Logistics Know How

From furniture to flowers – there’s a container for everything!

26 November 2020

by Raj Kumar, Global Customer Care Lead

Twill was born out of the desire of making shipping simple. We’re constantly developing and improving our product to better satisfy your needs. Now we want to talk about you, your business, your cargo, and give you hints and advice to make your life even simpler with Twill. Introducing our new “This is all about you” weekly series.

Our first blog comes from Global Customer Care Lead, Raj Kumar. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

Containers are one of our industry’s best inventions. They have remained a constant in the world of shipping since shipping began; and they haven’t changed all that much! They’re simply bigger, smarter, safer and stronger.

I know it can seem daunting to look at your cargo – maybe its toys, clothes, furniture, vehicles or food – and try to figure out how you’re going to get it into a container and ship it across the world. Well, that’s where Twill and our Customer Care Ninjas can help make things simple for you!

What types of containers are there?

First things first, there’s quite a lot of equipment types for you to choose from. Which one you choose is going to depend on what type of cargo you’re looking to ship. Two of the most common you will encounter, and likely use, are dry containers – the kind you’ve probably seen before! It’s called ‘dry’ because it doesn’t have any temperature controls – it’s basic but will do the trick for cargo like toys, clothes etc.

The other is the refrigerated ISO container. This is, as you can imagine, a container that does have controls for temperature – and is perfect for transporting perishables such as flowers or food that need to be kept cold across long distances.

The likelihood is that you will use one of these two, but there are many others for more specific cargo: cylinder tanks for transporting liquids and more hazardous cargo – like fuel or chemicals; or open top containers (like a container without a roof!) which allow taller and more awkward cargo, like vehicles, to still be transported. Even animals can be transported across the sea! Although not in containers – they will get their own fit-for-purpose boat, fully equipped with all they need to be comfortable and safe.

Within the basic containers, there are variants in height and length to choose from – your container could be 20ft, 40ft or 45ft standard, or 40ft and 45ft high cube – these are taller. As your freight forwarder, we can always advise the best and most suitable container for your cargo!

How big is a shipping container?

Making things fit

When you book a container with any freight forwarder or shipping line, you might be faced with terms such as FCL, LCL or CbM. These stand for Full-Container Load, Less than Container Load – which both relate to container volume – and Cubic Metres which is a measurement sometimes used for your cargo.

What this means is that if you have a lot of cargo you should be able to fill a container all by yourself and you will pay the full price for that container – this is FCL.

However, if you don’t have enough cargo to fill an entire container by yourself, you can choose Less than Container Load (LCL). The rest of the container will be filled by your freight forwarder with different customers’ cargo who also cannot fill a container alone.

Using LCL will certainly reduce your costs – and the container will still be shipped to just one destination despite having different customers’ cargo on board, so your estimated time of arrival won’t be affected.

Cubic Metres (CbM) is used to help understand the space you have available within a container. This is where the size and type of your cargo can really come into play. If you want to transport cartons, for example, and the cartons are small, you might be able to get 500 units within the cubic metres available in your container.

However, if you’re transporting bigger items, such as furniture, you’re going to get less cargo in the same amount of cubic metres. This is why understanding your cargo is so important. If you request FCL, and the container is only half-full, you could be paying more than is necessary.

Getting the most out of your container

It is here, where container utilisation becomes a factor and this is a broad topic. Big name brands might have their own tools to ensure they get the most out of their containers – which will be linked to their forecasting, stock, demand etc. For smaller or medium size businesses it becomes important to have a good relationship with your supplier.

A supplier with experience can have huge benefits. As you build a relationship with them over time, they will get to know your cargo better than anyone and they will be able to tell you exactly the kind of container you’ll need for your cargo!

While you, of course, want to get as much cargo as possible in your container, you have to strike a balance. You want to give it room to breathe so nothing gets damaged, but not too much so that it will fall over or move around in transit.

Our key advice

Ultimately, what you want is for your cargo to reach you safely and on time. You’ll want to ask yourself, does my cargo have special requirements? Is it perishable, hazardous, or potentially awkward to transport? Having a good understanding of this, paired with a strong, well-negotiated relationship with your supplier is essential to a smooth shipping process.

If you achieve these two things, getting your cargo in the right container will be much easier and you will save money by utilising that container to its fullest capacity! At Twill we’re here to help make shipping simple for you. Contact the team today – www.twill.net.

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