Ocean shippers can and should get the best container rate they can get. But you will get the most cost savings when you think in terms of reducing ocean shipping costs per ton – in other words, shipping the same volume of freight in fewer containers. If you can max out your payload on every load, you can ship 25% fewer containers and realize up to a 6-figure yearly savings, depending on how many containers you ship.
Who should care?
Shippers that can gain the most from a focus on ocean shipping cost per ton are those that weigh out containers before they cube out – heavier, dense commodities like bricks, metal, stone and castings, or even consumer goods like water and beer.
But you won't benefit from a “fewer containers" strategy unless you ignore the common perception (espoused by steamship lines) that container weights must max out at around 44,000 pounds to allow trucks to carry the container and stay within the 80,000-pound DOT weight limit. (For more on this, read our eBook on reducing costs for heavy goods shipping).
Many states will allow truckers to haul heavy loads, as long as they have special permits and the proper equipment. See state-by-state max truck weight limits here. It will cost you more to hire these specialized truckers, but even with these added costs your door-to-door ocean shipping cost per ton can shrink up to 20%.
One tea importer contracted for door-to-door service with a steamship line and regularly shipped containers weighing 42,770 pounds. When the company began working with a freight forwarder that was a heavy freight shipping specialist, the company increased its max payload to 54,000 pounds and its freight forwarder sourced the specialist truckers for first- and last-mile service. CY-to-door costs increased by about $500, but the door-to-door ocean shipping cost per ton was reduced by $14.32 per metric ton, saving $126,000 annually.
How much can you save? Check out this heavyweight freight shipping calculator.
Other strategies to reduce ocean shipping costs per ton
Here are some other strategies to reduce your per-ton shipping costs.
- Consolidate orders. If you are sending two smaller shipments within, let's say, a week of each other, consider combining them into an FCL shipment. If your customers can afford to wait and you can afford the cash flow hit, it will save you money.
- Change packaging. Consider whether you can make cases longer, taller or wider to reduce your per ton ocean shipping cost. How about your pallets? One I.C.E. Transport customer was shipping metal casings on pallets that were so wide they could only be loaded as one row within a container. I.C.E. brought the pallets into a warehouse and cut a few inches off each side prior to shipping. That allowed the shipper to fit two rows of loaded pallets in a container, reducing the shipping cost per unit for each shipment by a whopping 50%!
- Take air out. How much air are you shipping? Can you reduce it? Furniture makers used to ship a lot of air but these days new manufacturing processes and DIY assembly allows them to ship their ”knock-down” furniture in dense, flat boxes. Very efficient.
Smarter ways to reduce ocean shipping costs
Ocean shipping is no longer the bargain it once was. But the answer to reducing these costs is not in the rates. These rates are set by carriers and are difficult to change.
The answer, ironically, is what happens off the water – with overweight trucking services, smart package design, and discussions with customers and suppliers about flexible delivery times.
Our advice: focus less on rate reduction and more on creative ways to reduce your ocean shipping cost per ton.
Want to brainstorm smarter ways to ship? Contact I.C.E. Transport today to start a conversation.