Freight Rates & Charges - Online Quotes

UK Shipping Companies & Agents

If you’ve never used shipping companies before trying to navigate your way around the ins and outs of the international freight shipping market can be a daunting task. At we make it easy for you by enabling you to compare multiple free quotes from some of the UK's leading international shipping companies.

All you need to know is what you're moving, where to and when. Maybe you’re heading back to the UK after a stint living overseas and need your personal items bringing back, or perhaps you’re a small business needing to ship goods in from a supplier in China.

Whatever your needs and no matter how much or how little you know, at we can put you in touch with 100s of customer rated shipping companies who will do the job quickly, efficiently and competitively. All you need to do is click on the Get Quotes button and fill in the consignment details; we’ll then match your requirements against UK companies providing international services who will submit quotes for the job.

An overview of international shipping

The size and scale of the international shipping industry is truly mind boggling. With over 50,000 merchant vessels registered in over 150 different countries worldwide manned by over a million seafarers of just about every nationality, international sea freight is the backbone of global trade; indeed estimates suggest that international shipping companies account for a staggering 90% of all transportation used in global trade.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the size of the market the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that shipping companies contribute over $380 billion to the global economy per annum which is equal to about 5% of total world trade.

With increased industrialisation and greater liberalisation in trade fuelling a growing demand for consumer products, over the last 4 decades the international sector has quadrupled with over 7.7 thousand million tonnes of goods transported in 2008.

In todays globalised economy international freight companies play an increasingly vital role to both businesses and national economies; this guide is designed to help you when arranging the transportation of your goods. It explains how shipping agents work and provides you with the information you’ll require in order to make an informed decision on the options that best suit your needs.

This guide also outlines the different options available, as well providing an overview of the documentation required when organising the transportation of goods by sea.

The different types of services available

Of the 50,000 plus registered merchant vessels used to transport goods, depending upon the type of cargo to be shipped and the services required, they can be broken down into five main types of vessel: Container ships, used to ship standard 20 and 40 ft containers; roll on / roll off vessels used for the transportation of passenger and haulage vehicles; general cargo ships; bulk carriers and tankers.

Shipping cargo by container

Shipping goods by container has over the last 50 years become the most popular way of transporting goods internationally; indeed container shipping accounts for 90% of all non-bulk cargo transport, dominating the market due to the speed and efficiency of loading / unloading, the security of the goods whilst in transit and the comparatively low costs. The other ways of moving goods worldwide include break bulk, which refers to cargo which isn’t containerised (such as pallets and crates) and bulk, for large quantity shipments of commodities such as coal, oil, wheat etc.

Understanding the different options available is by no means a requirement when organising cargo shipments as your chosen agents will be more than capable of advising which service best suits your particular needs. It is important however to have a general understanding of the processes involved in order to avoid any potential pitfalls, particularly those related to cost.

Calculating the costs

There are effectively three main cost elements associated with shipping - the ocean transport cost; the costs for handling and clearing the goods at the port and the shipping costs associated with any inland delivery, either to the port of departure or to the final destination.

These costs are usually charged according to the shipping lines standard tariff although companies and agents that handle large and frequent volumes may be able to negotiate preferential rates.

The charges associated with handling the goods will vary according to the type of cargo being shipped and will also include currency adjustments that agents charge in order to take into account changes in exchange rates, and any surcharges levied by the individual ports such as security or congestion charges.

Finally, depending upon the service required, companies will also price in the cost of any inland haulage; from the point of collection to the port of departure, as well as from the port of arrival to the final destination.

FCL & LCL shipments

Another factor you need to consider is whether your shipment is a full container load (FCL), or whether you are transporting your cargo on a less than container load (LCL) basis. As shipping quotes are based on a flat per container price it is obviously more economical to ship on an FCL basis.

Calculating quotes can be a complicated process. Reputable agents will be able to advise you on the costs associated with your shipment as well as the most appropriate route to best suit your needs.

International routes

The number of different shipping routes mirrors the flow of world trade with the most frequent and numerous sailings reflecting where trade volumes and demand are greatest. The busiest international routes to and from the UK are those from the Far East, in particular shipping from China and Japan. The north Atlantic routes to the USA and Canada are also popular, as are routes to Australia and South America.

Although the UK has direct routes to all the main trading countries, if you are transporting to a country which has little trade with the UK then your cargo may have to be transhipped. Transhipped is when your cargo is taken to the nearest large port and then transferred onto another vessel in preparation for a local sailing to the final destination port. Your agents will be able to best advise you regarding the different options associated with your route.

Due to the sheer number of shipping routes available it really is worth taking the time to explore all the different options with the agents to establish which best suits your needs.

The role of agents

In essence shipping agents works on your behalf coordinating all the different elements associated with international shipments. Experts in worldwide cargo movements, agents are familiar with all the different import / export rules and regulations relating to different countries, as well as the different methods and the relevant documentation requirements.

An agent will be able to advise on all the associated costs (including any necessary inland haulage), the port charges, documentation, insurance, customs clearance and handling fees. Depending upon the level of service you require shipping agents are also qualified to advise on the method and type of packaging to protect your goods during transit, as well as arrange packing of the actual goods! Remember though that any additional service will be charged for.

Freight shipping

The type of shipping services required and the level of complexity and documentation required are very much dependent upon the country of origin and destination that you're shipping from. For example the documentation required when moving goods to the UK from another European country are far less complex than the documentation required when arranging shipping from China to the UK.

This is because key requirements such as accounting for VAT and duties have been simplified to encourage trade between EU member states. This has resulted in a lot less administration and documentation when transporting goods from the UK to other EU countries, and conversely when arranging shipments from an EU member state to the UK.

When moving goods to or from countries outside the EU different levels of duty will be payable dependent upon the type of commodity, and the countries of origin and destination. An experienced agent will be able to advise you of the duties payable, any commodity restrictions and the necessary documentation required for your consignment, in addition to managing the physical movement of your goods and the various modes of transport involved.

Documentation and terms

As you’ve probably worked out after reading this, the world of international shipping has a whole vocabulary of its own. If you’ve never arranged an international shipment before, it can all be really confusing. No need to worry though as the shipping companies quoting for you deal with millions of cargo consignments every year, so they will best advise you.

But if you do want to get your head around some of the terms you will come across, have a look at this online glossary of shipping terms from Maritime Information, the UK industry governing body.

And when you're ready to ship your goods let us help you find the right companies. Simply click the Get Quotes button, enter your cargo details and start receiving competitive, no obligation quotes from some of the UKs leading shipping companies.

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