Ocean Freight

What is Ocean Freight?

Ocean Freight is the movement of goods by ship from one destination to another. It involves the transportation of cargo via container ships, bulk carriers, and other vessels across oceans and seas.

Ocean freight requires precise coordination between all parties involved to ensure the cargo arrives safely at its final destination with minimal delays. This includes shippers, carriers, customs authorities, ports of loading and discharge, truckers, and other service providers responsible for loading/unloading cargo onto vessels at origin or delivery points.

Ocean Freight also requires extensive paperwork, including bills of lading that validate ownership rights and customs clearance documents.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ocean Freight

The following are a few of the most commonly asked questions about ocean freight and freight forwarding that you may find useful.

What Is Full Container Load (FCL) in Ocean Freight?

In ocean freight, Full Container Load (FCL) refers to shipping a container exclusively filled with goods belonging to one shipper. This option is ideal for large shipments where the volume justifies the cost of using an entire container. 

FCL gives shippers more control over the container’s content, security, and transit times, as the entire container is shipped without being consolidated with other shippers’ goods. This option is often considered more cost-effective for larger shipments and reduces the risks of damage or loss compared to shared container options.

Do I Have to Ship an Entire Container, or Can I Ship Less?

No, you do not have to ship a whole container. If your shipment doesn’t fill an entire container, consider Less than Container Load (LCL) shipping. LCL allows multiple shippers to share container space, resulting in a more affordable solution for smaller shipments. This method involves consolidating your goods with others to fill a container, providing a flexible and economical option for shipping smaller quantities of goods overseas.

How Does LCL Shipping Work in Ocean Freight?

Less Than Container Load (LCL) shipping in ocean freight involves consolidating shipments from multiple shippers into one container. Each shipper pays for their portion of the container space used based on the volume or weight of their cargo. The process involves collecting goods from different shippers, consolidating them at a Container Freight Station (CFS), and then loading them into a shared container. Upon arrival at the destination, the container is deconsolidated, and each shipment is delivered to its respective recipient. LCL is a cost-effective choice for smaller shipments that don’t require a full container.

What Are the Most Important Shipping Documents Associated with Ocean Freight?

The following documents serve to ensure legal compliance, facilitate customs clearance, and clarify the terms of shipping and payment in international ocean freight. 

The most important shipping documents in ocean freight include:

  • Bill of Lading (B/L): Serves as a receipt for cargo, proof of ownership, and as a contract between the shipper and the carrier.
  • Commercial Invoice: Provides a description, value, and details of the goods for customs clearance.
  • Packing List: Details the contents, weight, and dimensions of each package or container.
  • Certificate of Origin: Verifies the country where the goods were produced.
  • Insurance Certificate: Confirms that the goods are insured during transportation.
  • Export License and Declaration: Required for controlled goods or for certain destinations.
  • Letter of Credit: Used for payment terms in international trade transactions.


What Are the Different Types of Containers Used in Ocean Freight?

In ocean freight, several types of containers are used to cater to different cargo needs:

  • Standard Dry Containers: Commonly used for general cargo. These standardized containers include a twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) and a forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU). The length of a FEU is double that of a TEU.
  • High Cube Containers: Similar to standard containers but with extra height, suitable for larger loads that may not fit a standard TEU or FEU.
  • Refrigerated (Reefer) Containers: Equipped with refrigeration units to transport perishable goods.
  • Open Top Containers: Without a solid roof, ideal for over-height cargo.
  • Flat Rack Containers: With collapsible sides, suitable for heavy, oversized loads.
  • Tank Containers: For transporting liquids like chemicals and food-grade products. Each type is designed to handle specific cargo requirements, ensuring safety and efficiency in transportation.

It is important to note that container options extend beyond standard TEU/FEU sizes. For example, High Cube containers may come in varying heights, Open Tops can have removable tarps, and Flat Racks have collapsible or fixed side options, catering to specific cargo needs.

How Does Customs Clearance Work in Ocean Freight?

