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For anyone who is planning to ship something by sea, the time it will take for it to get from one port to the next will depend on a number of factors.
We all have felt the frustration of needing to ship something and it not arriving when we had hoped it would. With today’s added challenge of ports being short-staffed, and challenges with supply chain issues, trying to figure out when something we ship will arrive at its destination can be even more difficult unless you know some of the variables that go into the shipping process.
It will typically take anywhere from 20 days to 60 days for something to ship via boat, depending on the time of year, the ports that are involved in the shipping process, and what it is you are trying to ship.
Shipping something by sea can often be a preferred method for many people, but it is also one of the more unpredictable methods of shipping, since there are several variables at play. From weather to crowded ports to customs papers, knowing what can cause delays in the entire process will help you determine if shipping your items by boat is the best way for you to send them.
I recently moved back home from overseas and shipped an entire household of furniture by boat. I spent a good deal of time researching whether or not this was my best option for sending my things, and what sort of timeline I could reasonably expect. Hopefully, my research will help you set your expectations and decide if this process is the right one for you.
How Long Does It Take for a Boat to Ship Something
From as early as the ancient Egyptians, boats have been an important way of moving cargo from one port to another. Back then, boats made of long strips of wood were credited for moving all types of building materials and other supplies for improvement and survival.
Today, our ships look vastly different from those from ancient Egypt, but the concept throughout the centuries has remained the same…people need to receive goods across large bodies of water, and shipping and supply companies are used to help us make that happen.
But waterways can be much more unpredictable than moving goods by land or air. Though there are plenty of benefits to transporting items by boat, it’s also worth spending some time knowing what may expedite the journey, or slow it down.
Most shipping companies can give you an approximate time frame as to how long it is going to take your items to leave their port and arrive at your destination. Though most items can be shipped and received in sixty days or less, let’s explore some of the most common variables that can affect this timeline.
1. What Time of Year Are You Shipping?
It is most likely that the biggest factor in your shipment’s timeline for arriving in your designated port is going to depend on the weather, and the time of year you are trying to ship.
Weather will play a big role in shipping times and any delays. There are weather patterns all around the world that can affect what route a ship can take and these patterns will change from country to country and throughout the year.
For example, in the United States, we see the most hurricane activity off our east coast and in the Atlantic Ocean is usually in the month of August but can extend through November. On the west coast, hurricanes usually weaken before making landfall, but that doesn’t mean the Pacific Ocean doesn’t see plenty of cyclone activity out in the waters where oftentimes cargo ships must pass.
In China, on the other hand, hurricane season starts in late spring and can greatly affect the waters around this country as well as the Pacific Ocean surrounding it.
The bottom line is this – knowing what season you are shipping your items in can play a big role in how long it will take your items to reach the port they are destined for. Though you can’t always predict the weather, it will be much easier to get an idea of how long it’s going to take to ship something if you know how great of an effect the weather may have on your boat’s route.
2. What Ports Are Involved in the Shipping Process?
Another big player in shipping times is knowing which ports your goods will be starting from and arriving in.
Just like airports, there are certain shipping ports that consistently stay busier than others. For example, the port of Shanghai has continued to be the busiest port in the world for the last three decades. Goods coming through that port – either as the original port, the ending port, or a port of transit – may be delayed for much longer than others.
In the United States, the busiest port is in Los Angeles. Knowing that your items will take longer if they are leaving from or arriving at this port in California will be important if you want a more detailed idea of how long it’s going to take for your items to ship by boat.
Having an exact itinerary for your shipped items will always depend to some degree on which ports your items are traveling through, but this has become even more of a challenge in today’s shipping environment.
With supply chain issues worldwide, and shortages of shipping staff, many ports across our country and world are seeing shipping delays that to unprecedented levels.
It is a good idea to think carefully about what ports your items may be leaving from and arriving at, and if shipping times are important to you.
You may not always be able to control which ports your items are traveling to or through, but sometimes you can get some specific feedback from a shipping company and can potentially be involved in the process of deciding what route your items will take, which could help shorten your shipping time significantly.
3. What Are You Trying to Ship?
Finally, how long it is going to take for a boat to ship something is going to have a lot to do with what it is that you are wanting to ship.
Any item that has to pass through a different country will need to go through customs. No matter how big or small, each country has its own set of rules and regulations as to what can and can’t be allowed to enter or exit from its ports.
For example, the United States is very clear that certain foods and plants can’t be shipped into or out of our country. On the other hand, most animals can be allowed to come into the country, but they will have to be quarantined for a certain period of time, which will greatly affect how long it would take for them to arrive.
There are certain items that will also take longer to clear customs than others. If you are shipping a large parcel from another county, you may find that some of your items take longer to arrive than others, if the customs officials feel there is a reason to search the parcels for illegal activity. If this is the case, you have no option but to patiently wait for your items to be cleared by the proper authorities.
Regardless of what you may be shipping, if it has to go through another country's port, be aware of the fact that delays can happen, especially if you are trying to ship something that may cause reason for suspicion or further investigation.
Finally, if you are shipping items that are significantly oversized, like a car or household furniture, these may take longer to arrive in your designated port, simply because there may not be enough cargo space available on the current boats.
If you are trying to ship certain items, try to find out ahead of time if there will be delays because of the nature of the items, or if there are size constraints.