If you need your goods moved in a budget-friendly manner, ocean freight may be your best option. Read our guide to better understand the ocean freight shipping process and get answers to some of your most asked questions.
LCL (Less-than-Container Load) is used when a single shipper's goods do not completely fill an entire container. Therefore, in order to fill an entire container, space in the container is shared between orders and/or other shippers. The advantage of this is the buyer needs to only pay for the space they use. This allows smaller businesses to take advantage of the low cost of ocean shipping without requiring high volume.
FCL (Full Container Load) means goods from a single shipper occupy/fill the entire container. If you can do it, this is a cost-effective method, because you pay a flat rate for the whole container rather than paying by the square foot. In addition, the risk of damage is lowered, because your shipment is not loaded with other goods.
Ocean freight transportation is better for moving heavier or bulkier items that are less time-sensitive such as manufactured goods.
Once you’ve decided ocean transportation mode is your best option, you can get an ocean freight quote using the UPS® Forwarding Hub. Visit our freight shipping guide to learn about the different factors that affecting ocean freight rates.
Ocean freight can’t be picked up without proper documentation, so gather and fill out the necessary shipping documents. Learn more about shipping documents.
Determine the best packing options and materials to secure and protect your shipment and mitigate damage. You can choose from a variety of packaging materials, such as paper, foam or bubble wrap padding, loose packing, edge boards, corrosion protection and shrink wrapping.
If you’re scheduling your own pick-up, it’s a good idea to book the pickup several days in advance of your needed pickup date. Determine if you or your recipient will require a liftgate, in the event either of you don’t have a loading dock. Contact the carrier’s local service center. If you’re using UPS, you can schedule your pick up through the UPS Forwarding Hub, where you’ll also receive your cost estimate and tracking number.
Your shipment is transported to the nearest port and loaded on an ocean vessel. If you have a tracking number, you can keep track of your shipment, or if available, be alerted at key milestones or if any exceptions occur.
When your shipment arrives at its destination air gateway, it is processed for Customs clearance, which can take up to three days. If the shipment clears Customs before 9 a.m. that day, it can be loaded onto a truck to be driven to its final delivery destination. Your shipment only has to clear customs in the country of its final destination. UPS has over 100 years of customs brokerage experience. If you have any questions or would like UPS to broker your cross-border shipments, you can speak with one of our experts.
Our all-in-one customer portal lets you get and compare quotes, book, and track shipments all on one modern, easy-to-navigate platform.
The most common container—called a standard container— is a completely-enclosed unit with rigid walls, roof and floor. At least one end wall has an accessible door. Available sizes: 20’ x 8’ x 8’6”; 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”, and 40’ x 8’ x 9’6” (high cube).
A removable steel roof makes it easier for cranes to load heavy goods into the container. Available sizes: 20’ x 8’ x 8’6”; 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”, and 40’ x 8’ x 9’6” (high cube).
Steel-framed container, with no sidewalls, a wood floor and fixed or collapsible end walls. Some end walls may even fold flush with the base. Available sizes — 20’ x 8’ x 8’6”; 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”, and 40’ x 8’ x 9’6” (high cube).
A container with a steel frame, wooden floor and no side or end walls. Available sizes: 20’ x 8’ x 8’6” and 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”.
Standard container without a rigid roof. Includes a flexible, removable tarpaulin roof. Door header on the end wall(s) can be swung out. Available sizes: 20’ x 8’ x 8’6”; 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”, and 40’ x 8’ x 9’6” (high cube).
Short for “refrigerated container.” Thermal, insulated units with compressors to either heat or cool the container’s cargo. Many include adjustable ventilation, for better internal airflow. Available sizes — 20’ x 8’ x 8’6”; 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”, and 40’ x 8’ x 9’6” (high cube).
Similar to a reefer, with polyurethane foam on its walls to maximize insulation, but uses the vessel’s cooling or “clip-on” unit for temperature control. Available sizes — 20’ x 8’ x 8’6” and 40’ x 8’ x 8’6”.
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