Overcoming Challenges in International Out of Gauge Cargo Shipping

In international out of gauge (OOG) cargo shipping, equipment doesn’t fit neatly into a container. And guess what? It doesn’t fit neatly into any standard shipping process, either.

The world’s cargo infrastructure is designed around shipping standard containers in a uniform way. Larger equipment falls outside the norm and adds shipping complexity, cost, and significant risk versus standard cargo. Let’s explore some of those challenges and how to address them.


1. Finding a Trucker to Transport the Load to or from the Port

To move OOG cargo, a trucking company must be able to provide equipment that’s up to the job. It must obtain an oversize permit from each state the load will cross and plan a route where obstacles such as low overpasses won’t cause problems. Not every trucking company can meet those needs. And of the truckers who say they can do it, not all of them provide this service legally and safely.

If you don’t know where to find a carrier, you could waste hours making phone calls and reading reviews on line. And you might still end up hiring a trucker who skirts the law. As a result, you could see your load sidelined at a weigh station, damaged when the truck’s chassis won’t bear the load, or even involved in a road accident that could land you in court.

To avoid trouble: Team up with a freight forwarder that specializes in out of gauge cargo shipping. That service provider will quickly match your load with a qualified carrier.

Flat Rack Containers

2. Selecting the Right Transport Method

By definition, an out of gauge (OOG) load can't be shipped across the ocean in a standard closed container. Instead, the best options are typically either an open top container or a flat rack container. Both types have their specific uses and benefits.

Open Top Containers

An open top container is ideal for over-height cargo but cannot accommodate extra width. One advantage is that securing the load may be simpler, as it does not require adhering to the National Cargo Bureau (NCB) standards for blocking and bracing, which is necessary for flat rack containers. However, loading the cargo usually requires an overhead crane if you don’t want to remove the door header, given the three fixed walls.

Flat Rack Containers

Flat rack containers, on the other hand, allow side loading and can handle wider loads. However, the thicker floor can raise the height of your cargo just enough to necessitate an over-height permit, in addition to any permits for extra width. Moreover, using a flat rack mandates an NCB inspection at the port to ensure the cargo is secured properly. If the load fails inspection, you will incur additional costs to resecure it.

Roll-On/Roll-Off (RORO) Vessels

For OOG cargo on wheels or tracks, Roll-On/Roll-Off (RORO) vessels might be a viable option. These ships are designed for wheeled or tracked cargo, such as cars, trucks, machinery, and railroad cars that can be driven on and off the ship. RORO vessels can also accommodate non-wheeled bulky items using Mafi trailers, which are loading platforms suitable for large, crated, or oversized cargo.

Expert Assistance

To navigate the complexities of shipping OOG cargo, it is advisable to partner with experts who have extensive experience with such shipments. They will be well-versed in state regulations regarding maximum height, load distribution, and weight limits, helping you choose the safest and most cost-effective transport solution for your needs.

For further information on whether flat rack or RORO vessels are suitable for your OOG shipping needs, consider consulting more detailed resources or industry articles.

OOG cargo

3. Managing Weight Distribution

Proper weight distribution is crucial for transporting out of gauge (OOG) cargo. The Bridge Gross Weight Formula, a federal requirement, mandates that the heavier the load, the longer and more axle-equipped the chassis must be. This ensures the load is adequately distributed to prevent highway damage. If the weight isn’t properly distributed over the axles when the truck arrives at a weigh station, inspectors might take it off the road, regardless of the correct dimensions and weight listed on the permit.

This becomes particularly challenging with irregularly shaped heavy items like factory equipment or construction machinery, where weight is unevenly distributed.

Avoiding Issues

To prevent issues with weight distribution:

  • Partner with Experts: Collaborate with professionals who specialize in OOG cargo. Their expertise in the technical details of weight distribution is invaluable.
  • Stay Informed: Keeping up with the latest regulations and best practices is difficult if it’s not your primary job. Rely on experts who are well-versed in these nuances to manage risk effectively.

4. Providing Accurate Specifications for Out of Gauge Cargo

When transporting out of gauge (OOG) cargo, precise specifications are crucial to ensure smooth operations and avoid delays or accidents.

Road Transport Permits

For road transport, the permit must accurately state the dimensions (height, width) and weight of the cargo. Discrepancies between these numbers and the actual load can lead to significant delays at weigh stations or even sideline your shipment for hours or days.

Port Handling Requirements

At ports, accurate specifications are equally vital. Crews responsible for loading or unloading cargo onto ships rely on details such as the center of gravity, correct lift points, and specific handling instructions. Providing incorrect or unclear information to crane operators can result in accidents, posing danger and incurring substantial costs.

Tips to Ensure Accuracy

To mitigate these risks:

  • Technical Drawings: If available, provide a technical drawing of the oversize machinery or equipment. This document typically includes all necessary specifications. Share this drawing with your transportation partner to ensure they have precise details for planning and execution.
  • Online Resources: If a technical drawing is not accessible, use the model name and number of the item to search for specifications online. Manufacturers often make this information readily available.
  • Self-Measurement: As a last resort, measure and weigh the item yourself. Take multiple measurements to ensure accuracy, and document the process with detailed photos from different angles.

