Container Shipping Costs UK: 2020 Rates and Information

That’s right, it’s everyone’s favourite dinnertime discussion topic, UK container shipping costs! Look, we are well aware that this isn’t the most exhilarating subject, but buckle in, because thorough research can help save you both time and money. It is hard to know what size, style or service you need, but by the end of this article you will be experts on the matter!

Container Shipping Costs from the UK

Let’s get the heavy stuff out the way first, and help you work out how much it costs to ship a container overseas. Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all answer to this question. Container shipping rates depend on several factors, namely the type of transportation you take, the volume of your move and the destination.

We know this wishy-washy answer is probably not what you want to hear, which is why we have put together the following tables indicating estimates for container shipping costs. You can use these as a marker to give you an initial idea of your container shipping costs.

The tables show the cost of transporting a container port-to-port, via sea, for a household move valued at £38,000.

Container Shipping Costs to Europe

Destination20ft40ft
Italy (Venice)£980 – £1,100£1,680 – £1,400
Spain (Barcelona)£800 – £885£1,070 – £1,200
Sweden (Stockholm)£500 – £550£660 – £730

Container Shipping Costs to North America

Destination20ft40ft
U.S. (New York)£1,800 – £1,970£2,400 – £2,600
Canada (Montreal)£1,900 – £2,070£2,500 – £2,700
Mexico (Veracruz)£1,500 – £1,650£2,000 – £2,240

Container Shipping Costs to Australasia

Destination20ft40ft
NZ (Auckland)£1,500 – £1,700£2,050 – £2,300
AUS (Sydney)£1,340 – £1,490£1,770 – £2,000
AUS (Melbourne)£1,300 – £1,500£1,800 – £1,950

Container Shipping Costs to Asia

Destination20ft40ft
Hong Kong£1,800 – £1,950£2,300 – £2,600
Indonesia (Jakarta)£770 – £850£1,000 – £1,120
Japan (Tokyo)£1,500 – £1,750£2,080 – £2,300

Container Shipping Costs to Africa

Destination20ft40ft
Ghana (Tema)£1,000 – £1,150£1,400 – £1,600
Kenya (Nairobi)£2,200 – £2,400£2,900 – £3,200
S. Africa (Cape Town)£1,300 – £1,500£1,700 – £2,000

Container Shipping Costs to South America

Destination20ft40ft
Venezuela (P. Cabello)£2,100 – £2,300£2,700 – £3,100
Argentina (B.A.)£770 – £870£1,050 – £1,160
Brazil (Rio)£770 – £850£990 – £1,150

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Factors that Influence Container Shipping Costs

Understanding what contributes to your container shipping rates is the first step to cutting costs, and feeling more in control of your move.

The Volume of Your Move

It goes without saying, that transporting a couple of boxes is going to be cheaper than a 5-bedroom house. If you choose to travel via sea-freight then the volume is more important, but if you opt for air-freight, the weight tends to determine container shipping rates.

The Distance of Your Move

Again, this one isn’t rocket science: hopping across the pond to France will cost you substantially less than travelling the 9,000 miles to Australia.

However, something you might not have considered is whether your move is port-to-port or door-to-door. This too can affect your international container shipping costs. If you opt for the latter, expect higher rates. Nonetheless, we still recommend door-to-door delivery; unless of course you fancy carrying a 20-foot container yourself…thought not…

Mode of Transport

Is saving on your container shipping costs of the speed your belongings reach you your priority? There is no right or wrong answer, but whether you pop your container in a plane or on a boat will influence your container shipping rates.

Did you know? On average, you can expect sea-freight to be five times cheaper than airfreight. We have more information on this below.

Note: Opting for air travel is only an option if you have a small volume of goods. If you have anything much larger than a one-bedroom apartment, it won’t fit on a plane, and you will have to transport it via sea.

The Exact Departure and Arrival Port

The exact port you are leaving from and travelling into affects your container shipping costs in two ways:

  1. More popular routes will be cheaper than more obscure ones, as competition drives down prices.
  2. Customs duties and service charges exist in almost all cases but vary depending on which country you are arriving into.

The Time of Year of Your Move

An easy way to save on your container shipping costs is to avoid the moving industry’s high season. Moving during summer, when demand is higher and therefore capacity lower, tends to be more expensive than other times of the year.

container shipping costs

What Modes of Transport Can You Use?

As we mentioned, the type of transport you opt for influence your container shipping costs. However, there is more to think about than just money when it comes to making a decision on this. Explore the following options below to learn more about the pros and cons of each mode of transport.

Sea Freight

This is what most are referring to when talking about or researching container shipping costs. Therefore, it is inevitably the most common choice of transport when moving a container overseas. If you are completing an international move, which is of significant volume and weight, this is likely to be your only option.

✅ It can cover long distances.

✅ It is usually the cheapest option.

✅ It is far more eco-friendly than air-freight.

❌ It takes a long time for your container to arrive.

Air Freight

This is a good option if you have a small volume of goods, and cutting costs of your container shipping is not your priority. We know time is of the essence, especially when you have a million other things on your mind, so don’t rule air freight out, particularly if you have the budget for it.

✅ It is very quick; your container will arrive in just a few days.

❌ Expect high costs; up to ten times more than sea freight! 

❌ Only an option if you are transporting a small volume of things.

❌ Bad for the environment.

Trucks

Virtually all moves will include a truck at some point. Moves within the same country or continent will usually be done entirely by a truck and by the same company. However, UK container shipping tends to be a little more complicated, given that we live on an island… It therefore goes without saying that this becomes problematic for any international move from the UK, unless you can invent a truck with wings of course!

