Shipping Lumber Overseas

Advice on how to bulk ship sawn lumber overseas. June 15, 2009

I am hoping to ship large quantities of SPF lumber from Canada into North Africa. To start I want to ship 1,000 cbm and maybe larger quantities in the future.

My questions are:
1. When shipping lumber is using containers a must? Because of the large volume I will need a lot of containers and this really pushes up the shipping costs, is there a practice where people ship constructional lumber on open deck?

2. If there is such a practice, would it be sufficient to just plastic wrap kiln dried lumber, when it might be exposed to the elements for close to 30 days?

Does anyone have any experience in shipping quantities of over 5,000 cbm of lumber overseas? If you do is there any quick advice you can share?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor T:
The container should be provided by the shipping carrier. Almost all exported wood not in log form must be heat treated and shipped on heat treated pallets with phytosanitary certificates for some products. You should be talking to one of the large intermodal carriers they can assist with all of these questions, the costs involved, and all the information you will need on applicable duties and tariffs.

You can ship break bulk (non containerized) but this usually raises the freight costs to the port and will limit the number of ports on both ends that can handle your freight. Unless the lengths are really long (20'+) break bulk rarely makes sense anymore. Finally you should be looking at 20' cans very rarely can you completely fill a 40' can with lumber while staying under the on highway weight limit at both ends.

From contributor W:

Contributor T gives some great advice. The cost for shipping breakbulk either below deck or above will be higher because of the extra cost of loading and unloading. You might ask for a freight service that has a Ro-Ro ship (roll on, roll off) they can usually do break bulk more cost effectively. Lumber can be loaded on deck depending on the ship. Most times just bare bundles and the shipís crew will tarp once it is loaded. You need to find a good independent freight forwarder that knows the shipping route that you want to use. Don't use the forwarder that works for the shipping line (they work for the shipping line and will always charge you the higher rate). There are many different shipping lines, large and small. Sometimes you can cut a better deal if the company has slack space on a regular route.

From the original questioner:
Yes, the lumber is going to be sawn, rough four sides, and all generally 13 feet long. It is for structural use, there is no RL or RW. The issue with shipping over these large distances is that using conventional shipping (containers), more than doubles my initial costs. Even though break bulk shipping could be more expensive normally, I was hoping that because of the large volume there would be cost benefits per cbm. I guess like contributor T said finding a Ro-Ro ship would be my best bet, I would need to ask a freight forwarder if itís easy to find a ship that regularly travels that route. I just wanted to ask whether the practice of open deck shipping is popular. I guess with the standardization of container shipping, break bulk is becoming more costly and less efficient. I will still have to ask around.

From contributor W:
Don't rule out the deck storage. If you can't find a Ro-Ro ship there are still many lines that haul breakbulk. Most would give you a reduced freight rate for deck storage. Find yourself a good independent freight forwarder. Make sure they give you an "all-in" rate that includes aboard ship freight, loading and discharging.