How to get container shipping rates?

Do you want to get container shipping rates, but don’t know how?

It’s simple because there are always shipping companies ready to service clients like you with freight offers. All you need to do is following below several steps.

First, you need to identify shipping companies having service on your desired route. It’s worth noting that even the largest shipping lines like Maerks, MSC, CMA-CGM cannot provide all services to all destinations with the same price and same competitiveness. Hence, sourcing and asking the right players make the point.

Mostly all shipping lines today have websites for conveniently checking their service routes. With a computer and internet access, you can figure out yourself. In case you don’t know which carrier to begin, I wrote a webpage aboutthe top container shipping lines for your reference.

Let’s take an example. Assuming you want to check which carriers have service from Tianjin - China to Auckland - New Zealand. Pick up a big guy like if MSC (the world 2nd largest shipping lines) first. Go in to schedule part in MSC website, select port of loading (Tianjin, China) and port of discharge (Auckland, New Zealand), and press search you’ll see 6 results as in below picture. 

Voyage schedule with departure date simply denotes that MSC do have vessel sailing from Tianjin to Auckland. That’s one carrier. For more alternatives, you can repeat the process with others shipping lines, surely you’ll have a list of carriers with service on the route in question.

Having known which carriers having needed service, now you should contact their local offices to ask for quotations. Tell sales executives necessary information regarding cargo name, route, volume, etc. you’ll likely receive container shipping rates immediately, or a little later via email or fax.

Having got several offers, it’s time to exam them in detail. Make sure besides ocean freight rates, you also have all relating surcharges with no hidden fees. Otherwise, you’ll may get upset afterwards when you find yourself to pay additional surcharges or fees unknown at the moment of quotation.

Shippers or even to people working in shipping industry complain that there’re so many local surcharges and fees which is hard to understand to customers. It’s even more complicated when written in abbreviation without adequate explanation. Here’s a short list of popular fees and surcharges that you might see in a quotation from a ocean carrier, a forwarder, or a customs broker.

  • CAF: Currency Adjustment Factor,
  • BAF: Bunker Adjustment Factor,
  • THC: Origin and Destination Terminal Handling Charges,
  • PSS: Peak Season Surcharge,
  • AMS: Automated Manifest Security Surcharge,
  • CCS: Congestion Surcharge,
  • B/L Fee: Bill of Lading Issuance Fees,
  • EBS: Emergency Bunker Surcharge,
  • Others, as applicable.

Get familiar with those and ask questions about any item that’s unclear or ambiguous. You ask or you’ll pay, that’s simple.

With some acceptable offers, you may have general grasp of how the market price on that route. It’s time to bargain with the sellers. Though this article is not about dealing with sellers, I believe you can do good enough to get the most favorable freight prices for your ready use.

Using e-platform

While above is traditional way to ask for quotation, there’s another more and more popular channel for shippers to check container shipping rates. I’m talking about e-platform, or website which enable users address their request and receive offer from other users. Those website including,

To become a user, you need to sign up for an account, some website may charge certain fee for subscription. With activated account, you can put all necessary info to put request online. Other visitors working in shipping companies, may be interested and offer you container shipping rates. Some websites organize auction and the bidding winner has the right to cooperate with you.

Online freight calculation

In countries with developed shipping industry like USA, there’re websites like, which enable visitors to calculate ocean freight rate themselves online for 24/7.

Just key in all necessary information about origin, destination, types of containers, information about cargo, and your email address. Then, you’ll get quotation immediately from website and in your mailbox. I think that’s very fast and convenient method, though I haven’t verified credibility and competitiveness of this kind of online freight calculation.

So, above I’m talking about ways to get container shipping rates from carriers. You may also ask for shipping prices from intermediary companies like freight brokers, freight forwarders. Then, you may want to read another article abouthow to choose freight forwarders.

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