Containerization has been a major advancement with regards international trade by improving cargo packaging, handling, storage and reducing the cost of transporting cargo. The standard size of a shipping container ranges between 20 and 40 foot long and about 8 feet wide. Freight rates are usually applied per container taking into consideration the space occupied by the said container whether full or not. But what happens when the consignee (cargo owner) cannot provide enough cargo to fill the entire space in a container, he may then consider consolidation.
By definition, consolidation is combining a number of smaller shipments to be transported as one large shipment. In practice, consolidation involves organizing (consolidate) different shipments belonging to 2 or more consignees (cargo owners) into one shipping container by the freight forwarder (consolidator) to be processed for export.
This arrangement makes a lot of economic sense when an exporter cannot generate enough cargo to fill a container and therefore sharing the cargo space in the container with other exporters would be ideal. Whiles this would ensure continuity of business since the exporter would not have to wait until he generates enough cargo to fill a container, but instead, cargo can be shipped in smaller quantities as and when available thereby maintaining the regular flow of business. Another major advantage of this arrangement is that, it reduces the cost of shipping the cargo as the freight would be shared by all other cargo owners involved.
The disadvantage however is that, the space in a container might not be exclusively made available to only one exporter and cargo may run the risk of contamination or damage from other cargoes especially when consignment in the container are not homogeneous and without proper lashing. The cargo might also run the risk of damage during the de-consolidation process as well as pilferage since container seal could be broken without your presence.
In the nutshell, whiles consolidation may present some advantages to the exporter, it is also important to consider the type of cargo to be exported. For instance it may not be ideal to consolidate a very fragile cargo (bottles) with some car spare parts. As an exporter therefore, seriously consider the nature , type and cost of transporting before opting for consolidation as in most cases, an exporter may not be aware of the nature or type of the other cargo that shares the space with your consignment.
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