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How To Ship A Shipping Container Overseas

Published by Joe Webster.

How To Ship A Shipping Container Overseas

When it comes to transporting a bulky set of items overseas, the most practical and cost-effective option tends to be via a shipping container. That said, the whole shipping process can be overwhelming each time you go through it, given the potential risks plus the packing and paperwork involved.

Freight and international shipping logistics companies are there to help you throughout the process of shipping your container. Nevertheless, try to systematically handle things under your control, as it can prevent headaches and time wasted later. Here are the steps you need to follow.


Select the size for your shipping container

Similarly to choosing a box size when you visit the post office to have a package delivered domestically, you must select the right container size for shipping your goods. These containers do come in a wide range of sizes, and they take up 20-50 feet of physical space on average. Of course, the large containers will cost more, but at the same time, they offer you more room to pack your goods in a way that minimizes risks.


Decide on how full the container load will be

Decide on how full the container load will be

Together with the container size, another factor you must consider at the very beginning is the capacity of your load in relation to your chosen container. More often than not, people go with a full container load (FCL), which means their items take up the total space in that container. This option tends to be far more straightforward for both you – the sender – and the company, as there is no doubt that all goods inside belong to just one person.

On the other hand, you may also opt for less container load (LCL), which indicates the opposite and means your items will likely be shipped with items of other senders inside that same container. Granted, this is a great option for those on a budget or those who will only send smaller goods, but note that this brings about challenges and complications to the logistics of it all.


Get an estimate of how much you will pay for shipping

The reality is even though you might make certain choices to keep costs down. It’s still a pricey affair anytime you pack goods in a shipping container that travels overseas. Do expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. Most shipping companies use the same set of factors to calculate the precise amount for each customer. Visit the website of your chosen company to get a quick quote and gauge the cost of your situation. Still, these are generally the factors that directly affect it:

A. The shipping container size

B. The weight of the goods

C. The volume, and whether you’ve selected FCL or LCL

D. The total distance to be traveled for shipping

E. The time of year – like virtually all other industries, international shipping has peak seasons, normally during the summer (from August to September), the period shortly following Chinese New Year (between January and February).

F. The destination port – this may include additional charges for services and customs duties, and these vary from country to country

G. The method of loading and delivery – there are normally three methods that you have some control over deciding:

  • Port to port: The most basic and most affordable method, as it ships your items from one port to the next. From there, it’s your responsibility to arrange for your shipment to reach its final destination.
  • Drop and fill: This involves the company dropping off a shipping container to your home or office, and it’s your job to pack it up with all the items. Upon arrival at its destination, you’ll unpack everything on your own.
  • Door to door: This is the simplest and least troublesome option. Through this method, the company will load up all items from your location. Later on, they will unload and unpack them upon arrival at the destination.


Pack your items safely and strategically

Given the delicate nature of transporting goods by sea and air, and considering how valuable your items are, it’s imperative to know how to best pack your stuff. Generally speaking, it helps to use packing material like shrink wrapping to protect your furniture items and items that can break easily. It is also highly recommended, and even mandated by some companies, to line up the ceiling and walls of the container with some moisture-absorbing paper if you intend to store anything with high moisture content (e.g., unroasted coffee or cocoa beans). Moreover, all liquid-containing packages must be positioned as low down as possible in the container to minimize the impact on other packages in the event of leakage during shipment. All items should be checked that they’re tightly sealed, and all boxes and packing materials ideally should be moisture-resistant. 

Some rules regarding the weight of your container should also be adhered to as you go ahead with packing. First, do not exceed the maximum weight that’s marked clearly on this container. Second, don’t exceed the weight limit that applies to secondary transport on the road, and many countries have strict limits set here. Furthermore, mind the presence of good weight distribution and have no greater than 60% of the total weight of your stuff stored within half the length of your container. That means ensuring the weight is evenly distributed across the container floor, with lighter boxes, not opposite heavier boxes, as this prevents the dangers of your cargo tipping over.


Understand customs regulations for both sides of the shipment

Understand customs regulations for both sides of the shipment

Before sending out a shipment, it’s essential to know customs regulations for both the country of origin – where the container gets sent – and the country where the shipment is dropped off. For instance, specific rules might be in place concerning the importation of select goods, such as the need to undergo additional clearance for e-cigarettes in the UK. Therefore, make sure you have the correct pair of custom forms to fill out appropriately, one for each country. These forms should be kept with all other related documents.


Record the official weight of your shipment once it is ready for shipping

The next documents to pay attention to are the ones indicating the official weight of your shipment. To get this as accurately as possible, you can either weigh as one everything packed inside the container using certified industrial scales or, instead, weigh each package individually and add the sum of those weights to the specific weight of your container while empty. If neither approach is convenient for you, see if you can get the company to assist here.


Follow instructions and guidelines on labeling

This is where you want to be careful about doing things by the book, as the details involved here are extremely important. Stick to the proper labeling procedures as outlined by the shipping company. Normally, containers need to be finalized and complete with labels such as port marks, the customer identification code, gross and net weights, and a few others. And as a rule of thumb, never specify the actual contents in labels of any container, as this might encourage theft. The company should be able to help you get these matters sorted correctly.


Ensure all papers are duly filled and ready

Ensure all papers are duly filled and ready

This step is one that the company should proactively work with you to fulfill, as shipping a container overseas requires lots of unique documentation. The relevant paperwork to the entire process includes (1) a certificate of origin, (2) an insurance certificate that outlines the type of insurance you have opted to get for this shipment, (3) a shipper’s export declaration form, and (4) a bill of lading documenting effects placed in the container. Furthermore, ensure that both the container number and seal number of your shipment are recorded on all documents. And such documentation must be attached to the cargo to make them easy to check by inspectors. 


Get your shipment picked up by the company

When the time has come for your stuff to be handed over to the company, there is hardly much left to do, provided you have diligently followed earlier steps. It’s now a matter of having the phone by your side, so you can easily be called or notified when the truck picking up your items is arriving. Double-check that none of the papers are missing as well.


Receive your shipment at its destination

Once the container arrives – and hopefully, it shows up in perfect condition –congratulations are in order! Get your stuff unloaded, sign the documentation that confirms you received your shipment, and thank the driver and the staff with a smile. Your items have survived an unpredictable journey by land and sea that took many weeks or months. So cheers to this good fortune.

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd,
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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