Ocean Freight Services: Everything You Need To Know

17 August 2020 | Freight Forwarding

Ocean freight services provide an efficient and cost-effective way to transport a large amount of goods overseas. If your business hasn’t used ocean freight before, getting to grips with the logistics can seem daunting. So, here is a brief guide to everything you need to know about ocean freight services, so you can see if it is a good option for your international shipments.

Who uses Ocean Freight?

Ocean freight is used by businesses that need to import or export goods in bulk to other countries.

Goods are usually packed into different container types depending on its nature and then loaded onto an ocean-going vessel. These incredible ships can be loaded with as many as 18,000+ containers, neatly stacked. It is an impressive sight!

Around 90% of the world’s cargo is moved by ships, it’s no surprise that to accommodate such a vast amount of goods, there are various types of shipping containers in circulation, each used for a different purpose.

Most common types of shipping containers are:

General Purpose Containers (20’ / 40’ / 40’ High Cube)

A general purpose container is also known as a “dry container”. These shipping containers are fully enclosed, protected from the elements and weather proof, with a rigid roof, side walls and floor. Dry containers are by far the most common type of container, and as such are used to load most types of cargo. In addition, general purpose containers can have adaptations to accommodate liner bags or flexi-tanks for shipping certain types of liquid bulk cargo or dry bulk cargo.

Depending on the amount you want to ship, you can send a Full Container Load (FCL) or Less-Than-Container-Load (LCL). With LCL, you share the space in the container and the shipping costs, with other businesses.

Flat Rack Containers

This simple storage container has collapsible sides that can be folded to make a flat rack. The end walls are stable enough to allow cargo securing, so they are ideal for shipping goods that are oversized, such as heavy machinery, vehicles on tracks, big reels and construction materials. Some 40′ flat rack shipping containers are suitable to carry as much as 45 metric tons of cargo!

Open Top Containers

An open top shipping container has a convertible top that can be completely removed. This is suitable for cargo that is over-height and cannot be easily loaded through the door, for example tall machinery or other heavy / bulky finished products whose handling and loading can only be performed with a crane or rolling bridge. Open top containers have lashing rings installed to the upper and lower side rails and corner posts to secure cargo, and are available in 20’ and 40’.

ISO Reefer Containers

An ISO shipping container is used for the shipment of temperature sensitive, perishable cargo like meats, fruits, and vegetables. This container type relies on external power to keep the temperature regulated. Reefers generally come in 20’ and 40’, and are commonly made from a weathering steel known as ‘Cor-ten’ steel.

Insulated Containers

Like the ISO Reefer container, an insulated or thermal container has a regulated temperature control that allows them to withstand a higher temperature.  They are equipped with an electrical compliance (mechanical compressor) to cool or heat the air within the container. Insulated containers are typically constructed of a vacuum flask, similar to a “thermos” bottle. As such, they are most suitable for long distance transportation of products such as foods, pharmaceuticals, organs, blood, biological materials and chemicals.

Tank Containers

Tank containers, or tankers, are made of strong steel or other anti-corrosive materials for the transportation and long-life protection of liquid materials. A tank container must be at least 80% full to prevent dangerous surging of liquids in transit, but it must also not be over 95% full or there would not be sufficient room for thermal expansion.

Benefits of using Ocean Freight

When shipping large quantities of goods over long distances, ocean freight is the most cost-effective solution, and significantly lower than air.

Large, heavy and bulky items are easy to ship, with different ocean vessel options available depending on the nature of your cargo such as breakbulk vessel’s that can carry timber and steel or Ro/Ro or Multipurpose vessel’s that can accommodate machinery and vehicles.

Another benefit of ocean freight is that it produces a lower carbon footprint than other methods, which is better for the environment. Businesses that work to lessen their carbon footprint gain from having an eco-friendly reputation, and it may win them more customers.

Shipping Transit Times

The time it takes to transport goods via ocean freight will vary, depending on the countries you are exporting to or importing from.

From the UK, you can expect ocean transit times to and from China to be around 6 weeks, 5 Weeks for India, 2-3 Weeks for East Coast USA, 6-7 weeks West Coast USA and up to 7 weeks for Australia. Transit times can be impacted due to weather conditions, high tides on the water, Port congestion and vessel berthing prospects. You must also factor in extra time for pre and post arrival customs formalities when factoring supply chain lead times.

Ocean Freight Costs

If shipping FCL, sea freight rates apply. These are the rates that are applied by vessel owners/ shipping lines which are in-turn charged back to you via your nominated freight agent such as LTS Global Solutions. Your nominated freight agent should, on a periodic basis negotiate preferential rates based on their container volumes.  You can then leverage on their buying power to then enjoy preferential deals for use of this mode, ocean freight levels do fluctuate often on monthly basis.  

When shipping LCL (Less Container Load), the space in the container is charged by the cubic metre, where ocean freight, along with other ancillary charges such as import (or) export customs clearance, local handling charges plus pre-carriage or on-carriage charges are costed and charged by your nominated freight agent for the usage of space within container.

These costs would have to be factored in to give you an overall idea of the price of ocean freight.

Ocean freight is one of the oldest methods of transporting goods worldwide, and although it takes longer than other forms of shipping, it has many benefits. Working out the logistics of getting goods from one destination to the next is our speciality, and we have an experienced team of freight consultants ready to help you with your ocean freight requirements.

Contact LTS today for more on how ocean freight services could be the right option for your business.

0121 753 0080




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