✅ Can complete the entire move with a single company, with guaranteed door-to-door delivery.

❌ Only possible for domestic moves, or those which don’t have to traverse water.

Trains

Again, this only applies if you are travelling across land, which is not all that common when relocating from the UK. However, it is something worth considering if you don’t have any oceans to cross!

✅ Usually cheaper than trucks.

❌ Usually takes longer than travelling via truck.

❌ Only applicable to moves across land.

container shipping costs with all the containers

Types and Sizes Available

Types of Container Shipping

So you thought everything was decided now? Think again…Yes, along with the mode of transport, you also have to choose what type of shipping container best fits your need. Again, what you end up going for will have an effect on your final container shipping costs.

There are two main options: ‘Less Than Container Load’ (LCL) and ‘Full Container Load’ (FCL) which are outlined below.

When to Choose an LCL

Sharing is caring! Container shipping companies have this service in place for those who are only transporting a small volume of things; you can share your container with others travelling to a similar destination. Think of this like public transport!

Container moving costs are cheaper with this option, but only up to a certain volume. After 15 cubic metres choosing an LCL actually becomes more expensive than an FCL.

When to Choose an FCL

You might be thinking, if it is possible to share a container with someone else, why not always do this? You are right, it seems sensible but as mentioned, it only lowers your container shipping costs if you have a small volume of possessions.

There are a couple of other advantages of opting for an FCL:

  • It is quicker. Naturally, if a company is trying to separate and keep track of different people’s goods, everything becomes a little fiddlier. On the flip side, an FCL can be opened once it is at your front door; a door to door taxi ride, rather than changing at the bus stop!
  • Your goods are handled less. This means less margin for error. You may want to keep this in mind particularly if you are transporting fragile goods. Saving money on container shipping costs will feel a little fruitless if half your things turn up in pieces!
  • You can ship a car. Think about the weight of a car, and then think about that falling onto someone else’s bedroom furniture…not a pretty image! However, we know how attached people are to their four-wheels. The answer to this conundrum is to pop your vehicle into an FCL.

Container Shipping Sizes

Hang on in there, you are doing really well; but you also need to consider what size of shipping container you require. This too will influence your final container shipping cost calculations.

It is both a blessing a curse that you don’t usually have many options in this department as most containers are either 20-foot or 40-foot. A blessing because it makes decision-making easier, but a curse as it can be frustrating if neither quite suit your needs. If you are moving a very large volume, then you may need more than one container.

Typical dimensions of a 20ft shipping container

A 20ft container can hold around 30-35 cubic metres and is normally suitable for a 1-2 bedroom move.

What can you fit in a 20 ft container

Size: 6.1m x 2.4m x 2.6m

Total volume: 33.1 m³

Total shipping load: 28,200 kg

Typical dimensions of a 40ft shipping container

A 40ft container can hold around 65-75 cubic metres and is normally suitable for a 4+ bedroom move.

Tip! While a 40ft container has twice the volume of a 20ft container, it cannot carry twice the amount of cargo weight due to the weight of the container itself.

What can you fit in a 40 ft container

Size: 12.2m x 2.4m x 2.6m

Total volume: 67.5 m³

Total shipping load: 26,600 kg

Loading and Delivery Options

Thought you were done? Think again! Loading and delivery options are another thing to factor into your container shipping rates. While these are often incorporated into your removal quotes, it is important that this is specified to prevent any miscommunications. If you are still not sure which removal company to go for, perhaps our list of top international movers will help!

Disclaimer: if you have chosen to go with an LCL, then the following options will not be available to you, so we suggest you skip past this section.

  • Port to port. This is the most basic option. As its name suggests, your good are delivered from one port to the other, and you are responsible for dropping them at the origin port and picking them up at the other end. If you back yourself to get this organised, good on you! It will help to shave some expenses off your container shipping costs.
  • Drop and fill. This is when the container is dropped off at your house, but you fill it yourself. You can then choose whether to use local movers to unload it at your destination, but note that this will be separate from the shipping company.
  • Door to door. Don’t enjoy a logistical headache? You are not alone; despite being the most expensive option, door to door shipping is still the more popular than both port to port and drop and fill. So unless your container shipping cost budget is really digging for coppers, we strongly suggesting opting for door to door delivery.

container shipping costs

Other International Moving Costs

Pop on your graduation robes, because you are now officially container shipping cost experts! However, there is a little more to moving house than simply container shipping rates, so we have done a brief summary of international moving costs here. If you feel like this isn’t sufficient, don’t hesitate to check out our entire page dedicated to this topic.

  • Shipping cars. Car shipping costs vary tremendously depending on how quickly you need your car and which shipping method you use. You can learn more on this page dedicated to vehicle shipping.
  • Insurance. There is no beating round the bush here; putting your worldly possessions into the hands of someone else is stressful. Make it a little less so by covering yourself with insurance.
  • Customs charges and taxes. Before you move abroad, check the regulations of your destination country to see if you will have any taxes or duties imposed on the value of your goods.
  • Packing costs. Sometimes this will be included in your removal company costs. If not, then check out our expert packing guide.
  • Storage costs. If you are not relocating permanently, it might be cheaper to put some items in storage than to lug them all with you. Our page on moving items into storage has more information.

What Next?

First of all, congratulations! Even making it to the end of this article is something to be proud of. Moving house is a stressful task, but now that you know everything about container shipping costs, you are one step closer to your final destination.

If you are feeling disheartened, take a leaf out of Confucius’ book and remember: ‘the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones’.