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February 16, 2024

Understanding the Different Types of Ocean Freight 

Types of Ocean freight

Ocean freight shipping stands as the cornerstone of global trade, with nearly 80% of goods transported by sea. According to Statista, the global container fleet has also grown in size, with the deadweight tonnage of container ships increasing from about 11 million metric tons in 1980 to roughly 293 million metric tons in 2022. 

Maritime trade volumes experienced a slight dip of 0.4% in 2022, but are expected to rebound with a growth of 2.4% in 2023 and above 2% growth through 2028, according to a report by UNCTAD. 

Its significance cannot be overstated, as it offers a cost-effective, reliable way to transport cargo of virtually any size and type, from consumer goods to heavy machinery.  

The selection of ocean freight as a mode of transport is governed by several factors, including ocean freight cost, cargo volume and type, and destination requirements. By understanding and leveraging these factors, along with staying on top of ocean freight trends, businesses can optimize their supply chains, ensuring efficiency and cost-effectiveness in their operations. 

What are the Types of Ocean Freight? 

Full Container Load (FCL) 

Full Container Load (FCL) shipping is when a single shipper’s goods exclusively occupy a container. This method is ideal for large, bulk shipments where cost efficiency is paramount. Containers commonly used in FCL shipments include 20-foot, 40-foot, and 40-foot high-cube containers, each catering to different cargo volumes.  

A notable advantage of FCL is its lower risk of damage, as containers are sealed at the origin and only opened at the destination. Moreover, FCL offers superior cost per unit, making it a preferred choice for businesses with sufficient cargo to fill a container. For instance, a global furniture retailer might use FCL to ship large quantities of furniture from manufacturers in Asia to distribution centers in Europe, benefiting from the cost and safety advantages of this method. 

Less Than Container Load (LCL) 

In scenarios where cargo does not fill an entire container, Less Than Container Load (LCL) becomes a cost-effective alternative. LCL allows multiple shippers to share container space, paying only for the volume their cargo occupies. This process involves the consolidation of shipments at the origin port and their de-consolidation upon arrival at the destination.  

Although LCL offers flexibility and cost savings for smaller shipments, it may result in longer handling times and a higher potential for damage due to the increased handling involved. A small business exporting artisanal goods to overseas markets might opt for LCL, as it provides access to international markets without the need for full container volumes. 

International Maritime trade

Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) 

The Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) method is tailored for vehicles and heavy machinery that can be driven on and off the cargo ship. This straightforward approach minimizes handling, reducing the risk of damage and speeding up the loading and unloading process, thus offering significant cost and time efficiencies. An example of RoRo in action is the global automotive industry, where manufacturers ship vehicles internationally, benefiting from the specialized vessels designed to securely transport cars, trucks, and buses. 

Break Bulk 

For cargo that cannot be containerized due to its size or shape, Break Bulk shipping is employed. This method involves the individual loading, stowage, and unloading of goods, necessitating specialized handling. Break Bulk is essential for transporting items like construction equipment, large machinery, or wind turbine blades. For instance, the transportation of wind turbine components from manufacturing facilities to installation sites often relies on break bulk shipping, given the oversized nature of these components. 

Refrigerated Shipping (Reefer) 

Refrigerated Shipping (Reefer) is critical for perishable goods requiring temperature control throughout transit. Using advanced refrigeration technology, reefers maintain optimal conditions for food products, pharmaceuticals, and other temperature-sensitive goods. A real-life application of reefer shipping is the global food industry, where exporters of fruits and vegetables use refrigerated containers to ensure their products reach international markets in peak condition. 

Open Top & Flat Rack 

For oversized or irregularly shaped cargo that does not fit in standard containers, open top and flat rack containers offer a solution. These containers accommodate heavy machinery and large industrial parts, providing flexibility for loading and securing such cargo. An example includes the transport of heavy construction equipment, which may be too tall or wide for standard containers, thus requiring open top or flat rack solutions for shipment. 

Tank Containers 

Tank containers are specialized for transporting liquids, from chemicals to food-grade products. Adhering to strict safety and construction standards, these containers ensure the safe and efficient transport of liquid cargo. The chemical industry, for example, relies on tank containers to ship hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals globally, benefiting from the high safety standards and efficiency of this shipping method. 

Container Vessels with Reefer Plugs 

A significant addition to standard container shipping, these vessels accommodate refrigerated containers, providing versatility for shippers with temperature-sensitive cargo alongside their regular shipments. 

Barge Carriers 

Essential for navigating shallow waters, barge carriers transport barges loaded with various types of cargo, including containers, to inaccessible areas, extending the reach of global trade. 

ConRo Vessels 

A hybrid marvel, these vessels combine the capabilities of RoRo and container ships, enabling the transportation of both wheeled and containerized cargo, thus offering unparalleled flexibility. 

In conclusion 

With ongoing advancements in emerging technologies in ocean freight operations, such as ocean freight tracking and logistics and ocean freight route optimization, and a growing emphasis on the ecological impact of ocean freight, the sector is continually evolving.  

Companies are increasingly focused on ocean freight route optimization, enhancing port operations, and improving customer service, ensuring the resilience and sustainability of ocean freight services.  

The commitment of ocean freight companies to adapt to changing market demands, regulatory environments, and customer needs is what keeps the wheels of global trade turning, making ocean freight a critical component of the world economy. 

Enhance Your Ocean Shipping with WeFreight 

WeFreight offers streamlined ocean freight solutions, ensuring your cargo’s efficient and reliable transportation across the globe. From Full Container Load (FCL) to specialized refrigerated shipments, WeFreight adapts to your specific needs, enhancing cost-effectiveness and ensuring smooth delivery. With advanced tracking and dedicated support, WeFreight simplifies global trade logistics.  

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