Customs clearance in ocean freight is the process of getting approval from customs authorities to either bring goods into a country (import) or send them out (export). This process involves submitting various documents, such as a customs bond, bill of lading, commercial invoice, and packing list, to verify the cargo’s compliance with import/export regulations and calculate duties and taxes. Customs agents inspect the documentation and cargo, ensuring it meets all legal requirements. Once cleared, the goods are released for delivery to the final destination or export. Timely and accurate documentation is crucial to avoid delays or penalties. 

In most cases, this process can be carried out efficiently with the help of a trusted freight forwarder, whose responsibility is to take care of all the details related to the customs clearance process.

How Does Door-to-Door Shipping Operate in Ocean Freight?

Door-to-door shipping in ocean freight is a comprehensive service that covers the entire shipping process from the sender’s location to the recipient’s door. This service involves the freight forwarder coordinating all logistical requirements, such as picking up the cargo, handling all transportation logistics (including sea and land freight transport), customs clearance, and delivery to the final destination. 

With door-to-door shipping, the freight forwarder or logistics provider manages all aspects of the journey, offering a smooth and effortless experience for the shipper. It is particularly useful for businesses looking for a streamlined and efficient shipping process.

What Is Drayage in the Context of Ocean Freight?

Drayage in ocean freight refers to the short-distance transportation of cargo from a seaport to a nearby location, such as a warehouse or rail terminal. This critical step in the shipping process involves moving containerized cargo using specialized trucks, often within the same metropolitan area. Drayage services are essential for connecting ocean freight movement with inland transportation, ensuring seamless transfer of goods from sea to land.

How Does the Process of Ocean Freight Shipping Work from a Business Owner’s Perspective?

As a business owner looking into ocean freight, understanding the process is crucial. Ocean freight involves booking a spot on a carrier and selecting a container, which can either be exclusively for your cargo or shared in a consolidated shipment with others. This begins with choosing a reliable digital freight forwarder, such as Ship4wd, to manage the logistics.


Using the platform, you’ll input your cargo details to receive a quote. After reviewing and accepting the quote, you’ll provide the necessary documents for shipping and will be offered additional services such as cargo insurance. From the moment the forwarder receives your order, he will handle the whole shipping process, including customs clearance and final delivery, providing you with a smooth and seamless experience from start to finish, minimizing the possibility of any potential delays in delivery. This approach presents particular advantages for business owners, as it simplifies the complexities of ocean freight, making it more accessible and manageable.


How Do Incoterms Affect Responsibility Transfer in Ocean Freight?

Incoterms (International Commercial Terms) directly affect the transfer of responsibilities in ocean freight by defining the roles of the seller and the buyer at various stages of the shipping process. These terms determine who is responsible for the costs and risks associated with transporting goods, including insurance, transportation fees, customs clearance, and handling charges. The chosen Incoterm (e.g., FOB, CIF, DAP) specifies the point in the journey where responsibility and risk transfer from the seller to the buyer, influencing contract negotiations, pricing strategies, and risk management in international trade.

What Are the Key Differences Between Ocean Freight and Air Freight?

The key differences between ocean freight and air freight include:

  1. Transit Time: Air freight is much faster than ocean freight, making it suitable for time-sensitive shipments.
  2. Cost: Generally, ocean freight is more cost-effective than air freight, especially for larger and heavier shipments.
  3. Environmental Impact: Ocean freight is generally considered to have a lower carbon footprint than air freight.
  4. Cargo Capacity: Ocean freight can handle much larger volumes and heavier cargo than air freight.
  5. Route Flexibility: In most cases, air freight offers more route flexibility, with more destination airports than seaports.

What Role Do Freight Forwarders Play in Ocean Freight?

Freight forwarders play a critical role in ocean freight by acting as intermediaries between shippers and various transportation services. Their responsibilities include arranging cargo space on ships, negotiating freight charges, organizing cargo consolidation, providing cargo insurance, ensuring compliance with customs regulations, and coordinating the final delivery. Freight forwarders leverage their expertise and network to streamline the shipping process, making it more efficient and cost-effective for businesses, especially those without in-house logistics capabilities.


Ready to get started?

By land, air, or sea, Ship4wd makes it easy for businesses to take control of their international shipping