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The Hidden Costs Of Underloading Containers

Bison Group

7 Sep 2 Minutes


Hidden Costs Of Underloading Containers

When exporting commodities in shipping containers, shippers are often mindful of the high one-off costs and penalties for shipping containers overweight, leading them to underload instead. However, even underloading by a small amount can be costly in the long run. Underloading means paying more in shipping costs than necessary, as you are not utilizing the container space to its fullest potential. The cost of each individual container load may not seem significant, but the cumulative cost over the course of a year can be staggering.

What Is Underloading Costing You?

If a shipper can safely increase the payload of each container by 10%, they would ship 10% fewer containers per year, reducing shipping costs. For instance, if a business ships 200 containers in a year, underloading by 10% at an average shipping cost of $2,000 per container would result in a cost of $40,000 per year.

Here’s an example:

Commodity Output3,600tonne
Average Payload18tonne
Optimized Payload20tonne
Shipping Cost$2,000per container
Commodity Price$1,000per tonne

Another hidden cost of underloading containers is the negative impact on revenue and cash flow. Underloading delays sales and cash receipts and increases the cost of funding a business. Optimizing each container load allows for a quicker realization of sales receipts and frees up capital for other uses. Ultimately, this cost depends on the time value of money in a business. Using the above example of a commodity worth $1,000 per tonne and a cost of capital of 12%, optimizing container loads by 10% could add another $6,120 to a business's annual revenue.

Shipping Costs


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

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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.