Client Portal Login

Please Login to use Client Portal


Become an Agent

The "American Dream" Program

Credit application

Apply now!

How to Ship Via Ocean – Simplified

Apr 03, 2018

New to ocean freight? You may be wondering what the basic process is from start to finish. Once you know the basics of ocean freight shipping it will make the fine details easier to understand as well.

The journey from Shipper to Consignee includes these activities:

  • Export Haulage to Origin Warehouse
  • Export Customs Clearance
  • Origin Handling for FCL or LCL
  • Ocean Freight
  • Import Customers Clearance
  • Destination Handling
  • Import Haulage

Responsibility for arranging and paying for each step in this process is designated in the agreement between the shipper and the consignee. Let’s take a closer look at these steps.

Ocean Freight.jpgExport Haulage 

Your shipment starts its journey by being transported to the freight forwarder’s origin warehouse. This move is often completed by means of truck or combination of truck and train. Transit time for this step varies from a few hours to weeks and is dependent on the distance and geography involved.

If you are responsible for this step, your freight forwarder may offer this service. If not, you may arrange for this transport or move it yourself, to save the associated cost.

Export Customs Clearance 

Export customs clearance is required in the country of origin for registration of cargo prior to leaving the country. This step is completed by a licensed customs house broker. A declaration detailing the cargo, plus supporting documents, are required to complete this part of the process. The supporting documents vary from country to country. Your freight forwarder will be able to tell you which ones are required.

Origin Handling

There are several activities completed, by the freight forwarder or his agent, in the origin handling step. First, the cargo is unloaded from the truck that brought it to the origin warehouse. It is put in a staging area where it is counted and inspected. It is compared to the booking details and the forwarder’s cargo receipt is issued, confirming that the cargo has been received for shipping.

If the shipment is LCL (Less-than-Container-Load), it will be placed in a stack in the origin warehouse awaiting consolidation with other shipments in a container destined for the same port. 

Shipments are loaded into the shipping line’s container and trucked to the port a few days prior to vessel departure. When they arrive at the port, containers intended to load on the same ship are stacked together until the ship is ready.

It is always the freight forwarder who is responsible for origin handling.  Payment for this step is, however, designated in the agreement between the shipper and consignee.

Ocean Freight

Ocean freight is performed by a shipping line under a contract of carriage with the freight forwarder. A container may be transported on multiple vessels, yet the house bill of lading issued by the freight forwarder may only list the ship on the first leg of its journey. It may not designate the vessel carrying the cargo to its destination port. 

For LCL shipments, this information may be completely omitted from the bill of lading. If you are interested, you may be able to gather this information from the shipping line’s website.

Ocean freight, and relevant surcharges, are charged directly to the freight forwarder. The freight forwarder then breaks down the charges proportionately and invoices the responsible party according to the amount of freight shipped. 

Import Customs Clearance

Shipments must clear customs before leaving the customs bonded area to enter the destination country. This process may be completed before the cargo actually arrives and is often completed by a freight forwarder, his agent, or a customs house broker. This procedure involves the declaration of the type of goods and value of the shipment on the designated forms. It facilitates registration and collection of duty payments. 

Destination Handling 

Destination handling consists of several activities completed by the freight forwarder at their destination office. It starts with the checking of documents received from the freight forwarder’s office or agent at the point of origin. The original carrier bill of lading is submitted to the shipping line. The container is collected at the port and moved to the destination warehouse where it is unpacked. Then the cargo is inspected and sorted for further transport or to await collection by the consignee.

Import Haulage 

Import haulage is the movement of the cargo from the warehouse to its final destination. It is typically transported by truck or a combination of truck and train. This step is most often arranged by either the freight forwarder or the consignee.

This is the typical ocean freight shipping process. Now you have a better understanding of the different steps your cargo requires along its journey. Are you ready for your next shipment to travel via ocean freight? 

American Group is a 3PL with decades of experience guiding businesses through the selection, preparation, and shipping of their freight. Contact us for assistance with your next shipment by phone at 866-553-6608 or by email at We’re here to make Shipping.Simplified®.


Photo attribution: Copyright: <a href=''>evrenkalinbacak / 123RF Stock Photo</a>