FAQs about Sea Freight

International Freight Forwarder

transport maritime international

You wonder how international maritime transport is organized? Understanding the process of maritime transport is essential for the success of your international trade operations.

In this FAQ, we demystify the essential aspects of freight transport by sea, from costs to operations and insurance coverage.

Get ready to explore the first section of our comprehensive guide.

  • The functioning of maritime transport and its advantages.
  • The volumes and weights supported by the maritime container.

What is international maritime transport?

International maritime transportation (also known as Sea Freight) is the movement of goods between different countries by sea. This is a fundamental part of international trade and accounts for about 90% of the total amount of trade.

Freight ships transport a variety of goods, including raw materials like oil and coal, manufactured products, vehicles, and containers filled with consumer goods.

Advantages of sea freight for our clients

Maritime transport offers several distinct benefits, including the following:

  1. Cost efficiency: Compared to air freight, maritime transport is often more economical, especially for bulky and heavy cargo.
  2. High capacity: Freight ships can transport vast quantities of goods at once, making them ideal for large-scale imports and exports.
  3. Global accessibility: With well-established maritime routes and ports in almost every country, maritime transport enables global connectivity.

Types of goods supported

The types of goods commonly transported by sea include:

  • Raw materials: Oil, natural gas, coal, minerals.
  • Manufactured products: Electronics, clothing, machinery.
  • Agricultural products: Grains, fruits, vegetables.
  • Vehicles: Cars, trucks, heavy equipment.

While I was recently in charge of freight transport for a company based in Thailand, I observed the process's efficiency closely. The cargo, consisting of electronics that were headed for Europe, loaded into standard containers. 

Thanks to detail-oriented planning and effective coordination among various stakeholders, the transport proceeded smoothly, proving once again the robustness of maritime transport.

How does shipping by sea work?

Maritime transport operates through a series of well-planned steps that ensure the efficient movement of goods from one port to another. 

The entire process, from initial booking to final delivery, is described below:

  1. Cargo booking: The process begins with booking the cargo with a maritime transport company. The shipping company (sender) contacts a carrier or a freight forwarder to arrange the shipment. Details regarding the type of goods, volume, destination, and transport dates are confirmed at this stage.
  2. Preparation and packaging: Goods are then prepared and packaged for transport. Using standardized containers simplifies this step, ensuring the safety of goods and efficient handling.
  3. Export customs formalities: Before departure, export customs formalities must be completed. Required documents include the commercial invoice, bill of lading, and certificate of origin. These documents ensure compliance with international regulations.
  4. Loading at the departure port: Once customs formalities are completed, the containers are transported to the departure port. They are then loaded onto the ship using cranes and other specialized equipment. Major ports, such as Shanghai or Rotterdam, are equipped to handle high volumes of goods.
  5. Transportation by sea: The freight ship travels along international maritime routes to reach the destination port. Ships can carry thousands of containers, offering an economical and reliable solution for long journeys.
  6. Import customs formalities: Upon arrival at the destination port, goods must pass import customs formalities. Customs authorities verify the documents and may inspect the goods to ensure compliance with local regulations.
  7. Unloading and final delivery: Once import customs formalities are completed, the containers are unloaded from the ship and transported to the final recipient. This could encompass land transport by truck or train to the customer's warehouse or place of work.

During my experience organizing maritime transport for a Vietnamese company, I noticed the process's complexity and efficiency. 

We shipped rustic furniture to the United States. Thanks to a close co-ordination with the freight forwarder and port authorities, from document preparation to final delivery, went smoothly.

What are the techniques used in sea freight?

We explore various maritime transport techniques, including bulk transport, containerized transport, Ro-Ro, and refrigerated transport for different types of goods.

Bulk transport

Bulk transport is used for unpacked goods such as oil, coal, grains, and minerals. Large-format carriers, specially designed to transport these materials in large quantities, are commonly used in this technique. 

John Smith, a maritime logistics expert, explains: 

Bulk transport is essential for raw materials because it allows for moving large quantities at a lower cost.

Shipping by container

This type of transport is the most common method for delivering different things. Standard 20 and 40-foot containers allow for easy and secure handling of products. This technique offers adaptability and simplicity. 

One of my experiences involved shipping electronic components in containers, ensuring their protection and facilitating their handling at the destination.

Ro-ro (Roll-on/Roll-off)

Ro-Ro is used for transporting vehicles and rolling machinery. Vehicles are driven directly onto the ship, simplifying the loading and unloading process. 

Maria Gonzalez, a vehicle transport specialist, notes: 

Ro-Ro is ideal for car and truck shipments, as it reduces the risk of damage during handling.

