Some Factors to Consider When Choosing a Shipping Carrier


There are a plethora of factors to consider when choosing the correct steamship line (SSL) for your cargo. Below are a few examples of what should be taken into consideration before booking with a shipping carrier. Please note, although detailed, this is not an exhaustive list, as every destination and cargo will have different requirements. Always be sure to check with your trusted NVOCC, MTS Logistics, Inc.

First, let’s start with an obvious and very important thing to consider: Do they carry your cargo?

Not every steamship line will carry the commodity you are shipping. While Maersk carries military cargo, MSC does not. You may find a niche carrier to move your giraffes from Pointe Noire, DRC to Newark, USA on their route to the Bronx Zoo, but MSC, Maersk, and CMA will not be one of your options for live animals. So, be sure to check if the carrier you are interested in will move your cargo.

Another question equally as important: Do they call your port pairs?

If you need to ship from Freeport, U.S. to Freeport, Bahamas, you may have some trouble finding a carrier that will call both of these ports. Maybe you are moving goods from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. Some carriers will call Jeddah, and others will call King Abdullah Port – there is about a two-hour transit time via on-carriage between them, which can easily become one week waiting for an available trucker to move the cargo. You must be sure to check this, and never take for granted that every carrier calls every port.

Our next factor to consider is the most common when deciding which SSL to book with: What will it cost?

Ocean freight rates are one of the main factors in dictating which carrier a BCO or NVO will choose, because if the cost to ship your freight is higher than the freight value, then the shipment becomes a financial loss. A business operating on financial losses will not stay afloat for very long. You will want to find the best carrier option that can move your cargo at a competitive ocean freight rate, while also taking into account any “hidden fees” that may pop-up along the way – i.e. documentation amendment costs, costs at destination, over-weight surcharges, telex release fees, etc. This list can become quite long. Not every carrier will charge these extra fees, so be sure to find the one that will give a rate appropriate for your cargo.

Every port of destination (POD) will have different clearing requirements for cargo.

The standard Free Time granted at the terminal is based on what the agencies believe to be the necessary amount of time to clear cargo for that POD. At Norfolk, in the U.S., a shipment may receive 4 business days free time, whereas a shipment to Alexandria, Egypt might be granted 21 days free time. Not every shipment can be cleared in the same way, or in the same amount of time. Therefore, many customers require additional free days at the destination to avoid racking-up costly fees. Carriers can grant additional days at the terminal due to their relationship with that terminal, and what their agency is willing to negotiate. Not every carrier will grant the same amount of free days, and at the same price, so check the free time allowed before booking your shipment.

Another aspect we want to consider is the Transit Time (T/T.)

The time it will take our shipment from point A to point B can be very important if your cargo must reach its destination by a specific deadline. Some carriers may offer 34 days transit time from Charleston to Thessaloniki, whereas another carrier can move the cargo in 28 days transit time. If you are shipping signs to advertise your business in Russia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it would not make sense if you shipped these on June 1st with a 36-day transit time. Your cargo would arrive at the end of the event!

The routing the SSL will opt to use is more important than you may expect.

If your cargo is low-cost, but time-sensitive, you will want to find a carrier that offers low rates and short transit time. Maybe you found a carrier that offers 26 days transit from Houston to Casablanca at a competitive cost, but they route their cargo via transshipment port Algeciras, Spain, a terminal that experiences congestion from time to time. If it is a high-congestion period for Algeciras, your shipment could be stuck waiting there for a connecting vessel for a week or more, thus negating the short transit time offered. For this reason, it is important to consider the route your SSL will move your shipment.

It will be difficult to find a carrier that offers the perfect package for you (optimal transit time, low rates, preferred routing, required terminal, convenient schedule, etc.), but luckily there are many options to choose from. With over 100 steamship lines in operation, MTS Logistics is bound to find the best option to fit your cargo needs.