Partnering Effectively

Collaborate closely with a logistics partner experienced in handling OOG cargo. They understand the importance of accurate specifications and can assist in verifying and communicating these details effectively to all stakeholders involved in the transportation process.

By adhering to these practices, you can enhance safety, prevent delays, and ensure the efficient handling of your oversize cargo throughout its journey.

Securing Out of Gauge Cargo

5. Securing Out of Gauge Cargo

Ensuring the secure transport of oversize cargo in open top or flat rack containers is critical to prevent shifting and potential damage during transit.

Methods of Securing

1. Fill Empty Spaces: Use lumber to fill gaps within the container. This helps prevent the cargo from shifting due to movement on the road or sea.

2. Use of Straps and Chains: Secure the cargo using straps and sometimes chains. The number of straps, their width, spacing, and whether chains are necessary depend on the dimensions and weight of the load.

3. Straps: Determine the number and width of straps based on the load's size and weight. Properly spaced straps prevent lateral movement.

4. Chains: Consider using chains for additional security, especially for heavier or irregularly shaped items.

Considerations for Container Types

  • Flat Rack Containers: Require an inspection by the National Cargo Bureau (NCB) at the port to ensure the load is properly secured. Failing this inspection can lead to costly delays and rework expenses.
  • Open Top Containers: While no NCB inspection is required, correct securing is still crucial. Failure to do so can result in damaged cargo during transit, potentially causing accidents or financial loss.

Mitigating Risks

  • Expertise and Training: Consider taking courses offered by the NCB or referring to publications and online guides on cargo securing techniques.
  • Transloading Services: Utilize experienced providers of transloading services near the port. They can transfer the cargo from a flatbed trailer to a container and handle blocking and bracing professionally.
  • Marine Cargo Insurance: For added protection, consider obtaining marine cargo insurance. This coverage can mitigate financial losses in case of damage or loss of valuable cargo during transportation.

6. Strategies to Control Out of Gauge (OOG) Cargo Shipping Costs

Shipping out of gauge cargo involves higher expenses due to various factors. Here’s how you can minimize costs and optimize efficiency:

Cost Factors in OOG Shipping

  • Specialized Container Charges: Shipping lines add $250 to $500 for specialized containers like flat racks or open tops, in addition to the cargo costs.
  • Slot Occupancy Fees: OOG cargo that extends beyond standard container dimensions may occupy more than one slot on a vessel, increasing shipping costs.
  • Terminal Handling Charges: Many marine terminals impose higher fees for handling oversize containers compared to standard ones. These fees are typically bundled into the overall shipping rate.
  • Specialized Equipment Costs: Heavy-duty forklifts, cranes, and other specialized equipment necessary for loading and unloading OOG cargo contribute to higher expenses.
  • Road Transportation Costs: Transporting OOG cargo overland via heavy cargo trucking companies incurs additional expenses due to the need for specialized transport and permits.

Tips for Cost Reduction

  • Clear Instructions and Communication: Provide detailed instructions to all parties involved in the shipping process. Clear communication reduces errors, delays, and extra costs associated with the complexity of OOG shipping.
  • Strategic Sourcing: Purchase from suppliers located near ports to minimize inland transportation costs. Calculate transportation expenses to the port before making purchasing decisions. Consider alternative suppliers in more favorable locations if costs are prohibitive.
  • Optimize Container Use: Avoid using ocean containers for the last mile of transportation. Transferring OOG cargo to specialized truck chassis near the final destination prevents costly return charges for empty containers.
  • Ensure Compliance and Cleanliness: Adhere to international regulations by ensuring OOG cargo is thoroughly cleaned before shipping. This reduces the risk of rejection at ports due to contamination, which can lead to delays and additional costs.
  • Disassembly Strategy: Disassemble oversized equipment where feasible to transform an OOG shipment into standard-sized loads. For example, removing tires from heavy machinery allows shipping in standard containers, saving on oversize permit costs.


Efficiently managing out of gauge cargo shipping involves careful planning, effective communication, and strategic decision-making to minimize costs and optimize processes. At TRT International, we elevate transportation logistics by providing a seamless one-stop solution for all supply chain needs. Renowned for our innovation, professionalism, and flexibility, we serve as a pivotal agent between shippers, ocean carriers, air carriers, and inland cargo forwarders. Our expertise spans ocean, air, and inland freight, delivering high-quality service to diverse industries.

With strategically positioned warehouses and a global network of partners, including ocean carriers, agents, trucking companies, and Rail Road expediters, we ensure efficient and reliable transportation solutions. Our enduring customer relationships, commitment to ethical practices, and data-driven approach underscore our dedication to delivering real solutions and measurable results.

Jun 21st 2024

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