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Freight from the USA

Sizes of Containers | Stuffing Methods | Types of PU Locations | Reading FCL Rate | Avoiding Mistakes | S.O.C.


Our primary business is shipping from the U.S. freight LCL. Shipping freight LCL means sending from the USA cargo packed in boxes and crates. Shipping freight LCL, unlike FCL, does not require special knowledge and skills. Shipping freight LCL is more flexible and less restricted at any stage of international shipping. That's why we only provide FCL service for our repeated B2B or experienced customers. Otherwise, we'll consider FCL inquiries in a case-by-case scenario or refer customers to our business partners.

However, if you can pack all your goods for shipping from the USA in boxes or crates, our economy LCL freight service should meet your international transportation needs.

LCL freight rates are calculated per cubic meters or cubic feet. Watch this video on YouTube about how large a cubic meter is. Calculate an LCL price quote in our online freight calculator by selecting LCL service, and book your shipment 24/7. Receive our instructions on shipping cargo LCL within 24 hours. Watch this 3-minute video on YouTube about operating with our LCL online freight calculator.


FCL means shipping from the U.S. entire containers

FCL is the abbreviation "Full Container Load" used in international cargo transportation.

In respect of cargo transportation from the USA by sea, FCL means an ocean freight service that grants rights for shipping from the USA cargo in entire multimodal sea freight containers: 20', 40', 40HC, etc.

Typically, with FCL, containers are delivered, loaded, and sealed for international transportation from the United States at shippers' facilities. Loaded containers are trucked within the U.S. by land to steamship lines' container yards (CY), where they are waiting to be loaded onto cargo vessels for further transportation from the U.S. to their destinations overseas.

Please note that ocean freight carriers' container yards are not necessarily seaports. Container yards can be within landlocked city areas in the U.S. and destination countries. Such container yards are connected with seaports by rail or truck lines. I.e., FCL ocean freight may include a part of ground transportation.

Do not confuse the containers' trucking between CYs and seaports, which is included in FCL ocean freight, with local containers' trucking from/to CY. Such trucking is called Pre-carriage and On-carriage or local trucking. That assumes containers' ground transportation from/to container yards to/from cargo locations. Local trucking is NOT included in ocean freight rates. If an ocean freight carrier offers local trucking, local trucking costs are separated from ocean freight.

Also, note that departure and arrival ports are not necessarily in countries of origin and destinations. Containers can be transported from/to seaports of departure/arrival to container yards in other countries by rail, tracks, or smaller local vessels (fiders).

Finally, there could be direct shipping from the USA to the destination country OR shipping from the USA with trans-shipping via a hub seaport somewhere on the way to the port of entry to the final destination. For example, shipping containers from the USA via ports of Hong Kong, Singapore, Hamburg, etc.

40' seafreight container for international shipping

Please note that even though you are shipping from the U.S., a cargo that is sufficient to fill a 20-foot container (i.e., your total shipping volume is about 15 – 25 cubic meters), we'd still recommend you consider options to ship it with our Economy LCL Sea Freight Service. In certain circumstances, you may find that shipping from USA LCL is more convenient and cost-effective than FCL shipping.

With LCL, unlike with FCL, shippers are not obligated to load and secure cargo in containers. Unless you are experienced in container stuffing, think twice before ordering a full container.

Also, if you are shipping from USA boxes, crates, or pallets and self-deliver cargo to an LCL freight terminal (CFS - Container Freight Station. Do not confuse with Container Yard), then:

However, if you need to deliver larger cargo from the USA that fills an entire 40-foot container, then shipping FCL can be the only cost-effective option.

Also, shipping cargo from the U.S. in multimodal sea freight containers should be safer, easier organized, and more cost-effective than other services, such as Ro-Ro or Break-Bulk. The only limitation is that the sizes and weight of shipping goods must fit in a 40-foot sea freight container.

There are other sizes of multimodal sea freight containers available. It is designed to ship from the USA specific kinds of cargo. However, sea freight containers other than 20 or 40 feet are always subject to equipment availability at container yards.


Shipping Household Goods from the U.S. FCL Vs. Shipping goods with International Moving Companies

If you are a first-time international shipper moving from the USA overseas, do not confuse FCL cargo transportation with moving goods overseas with international moving companies.

