Shipping Steel Plate: Container & Conventional Shipping

There are generally two ways of shipping steel plate around the world. Container vessels are fast, cheap and frequent but strict have strong restriction on the shape and size of the plates to be shipped. Conventional vessels are more expensive, sail more rarely and are slower. However there are few limits on the size and weight of the load.

For long distance transit shipping steel plate by road is extremely expensive, whilst rail is limited by the availability of lines and access to the network. Air freight is possible but often costs significantly more than the steel

Shipping Steel Plate by Container Vessel

Container vessels carry their load in ISO approved containers. The containers are standardised and come in many different forms depending on the goods to be carried. Oakley Steel uses 20’, 40’ and 45’ long containers.


Max Length5.5 m11.8 m13.116 m
Max Width2.2m2.2 m2.2 m
Max Weight / Container21 MT26 MT25.6 MT


There are generally weekly sailings from Antwerp and global transit times are quick. There are however limitations on containers. The widest standard sized plate that they can take is 2200 mm meaning that large plates either have to be or shipped by conventional vessel. The overall weight limit can also be a constraint on shipping heavy plates i.e. 2 12 metres x 2 metres  x 70 mm plates would be too heavy for a 45’ container even though there would be plenty of space remaining. This limit is set by the capacity of the dockside cranes and also restrictions on the load bearing capacity of the container itself.

Key Points of Shipping steel plate by Container ship

  • Weekly sailings to most popular destinations
  • Cheaper
  • Quicker
  • Dimension restrictions
  • Weight restrictions

We will always try to ship by container vessel where possible to save time and cost.

However many customer require wide steel plates of 3 metres or 3.5 metres for projects. Typically steel plates for pressure vessels or offshore use are wide as this reduces the number of welds required in production. These cannot fit in a container and so tey have to be shipped by conventional or break bulk vessels

Shipping Steel Plate by  Conventional Vessel

For larger plates we use conventional, or break–bulk, vessels. This is the more expensive option as the loading is slower and more complex. Loads are not standardized as they are in containers.

Because they can carry anything conventional vessels, unlike containers, can be induced to stop at additional ports en–route if the cargo is large enough. This increases transit time and decreases the reliability of the estimated date of arrival. We will advise you before booking if a vessel is subject to inducement, however for most stock delivers this is irrelevant.

Normally we use Rickmers Linie for shipping steel plate due to their regular delivery to most Asian ports such as Singapore, Surabaya, Jakarta, Laem Chabang, Ho Chi Minh and Haiphong Roads  (but not Port Klang). We also use Chipolbrook  though less regularly due to their less frequent sailings

There are also fewer conventional ships sailing each route resulting in less regular sailings, however we have an excellent shipping team at Oakley Steel and we are often able to meet closing dates that are very tight significantly reducing delivery times.

Key Points of Shipping steel plate by Conventional Ship

  • Slower
  • Less regular sailings
  • Fewer destinations
  • Any plate size or volume possible
  • Best for large orders
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