Explained: How Container Shipping Works?

how container shipping works

Every day, thousands of containers arrive at seaports from countries all around the world. They are carried aboard liner ships, which offer regularly scheduled service on fixed routes- much like a bus or train service does.

Every supply chain is unique and involves the timely and accurate transfer of goods between various modes of transport. Goods transported by ocean containers on liner ships can be placed into the container at the factory origin, farm or at other locations where cargo is consolidated.

The container is locked and sealed so the goods can remain safely secured inside the container and transported with unprecedented efficiency until it arrives at the purchasers’ warehouse, factory, or store. For this reason, more than 50 percent of the value of goods moved internationally by sea is now moving in containers on liner ships.

To understand how exactly the container shipping work, we will take an example of a sports shoes shipment from China to the United States.



It all starts with an order!

A sports equipment store in New York is running low on the season’s hot, new shoes, which are manufactured in China. The store places an order for 1000 pairs. The shoe company works with a freight forwarder to arrange transport from a Chinese factory for the shipment of shoes.

From warehouse to truck!

A trucking company arrives at the Chinese factory, and loads the order together with orders from many other retailers, into a 40-foot or 20-foot container which is bolted shut and fitted with a high-security seal. The container will not be opened again until it arrives at a distribution warehouse in the destination country unless customs officials decide to open and inspect it.

Loading the ship!

The freight forwarder determines it is most economical to truck the container to the nearest port, let’s say Port of Shanghai. The truck deposits the container at the terminal in the port, from where it is loaded onto the ship.

The freight forwarder has contracted with a container shipping line, which must submit documentation about the shipment to government authorities in the exporting and importing countries. This “manifest” data includes information such as exact contents, the exporter, the importer, and who is transporting the cargo.



The lengthy journey starts!

Now loaded onto a container ship, the container of shoes is bound for a discharge port in United States, thousands of miles away from the country of origin, in another continent.

Before the ship is scheduled to arrive at the destination port, the captain of the vessel, a local agent or the company’s global documentation Centre provides data to the government of the destination country concerning the ship, its crew, and its cargo.

The Ship arrives!

Having received proper clearance to arrive at the port, the container vessel docks at a berth adjacent to large cranes that will be used to unload the containers of cargo.

The container is discharged!

Qualified dockworkers – sometimes more than 100 per vessel – arrive to work the ship. They include crane operators, lashers, clerks, and cargo equipment operators.

Customs clearance!

Customs officials carry out a careful evaluation of each container’s documentation, may select specific containers for further inspection.



The last pick up!

Once cleared by customs, workers load the container onto a special truck trailer or chassis. Now the container of shoes can be trucked to the distribution center. Containers are often transported by train when the destination is a long distance from the port.

The final delivery!

The truck arrives at an import distribution center located not too far from the port, where the container is opened and the orders by individual stores are separated and prepared for shipment. The next day, the athletic supply store receives 1000 pairs of the season’s most popular athletic shoes.

Related- Video: What is Causing the Container Ship Traffic Jam Clogging up Global Trade?

So, that is how it is done. Now you know how the container shipping works to fulfil your daily needs. What are your views about the container shipping? Do let us know in the comments section.

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