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The Hidden Costs Of Underloading Containers

Bison Group

7 Sep 2 Minutes



If you're exporting commodities in shipping containers, you'll know all about high one-off costs and penalties that apply if you ship the container overweight. For this reason, it’s a natural tendency for shippers to underload.

However underloading, even by a small amount, can be costly too. Read on to learn more about the hidden costs of underloading containers and how you can avoid them.


Putting it simply, underloading a container means you are underutilising the container space and paying more in shipping costs than you need to.

When you think of each individual container load, the cost may not seem high, however, the aggregate cost over the course of a year can be staggering.

Think, if you could safely increase the payload of each container by 10%, you would ship 10% fewer containers per year.

If you ship 200 containers in a year, at an average shipping cost of $2,000 per container, underloading by 10% will cost your business $40,000 per year.

Here’s an example:

Commodity Output3,600tonne
Average Payload 18 tonne
Optimized Payload20tonne
Shipping Cost$2,000per container
Commodity Price$1,000 per tonne

Another, less obvious cost of underloading containers is the negative impact on revenue and cash flow. Under loading delays sales and cash receipts and increases the cost of funding your business. Or to put this another way, if you optimise each container load, you can realise more in sales receipts sooner and free up capital for other things.

This cost ultimately turns on the time value of money in your business. But taking the example above, with a commodity worth $1,000 per tonne and a cost of capital of 12%, optimising your container loads by 10% could be worth another $6,120 to your business each year.

Shipping Costs


Cost Capital$6,120$6,1250
Total Savings$46,120

8139 Container Scales 1920x700 Talleys AMALTAL 3

How To Avoid These Costs

Shippers face a double-edged sword. Overload the container and risk the high, one-off costs of being picked up overweight. Or underload the container and pay for un-utilised container space.

The only way around this is by optimising the container payload and new solutions. Learn how you can optimise container payloads and hit the target weight every time in our new e-Book.