Bee On Trade

Logistics & Shipping

How to Calculate Ocean Freight Charges: Factors, Formulas, and Real-Life Examples



April 2023

8 min read


Sign-up to our newsletter, get access to exclusive tips about freight forwarding weekly update!

How to Calculate Ocean Freight Charges: Factors, Formulas, and Real-Life Examples


Ocean freight charges play a crucial role in international trade, impacting the cost and efficiency of transporting goods across the seas. Understanding how to calculate these charges is essential for businesses and individuals involved in import and export activities.


In this blog, we will explore the factors that affect ocean freight rates and provide a step-by-step guide on how to calculate these charges. Additionally, we will discuss real-life examples and a case study to illustrate the concepts further.

Factors Affecting Ocean Freight Rates

Let us first understand which factors would affect ocean freight charges. This could prove useful while trying to cut costs or plan the best budget.


  1. Delivery Time

The time it takes for cargo to reach its destination is a critical factor in determining ocean freight rates. Quicker delivery times often result in higher charges, as it requires expedited services and additional resources to ensure timely transportation.


Shipping companies may offer different delivery speed options, such as standard, expedited, or express, each with varying price points to accommodate different customer needs.


  1. Distance

The distance between the origin and destination ports directly impacts ocean freight charges. Generally, longer distances require more fuel, labor, and vessel usage, leading to higher shipping costs.


For example, transporting goods from China to the United States would likely incur higher charges than shipping the same goods within neighboring European countries due to the significant distance involved.


  1. Weather Conditions

Weather conditions can significantly affect ocean freight rates. Adverse weather events, such as storms, hurricanes, or heavy fog, can disrupt shipping schedules, delay deliveries, and increase operational costs.


Shipping companies may incorporate weather risk factors into their pricing models, leading to higher charges during seasons or regions prone to challenging weather conditions.

How to Calculate Ocean Freight Charges

To calculate ocean freight charges, follow these steps:


Step 1: Determine the cargo's dimensions and weight

Measure the length, width, and height of the cargo to calculate its volume. Multiply the dimensions together and convert the result into cubic meters (m³). Additionally, determine the cargo's weight in kilograms (kg).


Step 2: Calculate the chargeable weight

The chargeable weight is usually the higher of the cargo's actual weight or volumetric weight. Volumetric weight is calculated by multiplying the cargo's volume (in m³) by the carrier's volumetric weight conversion factor.


Step 3: Research applicable freight rates

Contact shipping carriers or freight forwarders to obtain current freight rates for the desired shipping route. Rates can vary depending on factors like origin, destination, shipping line, container type, and service level.


Step 4: Calculate the total freight charges

Multiply the chargeable weight by the applicable freight rate per kilogram (kg). This will give you the freight cost for the cargo. Additionally, consider any additional charges such as fuel surcharges, terminal handling fees, or customs duties, which should be factored into the total cost.

The Case of Exporting Automobile Parts from Germany to Brazil

Let's consider a real-life scenario where an automotive parts manufacturer in Germany wants to export its products to a buyer in Brazil. The cargo consists of 100 packages with a total weight of 5,000 kg and occupies a volume of 20 m³. The shipping carrier provides a freight rate of $3 per kg for this route.


Step 1: Determine the cargo's dimensions and weight: Cargo weight: 5,000 kg Cargo volume: 20 m³


Step 2: Calculate the chargeable weight: Assuming the volumetric weight conversion factor is 200 kg/m³: Volumetric weight = 20 m³ × 200 kg/m³ = 4,000 kg Chargeable weight = Max(actual weight, volumetric weight) = Max(5,000 kg, 4,000 kg) = 5,000 kg


Step 3: Research applicable freight rates: Contact the shipping carrier or freight forwarder to obtain the current freight rates for the Germany-to-Brazil shipping route. Let's assume the freight rate is $3 per kilogram (kg).


Step 4: Calculate the total freight charges: Multiply the chargeable weight by the applicable freight rate per kilogram: Total Freight Charges = Chargeable Weight (5,000 kg) × Freight Rate ($3/kg) = $15,000


In this scenario, the total ocean freight charges for exporting the automobile parts from Germany to Brazil would amount to $15,000.

Summing Up

Calculating ocean freight charges is a crucial step in planning and budgeting for international shipping. By considering factors such as delivery time, distance, and weather conditions, businesses can gain insights into the various elements that influence freight rates. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this blog post, individuals and companies can estimate and calculate ocean freight charges accurately.


Remember, freight rates may vary based on specific routes, carriers, container types, and additional services you opt for. It is always advisable to reach out to shipping carriers or freight forwarders to obtain accurate and up-to-date information regarding rates and charges.


Your ocean freight charges may also be impacted by any special days or concessions the freight forwarder will have to make. If inclement weather or urgent shipments are added to the equation, they may amp up your prices too.


Understanding the intricacies of ocean freight charges enables businesses to optimize their logistics operations, make informed decisions, and maintain cost-efficiency in international trade.


1. How do I get the best rates from ocean freight?

To get the best rates from ocean freight, plan, and book in advance to secure discounted rates. Additionally, compare quotes from multiple carriers to find the most cost-effective option.

2. How do you calculate freight cost per container?

To calculate freight cost per container, you need to consider factors such as container size, weight, distance, and any additional charges. Multiply the applicable rate per kilogram or cubic meter by the container's chargeable weight or volume to determine the freight cost.

3. What is the difference between sea freight and ocean freight?

Sea freight and ocean freight are often used interchangeably and refer to the transportation of goods by ships across bodies of water. There is no significant difference between the two terms, and they both imply the same mode of transportation using vessels for international trade.

Logistics & Shipping



April 2023

Supply Chain Technology



April 2023

Logistics & Shipping



April 2023

All posts

© Beeontrade Inc. 2023