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Container Shipping Costs

If you’re relocating overseas, one of the main things you’ll need is for your personal belongings and house contents to be shipped safely and reliably to your new home.


International container shipping starts from £1,250 GBP up to £15,000 GBP depending on a number of factors, primarily the volume of your goods + distance you need to move them. To get an accurate quote fill in the form above.

Removals to Europe are often done overland. Outside Europe, the most reliable and cost-effective means of shipping larger volumes of household effects is by sea in freight containers.

Everything you can fit in a 20 foot containerWhat you can fit in a 20 foot container

Transportation by sea can take several weeks. This is why it’s very important to plan your move well in advance so you can allow sufficient time for shipping. If you remember to do this, everything should proceed smoothly.

This guide to international container shipping costs in 2016 will explain how shipping fees are calculated and provide indicative costs for shipping your belongings to selected destinations worldwide in order to help you budget for this aspect of moving abroad.

20ft VS 40ft Cost of Shipping Comparison
Country Sea Port 20ft Container Cost 40ft Container Cost
Australia Brisbane
£3,700 GBP
£4,200 GBP
£6,700 GBP
£6,900 GBP
New Zealand Auckland
£3,700 GBP
£3,500 GBP
£5,000 GBP
£5,600 GBP
Canada Vancouver
£4,200 GBP
£4,000 GBP
£6,700 GBP
£5,500 GBP
USA Los Angeles
New York
£4,800 GBP
£4,800 GBP
£6,400 GBP
£6,500 GBP
South Africa Cape Town
£3,400 GBP
£3,000 GBP
£7,300 GBP
£7,000 GBP
Hong Kong Port of Hong Kong £3,600 GBP £5,000 GBP
Greece Athens £4,200 GBP £5,800 GBP
Cyprus Nicosia £3,300 GBP £4,300 GBP

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20 foot VS 40 foot shipping containers

Where larger volumes of items are to be transported, the cost will normally be based on the ‘exclusive use’ of a container, i.e. the contents of the container are solely your property.

Everything you can fit in a 40 foot containerEverything you can fit in a 40 foot container

Where smaller volumes of items are to be shipped that may only partially fill a freight container, it may be more cost-effective to consider ‘groupage’ or ‘shared’ shipping. This is where a number of separate, smaller consignments for shipping to the same destination are consolidated into a single freight container. Whilst this may reduce the overall container shipping cost of your items, it will almost certainly increase the time for delivery as the container will not be shipped before enough consignments have been acquired to fill it.

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How are shipping costs calculated

International container shipping costs are always based on two elements: The cubic volume of goods to be transported and the distance from the originating port to the destination port.

Sea freight containers are generally available in two sizes--a 20-foot container or a 40-foot container. A 20-foot freight container will typically hold the contents of an average three-bedroom family home. If you’re shipping one or two vehicles with the contents of your house, you will definitely need a 40-foot container.

Other shipping costs to consider

International container shipping costs will almost certainly only account for a percentage of your total removal fee, as there are a number of additional factors which may affect the overall cost.

In theory, the international container shipping cost covers the transportation of the freight container from the ‘home’ port to the destination ‘port’. However, most people opt a ‘door-to-door’ service, whereby the removal company collects your possessions from your home, loads them into a container, transports the container to the freight ship and then delivers them from the container at the destination dock to your new home overseas. Obviously, going for this option will add to your removal fee.

You may also need to pay extra for insurance fees and any additional charges levied at the destination, such as customs inspection fees, import duty, or costs resulting from unconventional delivery requirements such as restricted access to a property, delivery to a high-rise apartment, etc.

International shipping price overview

The costs given below are approximate and represent a full door-to-door service which includes the secure packing and loading of goods into a 20-foot freight container, transportation to the ship, collection at the destination port, delivery to the overseas address, unloading and unpacking.

The cost of insuring goods for international container shipping has not been included in these estimates.

Shipping costs from the UK to:
Hong Kong £3,500 GBP to £5,000 GBP
South Africa £3,500 GBP to £5,500 GBP
New Zealand £3,800 GBP to £4,800 GBP
Australia £4,000 GBP to £5,000 GBP
USA £4,000 GBP to £5,500 GBP
Canada £4,000 GBP to £6,000 GBP

Air freight VS sea freight

Whilst transporting smaller cargos by air freight is quicker, international container shipping is less expensive and is the only realistic option for moving large volumes of domestic possessions overseas.

When you do your research on the best international removal company that can take care of shipping your possessions, make sure that any quotation you’re given is fully itemised so that you can see exactly what service is provided for the fee you’re quoted.

If you can spare the additional time and do not have a full container load to ship overseas, a ‘groupage’ deal can significantly lower international container shipping costs.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ‘haggle’ if you feel that there may be scope for price negotiation with an international container shipping provider,as the competition in this field often makes it a buyer’s market.