Is my ocean freight from China already on its way ? Will it arrive on time? Where is the cargo right now ?
These are questions frequently asked.
Nowadays you are used to tracking all kind of packages, postal mail, express shipments via DHL, UPS, etc. Almost all express companies have tracking tools on their respective websites.
But what about sea freight?
Sea Freight Shipment Cargo Tracking
Some forwarders and shipping lines offer a tracking service.
Working with a forwarder, many customers often don´t really know which shipping line is used or which vessel. Often, the forwarder will suddenly change the freight carrier due to reasons of time or cost. Or the supplier has decided which shipping line to use, without even asking you, his customer. So many times, customers do not know where their cargo is and how it has been shipped.
The Shipping Advice or Shipment Notification
In order to track the whereabouts of your ocean cargo freight, you need a few details.
It doesn´t really matter which Incoterm you used, whether you ordered FOB, CFR or even DDP. As long as a sea freight is involved, the sender (usually your supplier) will need to make the booking, no matter who pays the freight.
Now, as soon as the goods are seaborne, you should receive a so-called Freight Notification or Shipping Advise from your supplier, proving and providing the details of your sea freight shipment.
The Shipping Advise usually contains these details
- Name of the shipping company
- Name of the vessel
- Number of the “Voyage”
- Container number
- Number of the container seal
There will also be details about the places of departure and destination, whether the goods were loaded in their own container (FCL) or your goods share a container with other clients (LCL), the departure date (ETD) and the estimated arrival date at destination (ETA). This information will give you a guarantee that your goods have actually been shipped. From the departure date in China, it is also possible to estimate when the ship should arrive in Europe.
If you did not receive such shipment notification, ask your supplier for a copy of the bill of lading.
For the tracking of the ship you actually only need one piece of information: the name of the ship (vessel name)
Now head to marinetraffic.com (there are other sites offering this service too) and click on “vessel”. Enter the name of the ship and see an overview of the carrier with technical data and usually also a picture of the boat. You will find further information about the current position, the speed, the draft as well as the nearest port and the final destination port.
You can also click on the link “expected arrival” directly at the bottom of the page.
The destination of most sea shipments to continental Europe will either be Antwerp, Rotterdam or Hamburg. Once you have determined the date of arrival, add a few days for unloading the ship, customs clearance and for the final truck delivery to your destination. Usually this takes another 5-7 days after vessel arrival.
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