International moving companies should deliver a container to your door. Then they should professionally load and fasten your goods inside the container. They should process all formalities and shipping documentation with U.S. Customs and ocean freight carriers on your behalf. If there is an agreement, the international moving company can load a car or other motor vehicles into the container. However, services from international moving companies are costly.

If you ship household goods from the USA FCL on your own, you are responsible for meeting a container at a safe place and loading and securing all your belongings.

After delivering an empty container, the driver will wait for one or two hours for free until you finish loading and sealing your container. If you are not ready and delay with the load, the additional cost of waiting time of $50-$75+ per hour will accumulate for each additional hour. Always be prepared to meet and load your container. After you finish, your sealed container should be delivered to the container yard. The international transportation of your goods from the USA to the destination overseas will begin.

If you ship an entire container on your own, then the shipper is held responsible for submitting all necessary documentation related to international shipping.

Once your container is entered into the commerce zone of your destination country, you (or your cargo recipient/consignee) are held responsible for meeting the container, customs clearness, and paying all charges associated with the container release. Your consignee should then arrange the container's local delivery, unload it, and return the empty container to the container yard without delay.

The procedures for shipping from U.S. entire containers are quite complex. However, if you are well organized and keep control of your international delivery, all this should cost you the money you would pay an international moving company.

Once again, if you can pack all your goods in shipping boxes or crates, then always consider the shipping cargo LCL as an alternative. If you ship from the USA less than 10-15 cubic meters, then shipping LCL should be less complicated, more convenient, and cheaper than shipping an entire container. 


International multimodal sea freight containers specification

Sea freight containers in international shipping

The most common way to deliver goods from the USA overseas FCL is shipping 20', 40', and 40HC multimodal sea freight containers. However, there are other types of containers in the international cargo transportation industry, such as 45' High Cubes, Open Top Containers, Flat Racks sizes of 20' and 40', etc. However, such containers are always subject to availability at container yards. If you are shipping regular cargo FCL, then consider these three types of multimodal sea  freight containers:

20-foot standard multimodal sea freight container
Interior Dimensions (L x W x H): 5.919 m x 2.340 m x 2.380 m (19'-5'' x 7'-8'' x 7'-9' 1/2'')
Door Opening (W x H): 2.286 m x 2.278 m (7'-6" x 7'-5 1/2")
Tare Weight: 1,900 kg (4,189 lbs)
Cubic Capacity: 33.0 cbm (1,165 cubic ft)
Payload*: 22,100 kg (48,721 lbs)

40-foot standard multimodal sea freight container

The Interior Dimensions of 40 foot container is ~ L 476" x W 92" x H 94". Door Opening is W 90" x H 89.6"

Interior Dimensions (L x W x H): 12.051 m x 2.340 m x 2.380 m (39'-6 1/2''x 7'-8'' x 7'-9 1/2'')
Door Opening (W x H): 2.286 m x 2.278 m (7'-6" x 7’-5 1/2")
Tare Weight: 3,084 kg (6,799 lbs)
Cubic Capacity: 67.3 cbm (2,377 cubic ft)
Payload*: 27,397 kg (60,401 lbs)

40-foot high cube multimodal sea freight container
Interior Dimensions (L x W x H): 12.056 m x 2.347 m x 2.684 m (39'-6 1/2'' x 7'-8 1/4''x 8'-9 1/2''
Door Opening (W x H): 2.340 m x 2.585 m (7'-8" x 8'-5 3/4")
Tare Weight: 2,900 kg (6,393 lbs)
Cubic Capacity: 76.0 cbm (2,684 cubic ft)
Payload*: 29,600 kg (65,256 lbs)

*Payload weight exceeds over-the-road legal limits in the US and Canada. The recommended maximum payload for shipping from the USA and Canada is 35,000 lbs per 20' and 42,000 lbs per 40'.


Three methods of sea freight container stuffing

  1. A 'Live Load' - means that a trucker will deliver an empty container to your location and wait while you load, secure, and seal your cargo. Free loading time varies from one to two hours, depending on the trucking company's service conditions. If you exceed this free waiting time limit, then you pay $50-75+ per hour for each additional hour.
  2. A 'Drop and Pick' - means that a domestic trucking company will deliver and leave an empty container at your location for several days. Then, they will return to pick up the loaded, secured, and sealed container to the container yard for further shipping from the USA overseas.

