Container Shipping Costs 2018
If you’re planning on moving abroad then, firstly, congratulations! It’s an exciting time ahead. However, there are some logistical things that you need to think about. You’ll most likely have some belongings that you want shipping somewhere. Depending on the size of the move, this can range from a couple of boxes to the contents of a five-bedroom house.
International container shipping rates can sometimes be a pretty complex business but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. On this page we’ll break down all the factors that determine shipping costs and help you make the best decision for your move. To start collecting quotes now, simply fill in the form at the top of this page.
Before you go on and read, take a look at Ben Tyrrell (Head of MoveHub) explaining the basics of international container shipping costs:
Shipping container prices by country and container types
This guide to international container shipping will help to give you an indication of how much your move is going to cost. We’ve focused specifically on rates from some of our most popular countries but this can function as a rough indicator for everyone. We’ve even added a lovely map to help you visualise where you’re going.
Moving from London, UK
|Destination Port||20ft Container Rate ($)||40ft Container Rate ($)|
|New York, USA||1155 - 1276||1724 - 1905|
|Los Angeles, USA||1461 - 1615||2181 - 2410|
|Vancouver, CAN||1647 - 1820||2459 - 2717|
|Montreal, CAN||1369 - 1513||2044 -2259|
|Sydney, AUS||1699 - 1878||2536 - 2803|
|Auckland, NZ||1730 - 1912||2582 - 2854|
|Singapore, SIN||1156 - 1278||1726 - 1908|
|Shanghai, CHI||658 - 727||982 - 1086|
|Hong Kong, HK||580 - 641||865 - 956|
|Barcelona, ESP||508 - 561||758 - 838|
|Marseille, FRA||496 - 548||740 - 818|
|Cape Town, SAF||1991 - 2201||2972 - 3285|
The shipping rates displayed above have been sourced from WorldFreightRates.com and they are based on the port-to-port transportation of a full container load of household goods worth $70,000. This value is based on an estimate from the Association of British Insurers, who suggest that the average value of the contents of a three-bedroom house is about £55,000, or $70,000. The data was accurate as of January 2018.
How are shipping quotes calculated?
International shipping prices are generally determined by four things:
- The volume or weight of the goods
- The journey distance
- The type of transportation
- The destination port
1. The volume or weight of the goods: It is a question of volume or weight because shipping companies normally use whatever is greatest to determine their price. Hence the industry-wide term ‘w/m’ (‘weight or measure’). However, when it comes to household moves, it’s rarely the case that weight exceeds volume.
2. The journey distance: This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re shipping your stuff halfway across the world then it’s going to cost more than a short trip across the Mediterranean. Whether your move is port-to-port or door-to-door will also affect costs. If your shipping company is going to transport your goods all the way from your old front door to your brand new one then this will bump up the price. Despite this, we thoroughly recommend door-to-door services as they can prevent logistical headaches.
3. The type of transportation: Will your goods be flying or sailing? The mode of transport will determine both the price and the amount of time it takes for your goods to arrive. Air freights tend to be the quicker and more costly alternative to sea freights. See our detailed breakdown below to decide which shipping option is best for you.
4. The destination port: Customs duties and service charges are unavoidable but they will vary from country to country. Naturally, the arrival destination of your goods will determine how much you have to pay in the way of customs and taxes. Check out our explanation of these various charges towards the end of the page.
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Shipping Container Sizes
It turns out there are over sixteen different kinds of shipping container, but there are really only two that you need to know about: the 20-foot container and the 40-foot container. The rest are generally for business-related and industrial moves. Fortunately, most domestic movers find all of their needs sufficiently served by the following:
|Container Type||Exterior Length||Exterior Width||Exterior Height||Interior Length||Interior Width||Interior Height||Cubic Capacity||Max Gross Weight||20ft Container||6.06m / 20ft||2.44m / 8ft||2.60m / 8ft 6in||5.9m / 19ft 4in||2.35m / 7ft 9in||2.39m / 7ft 10in||1170cf / 33.13cbm||30480kg|
|40ft container||12.2m / 40ft||2.44m / 8ft||2.60m / 8ft 6in||12.03m / 39ft 5in||2.35m / 7ft 9in||2.39m / 7ft 10in||2387cf / 67.6cbm||30480kg|
|Destination Port||Sea Freight Rate (2,000kg) ($)||Air Freight Rate (250kg) ($)|
|New York, USA||312 - 345||2357 - 2605|
|Vancouver, CAN||446 - 493||2387 - 2639|
|Sydney, AUS||460 - 508||2355 - 2603|
|Auckland, NZ||460 - 508||2355 - 2603|
|Singapore, SIN||313 - 346||2407 - 2661|
|Shanghai, CHI||233 - 258||2725 - 3011|
|Hong Kong, HK||233 - 258||2725 - 3011|
|Cape Town, SAF||539 - 596||2886 - 3190|
Truck freight versus train freight
For some people, their international move may only involve crossing land borders, for example moving from USA to Canada or France to Germany. In this instance, your choice generally lies between rail and road.
