Packing Standards for Physical Bullion
Inadequate Packing = Dangerous Stacking, an article on the importance of properly packing gold and silver bars – and what makes for dangerous packing – appeared in Alchemist 44 (October 2006; page 27).The article can also be viewed on the LBMA’s website in the Publications and the Good Delivery sections.
This article is supplementary to the aforementioned article, and focuses in particular on the actual packing of bars, although, as noted in the previous article, the finish of the bars can affect the stability of a stack. For this reason, silver bars with a raised lug in the end elevation (more commonly seen on some Chinese brand bars) may not be classed as Good Delivery, and can be rejected by the vault manager if the lug is prominent and the edges are sharp.
Packing of Gold Bars: Preferred Standards
Gold bars should be placed on well-constructed pallets made of sturdy wood that individually can carry one tonne (the recommended maximum per pallet) and are capable of being stacked up to six pallets high
Recommended pallet dimensions are:
L 700mm x W 600mm x H 140 mm. Timber used should be at least 25mm thick.
A gap of 100mm is also required to allow standard forklifting equipment to move the pallet and metal. All pallets must be heat treated, fumigated and carry a mark to prove this – any bullion packed on pallets or in wooden boxes without this mark could be rejected by Customs
The bars should be adequately strapped such that when being moved on a forklift or Collis truck that might be brought to a sharp halt, the bars will not topple with the generated forward momentum. It is preferable that bars should be protected with bubble wrap (or similar) to prevent bars rubbing together whilst in transit
Gold bars should be packed in wood, plastic or carbon-fibre boxes and securely strapped to each pallet whilst in transit. Boxes need to be marked with the packed weight and a unique reference number. Alternatively, 40 bars (500 kilos) packed on a pallet and covered in a plastic tote are acceptable.
The tote should be nailed to the base of the pallet with a lid with drill holes allowing for metal pull-tight seals, at each corner, to seal the tote. Suitable metal/nylon banding should be used to band the box itself.
Left: An example of metal prepared for safe transit via air. Right: Gold prepared for domestic transit by vehicle may be securely strapped to a pallet by metal or nylon strapping, using a minimum of two bands.
Plastic pallets are not considered suitable, as they are not strong enough to support large weights. It is not unknown for a stack of inferior-quality pallets to suddenly collapse, causing several tonnes of gold to crash to the vault floor. Fortunately, to date no one has been injured, but health and safety regulations mean that active steps must be taken to prevent such accidents
Pallets constructed of poor, very dry or brittle timber should be avoided. This prevents the risk of pallets collapsing under weight
To avoid making the stack unstable, bars of different dimensions should not be mixed on a single pallet
Single bars should not be packed in drums, as packaging of this nature makes handling very onerous and time consuming.
Especially in the extremely high levels of physical movements that the market is currently experiencing, it is not possible for a vault to repack and re-strap inadequately packed pallets. The only option for a vault manager facing this problem is rejection of part or all of the shipment. Consequently, producers and carriers need to be aware of the need for safe and secure packing and take appropriate preventive action.
Packing of Silver Bars: Preferred Standards
30 silver bars should be placed in three even layers of ten bars per layer on well constructed pallets made of sturdy wood that individually can carry one tonne (the recommended maximum per pallet) and are capable of being stacked up to six pallets high
Recommended pallet dimensions are: L 700mm x W 600mm x H 140mm.This pallet design allows for easy handling from containers using hand-operated pallet trucks. The thickness of timber used should be at least 25mm. A gap of 100mm is also required to allow standard forklifting equipment to move the pallet and metal
Silver bars should be adequately strapped such that when being moved on a forklift or Collis truck they remain stable
Silver bars should be stacked and securely strapped to pallets in a uniform manner for safe transit
As previously indicated, all pallets must be heat-treated and fumigated, and carry a manufacturer’s mark to prove this. Any bullion packed on pallets or in wooden boxes without this mark could be rejected by Customs
No more than 20 tonnes of silver should be loaded in a container at any time
It is preferred that silver grain is packed in 25kg bags placed inside large wooden containers secured to sturdy pallets. This enables the London vault to stack and store large volumes of grain efficiently.
Plastic pallets are not considered to be suitable, as they have been found to be not strong enough to support high weights. Inferior-quality pallets can suddenly collapse, causing several tonnes of silver to crash to the vault floor. Fortunately, to date no one has been injured, but health and safety regulations mean that active steps must be taken to prevent such accidents
To avoid the risk of pallets collapsing under the weight of bars, poor, very dry or brittle timber should not be used. Silver has been recently received on pallets constructed of plywood, which requires the receiving vault to immediately move the bars onto stronger pallets to enable safe stacking. This process is very labour intensive and is not necessary when metal is received in a safe manner
Left: An example of how silver should not be packed for transit. Right: Silver bars of various brands have come loose from their strapping whilst in transit, rendering pallets very unstable and dangerous.