What qualifies as an oversized cargo shipment for sea freight?

Oversized cargo has different definitions dependent on the mode of transportation required. We've put a quick guide together to help demystify this aspect of freight forwarding.


Oversized cargo has multiple terms

Other terms used to describe oversized cargo are - out of gauge cargo (OOG), over dimensional cargo (ODC) and project cargo. Typically most are relevant to a cargo which is too big or too heavy to go into a standard shipping container. The ubiquitous intermodal shipping container facilitates cost effective transportation of cargo across road, rail and ocean carriers.  This is because a standard size box can be loaded from a truck or rail carriage or onto a ship and visa-versa much faster than individual wooden crates, pallets, boxes and barrels.


Project Cargo is slightly different

This is because there are often more factors involved than simply the size and weight of the shipment. However, project cargo could be relevant to any form of transport, and although often outsized, is essentially a complex logistical shipment which has time constraints, tight delivery dates, and specialist safety requirements.


What are standard size shipping containers'

In 1968 ISO 668 was introduced which defined the shipping container dimensions used today. The 'ISO' stands for 'International Organisation for Standardisation', who are the body who have set the specifications to ensure that they are uniform and can be packed onto a ship properly. This ensures the shipping containers fit perfectly onto ships; lock into chassis and trailers; and stack perfectly on railcars.

There are seven ISO standard containers lengths, however, the most common containers in the shipping and road haulage are 20ft and 40ft.

  • 20 ft (6.10 m)
  • 40 ft (12.19 m)


What is considered as oversized cargo'

For a shipment to be classified as oversized or a heavy load shipment - it's actual size and/or weight is greater than the maximum allowed size in the country through which territory shipment is delivered. However, for ocean transportation any piece of cargo that does not fit in a standard 40ft container is considered oversized.

As a quick guide, here are the 20ft and 4ft internal dimensions

  • 20 ft (6.10 m): 589cm long x 234cm wide x 238cm (door height)
  • 40 ft (12.19 m): 1201cm x 234 cm x 238 cm (door height)
  • 40ft High Cube or HC (12.19 m): – 1201cm x 234cm x 258cm (door height)

Special equipment can be used to ship anything which falls outside the standards set-out above - Open Top, Flat Rack, Platform, but these are also generally only available in 20ft and 40ft lengths.


But it's not necessarily that straight forward

The maximum cargo weight you can load largely depends on restrictions and/or limitations of the shipping line used, the nature of the cargo and specific details of the shipment. This also impacts on the port capabilities and the country specific road haulage weight limitations.

Example, you can ship 30,000 in a container but you have to load and unload on quay, then comply with weight limits for each country for inland movements.

This means that depending on where you are shipping to and from, these numbers can differ - so it's important to research on the specifications in your area and the area where you are shipping to.


Helping you with oversized and/or heavy cargo

The Spatial Global freight team has decades of experience and relevant expertise in handling standard and non standard shipments. Working with you from the beginning to the end of your shipping process, we'll ensure that your needs are met in the best possible way. Our team of experts are here to help, with everything from customs clearance to maximising the cost effectiveness of each shipment.

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