Rail is more economical and more ecological. Trains are the container ships of the land, offering a cheaper and greener alternative to trucks. Trains are also generally more reliable when it comes to reaching their destination on time, as they are not subjected to the traffic problems and bad weather that can blight road travel. Old, dependable locomotives!
Trucks are more flexible. If you’re looking for more flexibility than rail shipping can provide, transporting your belongings by road can offer a tailored door-to-door service with minimal loading and unloading along the way. In contrast, opting for rail means cargo has to be taken to the station in a truck and then loaded onto the train. Bearing in mind that most breakages occur when cargo is being moved from one mode of transport to another, shipping by road can be a huge bonus.
If your move involves crossing an ocean then shipping by sea is generally the most popular option, but it involves a lot of forward planning due to the lengthy transit times. Likewise, choosing rail for land transit can be more time consuming, but it is for the benefit of the planet and your wallet!
Other costs to consider
Once you know the volume of your goods, the container size, whether it’s an FCL or LCL shipment and what kind of transport you’ll be using, there are still a few additional costs that you need to think about:
You can’t do much about these. Your destination country will tax your cargo whether you like it or not. Obviously these will vary from country to country so you should talk to your shipping company about what to expect. Fees such as port service charges and terminal handling charges will also add to your overall cost. Likewise, these will vary from port to port and you should speak about them to your shipping company or freight forwarder beforehand.
Container inspection feesWith the technological advance of electronic scanning machines, it’s unlikely that your container will be physically inspected. In the USA, just 5% of inbound containers receive physical inspection, and it’s even less common in European ports. However, if the scans give customs staff any reason to be suspicious, then your container will often be opened and investigated. In this scenario, shipping companies will usually ask you to cover all the charges incurred by this process.
General Rate Increase (GRI)
A General Rate Increase (GRI) is the average increase in base shipping rates implemented by shipping companies. They are designed to cover the continually increasing costs faced by freight carriers and they used to occur at the end of each year. However, in recent years they have become much more regular. For example, 2012 saw thirteen GRIs, more than one per month. A continual cycle occurs: shipping companies implement GRIs, demand falls, they lower their prices, demand rises and another GRI is implemented. This is what makes container shipping prices so volatile. Consequently, once your Cargo Ready Date (CRD) has been agreed with your shipping company, be sure to check whether it falls before or after a new GRI as this can make a significant difference to the price.
Do I need shipping insurance?
International shipping isn’t always smooth sailing; insuring your cargo is a no-brainer. There are, however, several reasons why international shipping has become an increasingly safe prospect for your belongings, including:
This fancy term basically means the use of several different types of transport. By utilising steel containers with standardised, universal measurements, the global shipping industry has found a way to move cargo seamlessly between sea transport and land transport without having to unload each time. The same container can travel by ship, train and truck all the way to your new house. Handling of goods is less frequent which means damages are far less likely. There are 50,000 merchant ships in the world fleet and they have all embraced intermodal transportation.
Most international container ships can hold over 10,000 twenty-foot containers with the world’s largest container ship carrying up to 18,000 - the mighty Maersk Triple-E. To put that into context, the biggest container ship in 1956 could hold only 800 containers. With all the steel boxes on board these modern vessels, it’s vital that they are all accounted for. Most shipping companies use ISO codes to track every container electronically.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulates all global shipping. The sea can bea dangerous place so it is vital that the IMO hold all container ships to rigorous standards.
So, although international shipping is safe, it doesn’t mean that accidents don’t happen. Getting shipping insurance is a sensible option and shipping companies strongly advise it. You can check out our specific guide to international removals insurance here.Next steps
Hopefully we’ve made international shipping costs a little easier to navigate. There is a long list of factors and considerations but nothing that MoveHub or your shipping company can’t help you with. The next step would be to find your best price. There’s an easy way to do this: simply fill in the form at the top of this page and up to 6 suppliers will get back to you with their quotes. If you’re having to choose between several shipping companies, we go through 2018’s best shipping companies here. To make your money go even further, you may also like to read our guide on the ten cheapest ways to move abroad.
Fun fact: In one year, the average container ship travels the same distance as a journey to the moon (and halfway back!)