    Please keep in mind that DROP AND PICK MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE under certain circumstances and in certain areas.

    In respect of the calculation of total shipping cost in international shipping from the U.S., the local container's transportation with 'drop and pick' typically costs twice as much as with 'live load.' However, 'drop and pick' has the advantage that the shipper takes time to load and secure cargo in containers.
    If you load a container near a container yard, then the cost of 'drop and pick' transportation will likely not be much higher than with a 'live load.' In this case, it could be worth the additional time to load and secure cargo in the container. However, if you are far away from the container yard, the 'live load' may be the only option for transporting containers from and to the container yard. Also, the container must be returned according to the schedule. Otherwise, there may be huge fines associated with missing the time of the container return.
  3. 'In a Warehouse Quality Loading' - (do not confuse shipping entire contains with international moving companies) means that the shipper self-deliver loose goods to the warehouse of the professional quality-loading company that specializes in the quality loading of goods in sea freight containers for further shipping from the U.S. overseas. Once the goods are received and accepted by the warehouse, they will be loaded and secured in a sea freight container by a warehouse staff for an additional cost. Then, the container will be delivered to CY for shipping from the USA abroad.
    The 'In a Warehouse Quality Loading' method is not always available. This shipping service can be costly. However, it should be less expensive than hiring an international moving company. Plus, the professional quality loading company warehouse should guarantee the safety of cargo in the container during international shipping from the USA overseas. If the quality loading company is located near the container yard and has a permit for the container yard, then with this method, you may save compared to shipping your goods with an international moving company.
  4. Loading dock for international shipping by seaInternational shipping quality loading warehouseATTENTION TO CAR SHIPPERS! International shipping from USA cars and any other motorized vehicles that require U.S. DMV registration (such as shipping from U.S. motorcycles, boats on trailers, jets, etc.) in sea freight containers is the priority of quality loading warehouses. As soon as motor vehicles are delivered to the company's warehouse along with their original titles, the quality loading warehouse should pick up an empty sea freight container from a container yard and professionally load and secure vehicles in the container for further shipping from the USA overseas.
    Keep in mind; that any motor vehicle can not be approved for international shipping from the U.S. without the original title validation by U.S. Customs. Lack of validated title on just one vehicle loaded in a container will delay or reject the entire container. It also may result in a roll-over, storage, etc. charges and other penalties from the U.S. Customs, seaport authorities, steamship line, etc.
    Besides the quality loading of motor vehicles in sea freight containers, as a rule, validation of titles with the U.S. Customs is part of the job of quality loading warehouses. The warehouse's staff should validate the original titles of all vehicles with the U.S. Customs to obtain a Customs release for the shipping from the U.S. abroad. Then validated (stamped) by the U.S. Customs, titles should be returned to the shipper or (by request) mailed to the consignee overseas.

Types of pickup locations in respect of international shipping freight FCL

  1. 'Commercial facility' – provides a loading dock with a ramp and forklift. The shipper is responsible for loading and securing cargo inside sea freight containers delivered from a CY by a local trucking company for the load and return to the CY for further international transportation from the U.S overseas.
    After you finish loading and sealing a container before it leaves, ensure that you have on hand a copy of the dock receipt with the container and seal numbers on it, signed and dated by the trucker. Keep it on file as proof of the load.
  2. 'Residential location or Business with limited access' – No ramp and forklift are available. Shipper loads and secures shipping goods in the container.
    You may consider hiring a professional staffing company (an international or local moving company) for the purpose of properly loading your sea freight container for international shipping from the U.S. If you are hiring an international or local moving company, then pay attention to the time slot for the sea freight container delivery.
    Ocean freight carriers and their trucking companies CAN NOT guarantee the time slot on the container delivery. Discuss that with your loaders in advance.
  3. 'Quality Warehouse Loading' - The international shipper delivers pre-packed cargo to the nearest available international shipping company's warehouse, if available. Once goods are received, a sea freight container will be delivered to the warehouse for the load. The shipping cost will include charges related to cargo receiving at the warehouse, storage (if any), loading and securing cargo in the sea freight container, title validation (if shipping motor vehicle(s), etc.
  4. 'Port/Ocean freight only' – No sea freight container pre-carriage is included in the freight. Such an 'ocean freight only' option is ONLY available for:

    a. Shippers that are experienced in international cargo transportation from the USA;
    b. Freight forwarders and NVOCCs;
    c. International shipping of 'shipper owned containers' (SOC) including above a. & b. requirements, if available. 

