When moving cargo internationally, sea freight is one of the most regularly used and long-standing. Whether you’re moving cars from the manufacturing point to the end customer or need to ship components to your warehouse, companies of all different sizes rely on it daily. If you’re not accustomed to the world of freight movement, the amount of information out there can be daunting. Your options are numerous and choosing the right one helps you abide by specified budgets, minimise delays and reduce the risk of damage upon arrival.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different types of sea freight services available to ensure you understand which best suits your needs.

Why is sea freight movement so popular?

Throughout the years, we have always moved products from country-to-country by sea. It is one of the most reliable, economical and traditional options at our disposal. And even in 2020, where aeroplanes can reach other countries quicker and vehicles can pass through borders with ease, there is continued popularity for sea freight. Some of the key benefits that keep customers utilising this option are:


There is very little competition on pricing when it comes to freight movement. This is largely due to the conditions – travelling by sea poses less of a threat to cargo and employees. In fact, some research shows that it can be up to 6x cheaper.


Sea freight companies can generally accommodate much larger shipments as well as individual packages. Those on the smaller end can be grouped together to fill a container which allows the shippers to share the shipping costs. Additionally, the space offered on a large freight vessel means Out of Gauge or bulkier cargo can also be moved with little issues.


Freight moving vessels are designed to meet the needs of shipments. They are designed specifically for the protection of goods and the safety of employees. Regulations in place help to minimise incidents and sealed containers can now be locked to improve security during movement.

Lower carbon footprint

If sustainability is a focus, sea freight is one of the least impactful on the environment. Ships are shown to be carbon-efficient, producing significantly fewer emissions than air or road vehicles.

What are the different sea freight services?

Within sea freight, there are 4 main services you’ll need to consider. These include FCL, LCL, RORO and Dry Bulk Shipping. Below, we will go into each method to help you identify the most relevant.


Full Container Load shipments are used when the cargo shipped by a client can fill an entire container. They are best suited to individuals who have a lot of individual packages to send in one go. In general, a shipment is deemed suitable for FCL if the cargo load can fill a 20’ or 40’ container. You can also choose to use FCL if your cargo does not fill the container, but you accept the flat rate regardless. For businesses shipping regularly to specific countries, FCL is the ideal option. Containers generally have a flat shipping rate and it is down to the client to fill them.


  • There is a reduced risk of damage with FCL shipments due to the cargo being moved less frequently
  • Delivery times are normally shorter, as the cargo does not have to be deconsolidated or consolidated along the way
  • If you are shipping large quantities, FCL shipments can work out more cost-effectively with a flat rate covering all cargo.


  • If you are unable to fill a container fully, the flat rate may work out more expensive per shipment. These costs will implicate you and the customer alike
  • If you’re shipping smaller cargo volumes, FCL is generally not the most suitable option.


Less than Container Load relates to shipments, as the name suggests, that doesn’t fill an entire container. In this instance, they are grouped with shipments from other sources and are sometimes called groupage shipments. The freight company will consolidate these goods together to fill a container and issue the appropriate fees to the shipper according to how much space they accommodate.

Upon arrival, the goods will be deconsolidated and sent off to their final destinations individually. This service is ideal for smaller and less-time sensitive shipments.


  • LCL shipments are generally more cost-effective than hiring an entire container – especially if you’re only shipping smaller cargo loads. They are not charged by weight, but instead volume-based storage space.
  • The logistics behind LCL shipments are much simpler and suitable for smaller, less experienced businesses
  • You can collect shipments directly from the warehouse if needed. This minimises the need for a middle-man between landing and the end customer.


  • As all cargo within a container needs to be checked against a country’s import and customs regulations, LCL shipments can become delayed. If one parcel or shipper hasn’t filled in the information correctly, the rest of them will suffer. And the costs associated with this will be shared by all consignees who share the container.
  • During the deconsolidation process, you’re likely to lose a few days. This delays shipping and increases delivery times
  • There is a heightened risk of damage because of additional movements.


Roll-on/Roll-off shipping generally refers to the movement of vehicles overseas. It takes place on specialist vessels and refers to the name in which these vehicles are loaded. Using integral loading ramps they can be driven on and off quicker and more efficiently than other shipping means.


  • It is one of the cheapest international shipping options in contrast to exclusive container services or air shipping.
  • There is less preparation needed before utilising RORO. Other methods may require you to remove all petrol and disconnect the battery which uses excessive time.
  • RORO is a convenient method of vehicle transportation and allows you to get back on the road quickly.


  • RORO services aren’t available in every single country or at every single port. This means you may be restricted to the locations you can ship to.
  • This shipping service can take a long time – even up to a couple of months, in some instances.
  • There is less protection offered to vehicles in RORO transportation than closed containers.
  • You need to be able to drive or roll the vehicle in order to utilise this service.

Dry Bulk

As the name suggested, this shipping method largely applies to the movement of dry bulk products. Namely, you’ll find it used for the transportation of iron core, coal, grain, lumber and other steel products. This process requires cargo to be kept dry with moisture causing significant damage and resulting in considerable financial implications.


  • Quick delivery times are achievable as the container documents detail all of the goods contained.
  • The containers used provide good protection against bad weather, temperature variations, fire, theft and impact. This reduces the risk of deterioration, keeping the product pristine and reducing the chance of moisture getting in.


  • Many products suitable for dry bulk shipping are classified as ‘Dangerous Goods’. This means they require additional attention during the entire shipping process. Delays like this could have an impact on your delivery times.
  • If moisture does get into the shipment, the cargo can be ruined. This will incur significant costs for the shipowner and loss for the shipper.

Whichever method you decide suits your needs, we have an expert team at Radius Warehouse and Logistic Services who can take care of the logistics. Get in contact today.