Cold Chain Logistics, Customs Documentation, Life Science Shipping, Shipping & Logistics - General

Common Mistakes When Shipping Temperature-Sensitive Items & How to Avoid Them

December 14, 2023
Temperature-Sensitive Items

Preventing Mistakes and Ensuring Product Integrity

Written By: Narek Hakobyan

Imagine that you are responsible for shipping valuable cargo that has the potential to save lives. However, this cargo has a short shelf life and can spoil quickly if not kept at the right temperature. This is the challenge that many face when shipping temperature-sensitive items, such as pharmaceuticals and biological samples. These items are essential for healthcare, life sciences, and diagnostics but are also very fragile and sensitive. In this blog post, we will reveal some common mistakes made when shipping temperature-sensitive items and how you can avoid them and ensure the integrity of your shipments.

Mistake 1: Incorrect Documentation and Labeling

Another common mistake when shipping temperature-sensitive items is providing incorrect or incomplete documentation and labeling. Documentation and labelling are essential for customs clearance, regulatory compliance, and proper handling of the shipment. If the documentation and labeling aren't done correctly, the shipment may experience delays, penalties, or rejection at the border.

Solution: Provide Correct and Complete Documentation and Labeling

  • Make sure that your commercial or pro forma invoice is complete and correct.
  • Identify the HS codes for your goods. HS codes classify products for customs purposes. They help determine the tariffs, taxes, and regulations for your goods.
  • When shipping with dry ice, it is important to label the packages correctly and visibly with the following information: It should contain the correct shipping name (Dry Ice or Carbon Dioxide Solid), the UN number (UN1845), the net quantity of dry ice in kilograms, and the correct name and address of both shipper and recipient. You must also attach a Class 9 label indicating the shipment contains dangerous goods.

Mistake 2: Using The Wrong Packaging Material

Packaging isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, especially when shipping temperature-sensitive items. One of the most important factors is choosing packaging materials to maintain desired temperature ranges and protect items from external factors. Some packaging materials are unsuitable for shipping temperature-sensitive items because they provide inadequate insulation, cushioning, or moisture resistance. An example would be cardboard boxes or regular ice packs that easily absorb heat, cold or water, eventually compromising the items' integrity.

Solution: Use Appropriate Packaging Materials

  • Appropriate Outer Shell: Optimal choices for the external casing include high-quality fiberboard (corrugated cardboard), sturdy plastic, or durable wooden boxes.
  • Validated Thermal Shippers: Polyurethane or vacuum-insulated panels can create a thermal barrier that prevents heat transfer between the inside and outside of the package.
  • Appropriate Coolants: Using materials such as Dry Ice, Phase Changing Materials (PCMs), and Gel Packs can help you maintain desired temperature ranges for extended periods.
  • Moisture-Resistant Materials: These materials can prevent condensation and water damage.

Mistake 3: Neglecting to Monitor The Temperature During Transit

Another common mistake most people make is neglecting to monitor the temperature during transit. It is important to monitor the temperature during transit to detect deviations from the desired temperature range and adjust accordingly. Imagine you forget to monitor temperatures during transit; in that case, you are essentially blind to any problems, such as temperature excursions (i.e., dry ice depletion) or human error, and you may end up delivering compromised items.

Solution: Monitoring Temperature During Transit

  • Using temperature-monitoring devices such as sensors or dataloggers to record and transmit temperature data in real-time. These devices can notify you immediately of any anomalies or deviation.


To ensure the integrity of your shipment, you need to understand the difficulties and common mistakes that come with shipping temperature-sensitive items. Avoiding the listed mistakes is a good start; however, you may still face challenges. That is why having a reliable and experienced partner who can offer you the best solutions, services, and support for your temperature-sensitive items is important.

At Mercury, we specialize in temperature-sensitive shipments. We can help you find suitable supplies that best fit your needs, help you with customs documentation and labeling, monitor the temperature of your shipments, and provide 24/7 support. Contact us today, and let us take care of your temperature-sensitive items.

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