    With this 'ocean freight only' option, international shippers are also entirely responsible for obtaining permits to access piers or rail yards of steamship lines (SSL). In the USA, this generally requires a Uniform Intermodal Interchange and Facilities Access Agreement or UIIA. Any roll-over charges that may occur during container pulling and any other charges that may be added to the shipping cost of the inland part in international shipping with this 'ocean freight only' option are on the shippers' account.

    Please note that the shipper is responsible for empty container returns at destinations. 


Helpful hints. Reading FCL sea freight quotes in shipping from the USA.

Most of the time, FCL shipping quotes on cargo transportation from the USA would be 'DOOR-PORT FOB vessel' or 'Free Out.' To be more specific - 'EXW (Ex Works) at named place of cargo pickup TO named destination seaport Container Yard, FOB (Free On Board) ship's rail at named port of origin.'

That means that FCL quotes in shipping from the USA contain charges related to:

  1. Container(s) delivery to the cargo location in the USA for the load and return of the loaded container back to the container yard (CY);
  2. Origin THC – Terminal Handling Charges, fees related to U.S. Customs export formalities and export documents turnover;
  3. The ocean freight. The cost of international cargo transportation between origin and destination container yards.

Keep in mind that FCL shipping quotes typically DO NOT include any charges at destinations.

Upon the arrival of a container to a container yard in the destination country, the consignee (recipient of shipping goods) will be responsible for all charges related to the container recovery at the destination. To get cargo release, the consignee must pay:

  1. Destination Terminal Handling Charges (THC);
  2. Destination Customs related charges,
  3. Cargo release and ocean freight carrier's destination agent fees,
  4. Cost of local transportation to truck the container "to the door" to unload and empty container return. 
  5. Other applicable destination charges, fees, and taxes (if any).

A sample of FCL quote on shipping cargo from the USA:

COMMODITY: Dry salted Lambskins
EXW (Ship from): Dixon CA 95620, USA
SHIP TO: Sidney, Australia
BASIS: Door to Port
TRANSIT: 35 Days
20' Standard USD 4050;
40' Standard USD 5150;
40' High Cube USD 5150

* Above rates are valid through 6/7/2007
* Rates DO NOT include import customs clearance fees, duties, taxes, or marine cargo insurance.
* Marine cargo insurance cost is 1.5% of cargo value subject to a deductible of USD 1,000 per container, a minimum premium of USD 350 per sea freight container.
* Maximum legal payload 18 metric tons per 20' & 20 metric tons per 40'; cargo must be evenly spread along the sea freight container floor.
* Plus International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) Euro 14 per container for all cargo via UK/Continent/Scan-Balt/Black Sea
* Plus ocean freight carrier security fee (CSF) for all USA and Canadian ports of loading, each export ocean freight container for USD 6
* Containers must be returned "CLEAN AND ODOR FREE." Any container cleaning costs, if any, will be for the account of the shipper.


Avoiding common mistakes in international shipping from the USA using FCL

A. Storage/demurrage charges at destinations.

Several days before your container will arrive at the destination, your consignee (recipient) should receive an arrival notice. When obtaining a bill of lading, ensure that the consignee's contact information initially provided in a booking request is correct.  

Act promptly! Free storage time at a destination container yard is very limited. Depending on the destination, it varies between 7 to 14 days. After that, storage/demurrage may dramatically increase the total shipping cost of your international shipping from the USA.

By law, your consignee can work on the imported cargo recovery directly with the destination country's customs and other parties related to your international ocean freight shipment.