Refrigerated transport

For perishable products such as food and pharmaceuticals, refrigerated transport is crucial. Refrigerated containers maintain goods at a constant temperature, ensuring their freshness upon arrival. 

In one of my missions, we transported seafood from Thailand to Europe using refrigerated containers to ensure their quality. By choosing ocean freight services in Thailand, we ensured fast and efficient delivery.

What are the documents used in maritime transport?

This section details the essential documents for maritime transport, such as the bill of lading, commercial invoice, certificate of origin, and insurance certificate, indispensable for error-free transport management.

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading is the transport contract between the shipper and the carrier. It serves as a receipt for the goods and proof of ownership. 

To learn more about this document, see our article on bill of lading.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice details the shipped goods, their value, and the terms of sale. It is essential for customs formalities.

Certificate of Origin (CO)

This document certifies the country of origin of the goods, often required to benefit from preferential tariff rates.

Certificate of Insurance (COI)

It proves that the goods are covered in case of loss or damage during transport. During a recent shipment, we used these documents to send textiles to France. Thanks to precise and complete documentation, customs formalities went smoothly.

How is maritime transport organized?

The logistics organization of maritime transport involves coordination between ports, shipping companies, and customs services.

  1. Coordination with ports: Ports manage the reception of ships, loading and unloading goods, and storage services. Major ports, such as those in Singapore and Hamburg, are global hubs for maritime trade.
  2. Coordination with shipping companies: Shipping companies plan routes, manage ships, and ensure the safe transport of goods. A good relationship with these companies is crucial for smooth logistics.
  3. Customs services: Customs formalities are managed at export and import to ensure compliance with local regulations.

While managing the logistics of a coffee shipment from Vietnam to Canada, meticulous planning and close coordination with all parties enabled quick and smooth delivery.

How much weight can a shipping container take on top?

Let's explore the capacities of maritime containers:

20-Foot Container

  • Volume : eenviron 33 m³
  • Poids maximal : environ 28 280 kg
  • Usage typique : petites cargaisons, produits lourds comme les métaux et les machines.

40-Foot Container

  • Volume: approximately 67 m³
  • Maximum weight: approximately 30,480 kg
  • Typical use: large shipments, textiles, manufactured products.

High Cube Container

  • Volume: approximately 76 m³
  • Maximum weight: similar to the 40-foot container but with more volume.
  • Typical use: bulky items requiring more space, such as furniture.

During a furniture shipment to Europe, using High Cube containers maximized space efficiency, reducing transport costs.

How to calculate sea freight cost?

Maritime container transport costs depend on several factors:

  1. Distance: The longer the distance, the higher the cost.
  2. Type of goods: Hazardous or perishable products require special handling.
  3. Taxes and port fees: Vary depending on departure and arrival ports.

For more details, visit our page on price of maritime containers.

Maritime insurance and transport

Maritime transport insurance is crucial for protecting goods against loss or damage. Major insurances include all-risk insurance and particular average insurance. For more information, consult our dedicated page on transport insurance.

International car shipping by sea

International car shipping involves several steps:

  1. Vehicle preparation: Cleaning, disconnecting the battery, draining fuel tanks.
  2. Choosing the transport mode: Containerized or Ro-Ro. Ro-Ro is generally less expensive.
  3. Administrative formalities: Include export and import documents, insurance certificates, and customs duties.

Other frequently asked questions

This section answers common questions about maritime transport, such as major global ports, insurance, freight calculation, and quotations.

The top 10 world ports in [year]

Discover the world's busiest ports and their importance in global trade. For more details, visit our page on the 10th largest ports in the world.

How to calculate the sea freight?

The calculation of ocean freight depends on several factors. For a detailed guide, visit our section on calculating ocean freight.

Understanding and calculating the bunker adjustment factor

The BAF (Bunker Adjustment Factor) compensates for fuel price variations. Learn how to calculate it on our page dedicated to the BAF maritime transport.

How to get an accurate quote for shipping your goods?

Obtaining an accurate quote requires detailed information about your shipment. For more details, consult our guide on maritime transport quotes.

By understanding the techniques, essential documents, and costs involved, you will be better prepared to navigate this crucial field. For specific questions, explore our dedicated pages and don't hesitate to request a quote for personalized solutions.

Stay informed and enjoy the efficiency and reliability of maritime transport for your business.


Worldgistic is the number one international freight forwarder in Southeast Asia and Europe. With over 15 years of experience and a team of qualified experts, choose Worldgistic!

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