Using parcel services is an increasingly popular way to send goods both nationwide and internationally.

Although there are legal limitations on the type of goods which can be sent via parcel post, there’s still a number of special conditions which may need to be observed.

Using symbols on packaging helps the parcel handlers to understand if there are any special instructions, allowing your parcel to arrive undamaged and intact to its final destination.

Here’s an overview of the type of symbols you might see on packages.

Shipping and information marks

These are some of the most basic types of symbols used when sending parcels, but are nevertheless still very important.

Shipping marks contain information about the sender, the recipient and the intended destination of the item.
The parcel will be stamped with the number of items in the consignment, the identification number for the consignment, the initials of the receiver and/or the shipper plus the port and place of final destination.

Information marks provide a little more detail, stating the country of origin and the weight and dimensions of the package. This may seem like unnecessary facts but it will make handling, storage and transport far easier, as the providers will be able to see at a glance the type of equipment and space required.

Handling instructions

There is far greater awareness of this type of symbol and it provides a lot of detail about the conditions in which items must be kept, and how they need to be moved.

Handling instructions are particularly useful for cargo handlers, as it enables them to prevent the items from getting damaged whilst still being able to move swiftly and efficiently.

There are a great range of symbols which may be included on an item, but some of the most common warn about special requirements in temperature, fragility, load balancing and the direction in which goods must be stored.
These symbols are not random graphics invented by the individual sending the parcel. This would make it difficult for cargo handlers to interpret as they would have to deal with a huge number of variations, an almost impossible task.

Instead, the symbols used on packages are part of a standardised range, set out in ISO R/780 and in DIN 55 402 (the International Organisation for Standardisation and German Institution for Standardisation respectively). Both of these sets of symbols transcend language and international barriers so should be used without modification where appropriate.

Using symbols correctly is important.

How to use symbols

If you need to add symbols to your packages, it’s a good idea to make sure they are instantly recognisable from the other parcel markings and stand out for cargo handlers.
The colour of the marking should be different to that of the packaging, to enable it to be distinctive and easily identifiable. Where appropriate, the markings are either usually black, or applied via an adhesive with a white background and black markings.

Using symbols correctly is important.

If symbols are used – either directly stamped on or via an adhesive – they need to be placed onto the parcel in a manner which is clear and legible, and where it will survive the duration of transit.

For international parcels, if the contents of the parcel appear to be in contrast to the markings, or there are inadequate markings in certain circumstances, there could be objections raised by Customs.

Failure to adequately mark a parcel with symbols removes any legal liability on cargo handlers for damage caused whilst in transit.


Using symbols ensures that your parcel is transported safely, securely and in the conditions which are necessary in order to keep it protected. Easy to apply, parcel symbols can make a huge difference to the transport of your goods.

If you’re unsure of parcel marking just give us a call on 08456 478479 or 01738 633220.