However, if the consignee is not familiar with import procedures in the international cargo transportation industry, then we suggest that your consignee immediately request professionals to complete the import cargo release on his behalf. It can be your destination's country customs broker or a licensed freight forwarder. Provide them with the arrival notice along with other documents required by destination authorities. They will charge a reasonable fee for their service. However, they should obtain customs and warehouse releases in your international shipping with no (or minimum) storage/demurrage charges. 

B. S.O.C. - Shipper Owned Containers in international shipping from the USA.

When you book an international FCL ocean freight shipment and request container delivery for the load, then you "rent" the container from the steamship line that you use for shipping from the USA. "Container's Rent" charges are included in the international ocean freight rate. However, the shipper should always remember that after a container is released at the destination and left the container yard to be unloaded at the consignee's facility, it must be returned empty and in good shape to the container yard within a certain time limit. Otherwise, container detention charges will arise.

If your destination facility is far away from the container yard, then you should pay attention to possible charges for container detention.

For example, upon your cargo release at the destination container yard, your container must continue to travel by rail thousands of miles away from the container yard in bond or not. Then, the empty container must be returned to the container yard.

In this situation, to avoid sea freight container detention charges and eliminate expenses related to the container return, the only option is using S.O.C. - Shipper Owned Containers. It is sometimes called a "One-way" sea freight container.     

S.O.C. means that you buy a container to ship cargo from the USA at the origin. Then, the sea freight container is your property, and you are not obligated to return it. After it is emptied, you may sell it, use it for storage, destroy it, etc. 
There are a lot of dealers around that can sell new and used multimodal sea freight containers for your international shipping from the USA. However, keep in mind that a STEAMSHIP LINE MAY NOT ACCEPT S.O.C. TO THE SHIPPING FROM USA WITHOUT CERTIFIED INSPECTION.

Before purchasing a container for international shipping from the USA overseas, you should consider:

Why do you need S.O.C? Consider a reload released by customs cargo from the original sea freight container into a trailer or another container purchased at the destination.

If you still need a S.O.C, then think about:


C. Shipper's responsibilities on commodity and export and import documentation submitted to international shipping.

When transporting cargo from the USA overseas, the shipper should clearly understand that he/she is held responsible for the description and legality of the commodity and the sufficiency of shipping documents submitted to international shipping.

Ocean freight carrier's bill of lading, the mandatory document in international cargo transportation by the sea that acts as a title for your shipped goods, as a rule, states' SHIPPER'S LOAD AND COUNT' and 'SAID BY SHIPPER TO CONTAIN.' That means that the international ocean freight carrier (and a freight forwarder who represents this carrier) is not responsible for information provided by the shipper on his commodity. 

An international freight forwarder should guide shippers in the complexity of international shipping procedures. However, it is the shipper's responsibility to provide all necessary international shipping documents related to his/her shipment that will be required by origin and destination country officials.

Below is the list of commonly used documents required to be submitted in international shipping by sea:


A. International Ocean freight Bill of Lading – Ocean freight carrier's transport document. Shows shipping commodity, cargo routing, consigner and consignee information, etc. It acts as a title for shipping goods.

B.1. For commercial international ocean freight shipments - a Commercial Invoice. A complete description of the commodity being shipped.

B.2. For shipping household goods and personal belongings – a Valued Packing List. An inventory list with a value assigned to each item being shipped.

Please note that some courtiers require proforma commercial invoices on shipping from USA household goods or personal effects as well. However, having a complete valued packing list submitted at the origin upon destination Customs request makes it easier to transfer a valued packing list into the form of a proforma commercial invoice.   

In respect of U.S. Customs, all commercial invoices (and valued packing lists) must be in English and show:


D. Packing list in international shipping - Breakdown description: pieces, weights, and packing materials. (Examples - Wood Pallets, Skids, Crates, Boxes, Dunnage, Straw Packing, etc.)

E. Fumigation Certificate - Certification that cargo and packing materials were fumigated after the cargo had been containerized and is free of Infestation.

F. Special Documents - Dependent on commodity and country of origin.

Certificate of Origin
North American Free Trade Agreement Certificate of Origin (N.A.F.T.A.)
Packing Declaration
Dangerous Goods Declaration - hazardous materials
Fish and Wildlife Declaration
Consular Legalized documents

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