools, kitchen products, etc.

General cargo handling

General cargo is basically free of transportation risks due to its stable nature. You just need to submit basic customs clearance documents such as bill of lading, packing list and invoice, etc.

Based on their feature, you should choose appropriate protection in shipping. For example, goods such as small commodities, daily necessities and textiles should pay attention to moisture and fire prevention. Fragile goods such as glass should do a packaging inspection to prevent breaking. Therefore, you should choose the suitable way and try your best to reduce space waste to save on shipping costs.

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Special cargo meaning

Special cargo is other than general cargo, which has special requirements for transport, handling and storage.

These goods are subject to strict compliance. According to the different properties of the goods, to achieve separate consignments, improved packaging and obvious labels, you should adopt different shipping measures.

Also, different countries have different standards for the import and export of special cargo. Sea freight, air freight, and international express for special cargo transport regulations vary. Air freight is generally stricter and more restrictive compared to other ways.

There are more customs clearance documents for special cargo. In addition to the basic documents, you also need to submit various certifications such as a certificate of origin and certificate of analysis, etc. Therefore, when transporting special goods, you should prepare the related supporting documents according to the nature of your goods.

Next, I will list several different types of special cargo and some of their related handling methods when shipping. For more specific and detailed shipping regulations, you’d better consult your forwarder in advance.

Common 3 types of special cargo and handling

Electricity and magnetism cargo

Products with electricity and magnetism are special cargoes and belong to miscellaneous dangerous goods. This type of cargo is subject to many restrictions in transportation.

Take air freight as an example, electric products will have large changes in temperature and air pressure during shipping. Batteries are flammable and explosive, which may pose a threat to people’s health and safety. Magnetic products can interfere with magnetic field signals thus affecting navigation and information operating systems. So these kinds of goods need to pass the magnetic test and provide an identification report.

Many products are both electrically and magnetically charged, including high-tech products such as drones and small robots, small home appliances such as floor sweepers, 3C products such as cell phones and computers, etc.

What special handling is required to ship this cargo?

Suppose you need to import some built-in lithium batteries from China.

  • Shipping documents:

Documents that you need to submit include DGD(Dangerous Goods Declaration), MSDS and DGR(Dangerous Goods Request), magnetic testing certificate, etc.

  • Packaging requirements:

You need to use a Class II package and fix it in a waterproof package. Built-in batteries need to cut off the power to prevent accidental start during shipping. It is also necessary to prevent the battery from short-circuiting. Magnetic products exceeding safety standards need to be packed with several magnetic separation irons, until meeting the requirements for air transportation.

  • Labels requirements:

You should label the outer packaging, including hazardous goods label (Class 9 miscellaneous dangerous cargo), UN number, Mark, GHS label, etc.

Note that pure electric products such as pure lithium batteries have a great risk of shipping, which cannot be transported by air in general. For example, FAA regulations prohibit transporting lithium batteries. Pure magnetic products with high magnetism need to do a magnetic inspection and magnetic insulation packaging.

If you need to transport large quantities of such goods, sea freight is a good idea considering the cost and safety. When shipping these two types of products, you’d better consult your forwarder for a suitable shipping solution.

Jingsourcing has long cooperative freight forwarders to help you transport your cargo.

Valuable cargo

Valuable cargo refers to goods valued at more than $1,000 per kilogram. It usually includes jewelry, valuable artwork, etc. These kinds of goods are easy to be stolen and robbed, so you should pay more attention during shipping, loading/unloading, and storage. Once broken or lost, the loss can be very large. Don’t forget to choose insurance.

Luxury goods such as bags may involve brand infringement, which is especially complicated in customs clearance. In addition to the regular packing list, invoice, contract, bill of lading, etc., certificate of origin, brand authorization, species identification and others are also indispensable. If the composition of the bag involves endangered species, you have to provide an endangered certificate for importation.

Liquid, powder and other unstable items

Liquid products are complex in composition and can easily leak, leading to other cargo being affected. In addition, such items are prone to vaporization and explosion during shipping.

Powdered goods are difficult to determine the attribute, especially white powder, which is easy to mix with drugs and other contraband. In a high-density, high-pressure strong environment, the powder will explode when it encounters an open flame.

There are two common categories of goods in daily life, such as shampoo, nail polish, seasoning, etc. International express, air and sea transport are available, but they must meet the corresponding transportation and packaging regulations. You can find dedicated forwarders, who can help you solve the problem of documents and clearance.

Other 4 types of special cargo and handling

Heavy/Outsize cargo

Oversized and overweight cargo exceeds the weight and size limits. This cargo is too large to fit into a container and is usually very heavy as well. It mainly includes large cars, aircraft parts, engineering machinery parts, etc.

Transportation of such cargoes requires special handling. If you choose air freight, you should print the three-letter code “BIG” in the loading/unloading containers of the air waybill. In addition, this type of cargo usually requires special arrangements for loading and unloading. You should prepare equipment and time in advance to prevent port congestion.


Food is involved in biological invasion, so such goods need to be quarantined before transportation. In addition, there are certifications required. International food-related certifications include the following:

  • Certifications of the scale and quality of food-related enterprises: ISO22000, HACCP, etc.
  • Certifications represented by organic food: JAS, EOS, NOP, etc.
  • Certifications for food export: BRC, FSSC22000, IFS, etc.
  • Certifications of religion: Kosher, HALAL, etc.

Different countries have their own requirements for food import. For example, FDA  regulates all incoming food in the United States. The release of such goods must provide appropriate supporting documentation to meet the requirements.

Note that perishable cargo (such as meat products, seafood, fruits, vegetables, etc.), pharmaceuticals and healthcare goods are sensitive to temperature. These cargoes require special measures (such as refrigeration, freezing, etc.) to ensure freshness. The type of packaging, transportation time and storage conditions for such cargoes are relatively strict.

Live animals

Your pets also belong to special goods. The LAR sets the global standard for the air shipping of live animals. All live animals, except for service dogs such as guide dogs, must be placed in designated containers on the aircraft.

The outside of the container must be marked with information such as the shipper, consignee, destination address and contact number, etc. In addition to the language used by the shipper, it is also required to be marked in English. In addition, the container must have the IATA labels labels on it, indicating basic information about the animal, such as common name, number, feeding or care instructions, etc.

CD and other storage cargoes

These products are sensitive in international trade. If the contents involve political, economic, religious, cultural and national secrets, they are forbidden to ship.

The End

After reading the above article, I believe you have a clear understanding of the types of goods. If you still have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

We are Jingsourcing, dedicated to sourcing goods from China. We have long cooperative freight forwarders who can choose the right channel and competitive price to ship your goods. You can also consult us for some special cargo if you need it. Come and CONTACT US.

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