Proper packaging of fresh seafood for air transport is absolutely essential: if you are a vendor transporting your goods to market, the fresher your shipments arrive, the greater your net returns and the more solid your reputation. If you are a consumer bringing seafood in, you want to ensure that your goods arrive safely, fresh and tasting perfect.

Inside Packing

Polyethylene Bags

  • Inside the container, the product must be enclosed in a polyethylene bag of sufficient thickness to retain liquids and resist puncture. If one bag is used, 9 mm thickness is required. If two bags are used, 4 mm is sufficient.
  • Claws and fins should never come into contact with bag.
  • If tendered bulk, the inner bag must be heat-sealed, sealed with clips or closed with elastic bands to prevent leakage, except when used for live seafood. If a shipper-loaded container is used, the inner bags may be folded over.

Styrofoam Trays, Spacers or Boxes
Protective padding, absorbent material, or Styrofoam inserts should be used between the polyethylene bag and the inner wall of the outer packaging to prevent punctures. Styrofoam boxes with wet ice should have at least four drain holes with absorbent pads below the inner box. The outer packaging must be protected by cardboard sleeves and strapped with 1/2" bands.

Outside Packaging

Wet Lock Boxes
Should have a multi-walled construction and a wax-impregnated or waterproofed coating on the inside and outside of box. Should have a top loading capability of at least 228.8 kilos (503 lbs), gusseted corners on top and bottom, and a top that extends fully over the bottom. At least two 1/2" bands, tape or staples must be fastened around the width of each box.

Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
Must be wax-saturated, wax-coated, or treated by other water-resistant processes. When assembling, make sure the metal staples used to close the bottom of the carton will not puncture the inner plastic bags or liners. Fresh seafood cartons should have a minimum top loading capability of 228.8 kilos (503 lbs). The minimum top loading weight must be printed on the carton.

External Marking and Labelling

  • Shipments must be marked with "PERISHABLE SEAFOOD" or "PERISHABLE FISH" on at least two outside vertical walls of each container. The type of fish or seafood (live, fresh or frozen) must also be indicated.
  • Arrows, such as the ISO standard arrows, or "THIS SIDE UP" markings should be used to indicate the upright position.
  • Complete contact information on the shipper (including a 24-hour telephone number) and consignee must appear on the air waybill.

Refrigerants and Insulation

The recommended refrigerant for fresh fish, seafood and shellfish. Crushed ice will also be accepted when in double plastic bags, each sealed with elastic bands.

Dry Ice
Since dry ice falls under Dangerous Goods for air transport; all IATA regulations must be respected. Advance arrangements are required. Call your Canadian North Cargo representative for more details.


Seafood shipments will be inspected at time of tender for signs of damage. If found leaking, wet, or emitting strong odours, they will be refused. Shipments in transit will be removed from the aircraft if discovered leaking or to be odorous.

Weights per Box or Carton
The container should be of a size and weight which is convenient to handle. The present limitation is between 9.1 kilos (20 lbs) and 34.0 kilos (75 lbs). Weights exceeding this are not recommended due to the difficulty in loading and manoeuvring and to the greater risk of container damage and leakage. Advance arrangements must be made with the local station should you exceed these weights.

Reserving Air Transport

Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. When you contact your local Canadian North Cargo Agent, please provide the following information:

  • The date you plan to forward shipment
  • Number of pieces and gross weight of shipment
  • Type of product (live, fresh, frozen)
  • Destination

The agent will give you transportation rates, flight frequencies and any other information you may need.

Cool Room Facilities

All Canadian North Cargo stations have cool room facilities. Shipments must be packaged with sufficient insulation and coolant to withstand up to 48 hours transit time, and varying weather and temperature changes.

Ground Handling

Seafood shipments may be transported on baggage carts between Cargo and Passenger Terminals. Cartons must be capable of withstanding exposure to normal moisture without compromising their ability to bear normal surface transportation shocks.

For further information on special cargo contact your local Canadian North Cargo office.