On occasion, a shipment measures outside of the scope of capabilities of traditional shipping containers. In this instance, specific shipment methods and considerations are needed to absorb the practicalities of moving such large loads. An experienced freight forwarding company, such as the team here at Radius Warehouse and Logistics, need to have the contacts and information to make shipments like these work. This guide will look at the current guidelines for these shipments and how best to organise freight movement.

What is ‘Out of Gauge’ Cargo

When a shipment is deemed too big to fit into six-sided shipping containers, it is marked at Out of Gauge. This means it will require specialist movement services to ensure it arrives at the end destination in one piece. Shipments falling into the category are generally over 12m in length, 2.3m in width and 2.6m in height.

Out of Gauge freight movement is more costly, requires more expertise and can take longer. So it’s important to enlist the help of specialists when dealing with them.

How to deal with Out of Gauge freight


With larger freight, you need to plan in advance. Storage facilities and freight movement vehicles are generally equipped for items that fit within the normal dimensions. To move larger items, you’ll need to acquire extra container options and the facilities to load these safely. Effective planning and discussions with all points of contact and contractors will help you to do this.


The freight forwarding company you are working with will request additional information about this shipment. This allows them to make the necessary arrangements and ensure all related costs and time-restraints are fed back to you for approval. Make sure you provide:

  • The origin of the shipment
  • The end destination
  • Specific information about the goods that are being shipped
  • Any site requirements for the end destination
  • Information about the end destinations site access
  • Information about the breakability and sensitivity of the shipment Information about whether additional machinery or equipment may be needed (cranes etc)
  • The expected delivery dates required for the shipment

Container options for Out Of Gauge shipments

As you can imagine, moving larger shipments either within your own country or internationally requires unique container solutions. Out of Gauge shipments can be packaged into three main solutions – Flat Rack Containers, Platform Containers or Open Top Containers.

Flat Rack Containers

These are used when a larger shipment can be side or top loaded. They are ideally suited for products such as ships, boats or machinery parts that have to be delivered in one piece. Generally, the ones in the market are 40ft. However, these can be combined to accommodate larger and heavier shipments. Cargo shipped on flat rack containers are secured using cross strap lashings. There are two types:

Fixed End – On both of the shorter sides, the ends are fixed into place. This provides added strength and increases the top load capabilities

Collapsible End – Here, the shorter end sides can be collapsed down. If the cargo needs to, it can stick out from either end during transport. This increases the possibility of shipping even the biggest items.

Platform Containers

Platform containers have a flatbed structure. They are normally built using wood with a reliable steel frame for added strength. This reinforced base can be combined without end walls for added space. The benefits of platform containers are their ability to accommodate very heavy weights within a smaller area. They are commonly used for awkwardly shaped items and those unsuitable for flat rack containers. Again, lashings are used to secure cargo – particularly that which weighs up to 2,000kg.

Open-Top Containers

For items such as timber or metal, open-top containers have a soft covering, such as tarpaulin, rather than a solid roof. They are an ideal choice for when products need a crane or if cargo needs to be loaded through an end door. This is a more expensive option and comes in only 20ft and 40ft sized.

Common hurdles with Out of Gauge cargo

Due to its stature and specific needs, it’s not uncommon for shippers to come into issues when attempting to move larger cargo. Below, we address 5 of the most common issues and how to avoid them.

Sourcing large-enough equipment

If moving via road freight, you will require the assistance of vehicles that can accommodate this larger load. The owners will also have to have an Abnormal Load Permit if the overall dimensions of your shipment exceed 18.65m length, 2.90m wide or 44000kgs. If the load exceeds 5m in width, they will also need to acquire a Highway Authority Special Order BE16 Authorisation and may require a Police Assistant or Police Escort.

The best way to move past this hurdle is to work with a freight forwarder that has experience in the movement of road freight and oversized cargo.

Sea freight restrictions

International freight movement prohibits Out of Gauge cargo from being shipped in a closed shipping container. This means you’ll have to opt for an open-top or flat rack container instead – both of which demand different prices to a standard closed top. If using a flat rack, these can cause a shipment to exceed the UK Abnormal Load Permit restrictions and you’ll also have to pay for an NCB inspection at the port. If for any reason this inspection fails, there is an additional fee to re-secure.

Again, this can be avoided by working with an experienced freight forwarder who can advise on the best method for sea freight.

Not providing accurate specifications

The documentation for Out of Gauge shipments states that you must accurately list the dimensions of the cargo. If, when measured, this information doesn’t match up, you could face delays or financial prosecution.

The best way to avoid this is to have technical drawings created for the load.

Improper lashings or securing methods

The risk to safety if an Out of Gauge shipment moves is significant. Plus, the financial implications associated if the cargo is damaged could be enough to put a company out of business. NCB inspections at port ensure the product is safe for sea freight but it should be secured at all points throughout the journey. Freight forwarders have a wealth of contacts and information that can be used to ensure safety is kept paramount at all times.

Misunderstood costs

Larger shipments are more expensive to transport. They require specialist vehicles, lashings, paperwork etc. If you’re not accustomed to moving larger cargo shipments, these costs can begin to add up. Again, working with an expert is one such way to avoid this – allowing you to control the associated costs effectively.

Let Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services help

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, our team has worked with many clients to ship cargo of all different shapes and sizes. We’re here to help you tackle the complexities that go hand-in-hand with international shipments. If you would like more information on the logistics of Out of Gauge shipments or would simply like to discuss your project, get in contact with us today.