Shipping Heavy Machinery Internationally

iStock_000003345380MediumShipping heavy machinery is a big job – literally. When you’re dealing with power plants and components that weigh hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds traditional shipping over any long distance can prove exceptionally challenging. Throw in the additional requirements of international shipping and it’s perfectly understandable that some buyers or sellers would simply throw their hands in the air and pass on any offers coming in from overseas.

However, knowing your shipping options ahead of time means buyers and sellers need not pass up on the potential cash cow that is international machinery sales. While there are definitely more steps that need to be taken, they aren’t so daunting as to avoid shipping internationally entirely.

RO-RO Shipping
One of the most common methods of shipping vehicles and heavy equipment is roll on-roll off shipping, or RO-RO. Almost exactly what it sounds like, this type of overseas shipping is designed for self-propelled machinery that can be driven on and off of the transport ship on wheel, treads or tracks. While RO-RO  shipping is extremely common, it can also require a great deal of lead time. Space on RO-RO ships is in high demand and space for heavy machinery can be reduced or eliminated with little notice. Shipping to or from ports during a high volume season – like Japan during the rollout of a new year of vehicles – can also mean the need for flexibility on the part of buyers and sellers.

Flat-Rack Shipping
For machinery and equipment that cannot be driven on or off of a vessel, flat-rack shipping is an option. Similar to being loaded onto a flat-bed truck, these open containers come in 20-40ft dimensions and can support up to 67,000 pounds. These open-style racks also come with tethers to secure machinery safely to the bed of the rack and side walls still allow for stacking once onboard the ship. If used for machinery, these types of shipping racks may require the shipper to disassemble components in order to fit within the confines of the shipping rack.

Freight-Container-sizesContainer Shipping
Probably the most common type of overseas shipping that comes to mind, container shipping is similar to open flat-rack shipping in dimensions and weight limits, but completely enclosed. This type of shipping method will likely require any machine to be disassembled, at least in part, and may also require more than one container to accommodate all of the components. For unusually tall machinery, open-top containers are also available as well as refrigerated containers should temperature control be an issue.

Select a Shipper & Customs Services
After you’ve settled on the type of shipping you need to accommodate your machinery shipment, the next step is to find a shipping and logistics company that has the experience to schedule, reserve and arrange proper documentation. It’s also important to discuss customs services with your shipping coordinator. Depending on the shipper, customs services may or may not be included in the shipping fees. You may also need to seek third party assistance for customs services if they aren’t offered through your shipper. The Federal Maritime Commission also has a listing of licensed international shippers that can be a great help.

Secure Your Funds
Now that you’ve sorted out the shipping methods best suited for your machinery, make sure you have funds for the transaction locked in as well. Online escrow services are a great way to ensure that both buyer and seller are protected – especially when both parties are relative unknowns to each other. With escrow, buyers no longer need to worry about paying in advance and simply hoping their purchase shows up. Sellers also gain the advantage of knowing that purchase funds are verified up front and held securely with a neutral third party – completely eliminating the risk of non-payment.

Regardless of which shipping method you and your counterpart decide upon, never feel badly for asking additional questions. Doing some background work ahead of any potential international sale can make the process much less daunting and help to avoid any delays.



  1. […] coastlines as well as the southern ports ringing the Gulf of Mexico. But if you’re looking to ship heavy machinery or vehicles, there are a few select ports that move far more roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo than […]

  2. […] for both parties. For more information about buying and selling used machinery, see our posts on shipping heavy machinery internationally and figuring a fair price for used […]

  3. […] While requirements will vary from one shipping scenario to the next, the three items above should be discussed any time you’re in the need of long distance shipping. For more information on shipping high-value and unique items over long distances, see our posts on shipping antique and collectable firearms, how to ship a vehicle overseas, and shipping machinery and equipment internationally. […]

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