Calculating maritime freight: complete guide and advice

International Freight Forwarder

Cacul du fret maritime : guide complet

Wondering how to calculate the cost of maritime freight for your goods? This guide is here to help. 

Understanding maritime freight calculation is a must for any business or individual looking to ship goods by sea. We explain this process by detailing the various methods and criteria used. 

Did you know that an accurate estimate can save you money on shipping costs?

  • Factors that influence maritime freight rates
  • Methods for calculating maritime transport costs

Key factors influencing maritime freight calculation

Understanding the different elements that influence the cost of maritime freight is essential for optimizing your shipments.

This section details the main factors to consider, such as the weight and volume of goods, the type of container used, and the maritime routes traveled.

Weight and volume of goods

The weight and volume of goods play a crucial role in calculating maritime freight. 

Two key concepts must be considered: gross weight and chargeable weight.

  • Gross weight: This is the total weight of the goods, including packaging.
  • Chargeable weight: Determined based on either volume or actual weight, whichever is higher.

Maritime logistics expert Jean-Luc Martin explains:

For bulky but lightweight goods, volume is often the determining factor. For example, 1 cubic meter generally equals 1000 kg for chargeable weight calculation.

If you are shipping 2 tons of textiles packed in 4 m³, the cost will be based on volume since 4 m³ equals 4 tons of chargeable weight, exceeding the gross weight.

Type of container used

The choice of maritime container directly impacts the cost of maritime transport. The main types of containers are:

  • 20-foot container (TEU): Ideal for medium loads.
  • 40-foot container (FEU): Used for larger volumes.
  • Refrigerated containers (Reefer): For perishable goods requiring temperature control.

Cost comparison

Type of ContainerCapacity (m³)Average Cost (USD)
20 feet331000 – 1500
40 feet672000 – 3000
40-feet Reefer673000 – 4000
To find out more about shipping container prices, visit our dedicated page.

Maritime routes and distances

Maritime routes and distances traveled also influence the cost of maritime freight. Major routes include Asia-Europe, Transpacific, and Transatlantic.

  • Asia-Europe: One of the busiest routes, connecting major ports like Shanghai and Rotterdam.
  • Transpacific: Connects Asian ports to the west coast of the United States, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach.
  • Transatlantic: Connects European and American ports, such as Hamburg and New York.

How to calculate maritime freight: methods and tools

Calculating maritime freight can seem complex, but with the right methods and tools, you can obtain accurate estimates and optimize your shipping costs. 

This section will guide you through the steps necessary to calculate freight for a full container load (FCL) and for less than container load (LCL).

Calculating freight for a full container (FCL)

Calculating freight for a full container load (FCL) follows a structured process. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Determine container size: Choose between a 20-foot or 40-foot container based on the quantity of goods.
  2. Measure gross weight and volume: Calculate the total weight of your goods and their volume.
  3. Select the maritime route: Identify the ports of departure and destination to determine distance and cost.
  4. Obtain quotes: Contact maritime carriers or use online platforms to get quotes based on your specifications.
  5. Add additional fees: Include additional costs such as handling fees, insurance, and customs duties.

Using these steps, we optimized our shipments and reduced our costs by 15%

explique Marie Dupont, responsable logistique chez Worldgistic.

Calculating maritime freight LCL (Less than Container Load)

Maritime freight LCL (Less than Container Load) is ideal for shipments that do not fill a full container. Here’s how to calculate freight for LCL:

  1. Assess the volume of your cargo: Measure the total dimension of your goods.
  2. Calculate chargeable weight: Compare the actual weight and the volume converted to chargeable weight (1 m³ = 1000 kg). : comparez le poids réel et le volume converti en poids taxable (1 m³ = 1000 kg).
  3. Obtain an LCL quote: Use freight platforms or contact freight forwarders to get quotes based on chargeable weight and volume. : utilisez des plateformes de fret ou contactez des transitaires pour obtenir des devis basés sur le poids taxable et le volume.
  4. Consider shared costs: Container and handling fees are shared among multiple shippers, making LCL more economical for smaller shipments. : les frais de conteneur et de manutention sont partagés entre plusieurs expéditeurs, rendant LCL plus économique pour les petites cargaisons.
  5. Include additional costs: Add documentation, port handling, and insurance fees.

A small design company regularly ships furniture to the United States. By using LCL, they reduced their transport costs by 20% while maintaining reliable delivery times. 

LCL allowed us to stay competitive in the American market.says Jacques Leblanc, the owner.

says Jacques Leblanc, the owner.

Using these methods and tools, you can obtain accurate estimates for your maritime shipments. 

Maritime freight rates and additional charges

Calculating maritime freight costs isn’t limited to the base rate. Several additional charges may apply, affecting the total cost of the shipment. 

This section will help you identify these costs and understand how they influence the overall rate.

Base rates and additional costs

Base rates and additional costs include:

  1. Handling fees: Include the costs of loading and unloading goods.
  2. Fuel surcharges (BAF): Fluctuations in fuel prices are often passed on as surcharges.
  3. Documentation fees: Cover the costs of preparing the necessary documents for shipment.
  4. Security fees (ISPS): Imposed to enhance security in ports.
  5. Seasonal surcharges: Applied during peak demand periods.
  6. Port fees: Depend on the specific policies of the ports of departure and destination.

Calculating maritime transport cost per kg

The cost of maritime transport per kilogram is essential for lightweight but bulky goods. Here’s how to calculate it:

  1. Determine gross weight: Total weight of goods, including packaging.
  2. Calculate volume: Total volume in cubic meters (m³).
  3. Convert volume to chargeable weight: Generally, 1 m³ = 1000 kg.
  4. Use the formula: Total cost = (base rate + additional charges) / total weight in kg.

Example :

  • Gross weight: 2000 kg
  • Volume: 3 m³ (equivalent to 3000 kg of chargeable weight)
  • Base rate: €500
  • Additional charges: €200

Calculation: Total cost = (€500 + €200) / 2000 kg = €0.35 per kg

With these formulas and examples, you can estimate the cost per kilogram for your maritime shipments, optimizing your transport operations.

Tools and resources to simplify maritime freight calculation

Calculating maritime freight can be complex, but several tools and resources are available to simplify this process. 

This section introduces you to online freight calculators and the importance of consulting logistics experts for precise estimates and personalized advice.

Using online freight calculators

Online freight calculators are reliable tools for estimating maritime freight costs. Here are some recommended options and how they work:

  1. Freightos: A popular tool that compares rates from different shipping companies.
  2. SeaRates: Provides precise calculations by integrating handling fees, fuel surcharges, and other additional costs.
  3. Worldgistic calculateur de fret : notre propre outil en ligne, conçu pour fournir des estimations précises basées sur vos besoins spécifiques. 

Simply enter your shipment details to get an instant estimate.

Consulting logistics experts

For even more precise calculations and personalized advice, it is often helpful to consult logistics experts. 


  • Expert knowledge: Logistics experts have in-depth knowledge of rates, maritime routes, and customs regulations.
  • Cost reduction: By consulting professionals, you can identify ways to reduce costs and improve shipment efficiency.
  • Tailored advice: Experts can offer solutions tailored to your specific needs and help you navigate the complexities of maritime freight.

For personalized quotes and optimized logistics solutions, do not hesitate to contact our team. We are dedicated to providing the best solutions for your maritime transport needs.

With these tools and resources, you are well-equipped to estimate and optimize your ocean freight costs, while benefiting from expert advice to ensure the success of your international shipments. For more helpful information regarding ocean freight, check out our FAQ about Sea Freight.

There you will find detailed answers to all your questions and practical advice for your international shipments.


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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