This was one of the questions asked by a reader of this blog.. A basic but an important question..
Simply put, Transhipment = the act of off-loading a container from one ship and loading it onto another ship..
Why does cargo need to be transhipped..??
In any service operated by any line there are practical restrictions in terms of coverage of ports.. There is no shipping line that can cover all ports around the world on a single service and therefore the services are segregated into trade lanes..
Example : South Africa to South East Asia, South Africa to Europe, South Africa to USA, South East Asia to Far East, Far East to USA, USA to Europe etc..
Lets say there is a liner service that connects Durban to Far East with Singapore, Hong Kong, Port Kelang being the ports of call on the voyage from South Africa to Far East.. Lets call this vessel A..
Lets say that there is a shipment from Durban in South Africa to Manila in Philippines.. Since this vessel A does not call Manila as part of its rotation/service, the container(s) will need to be taken off at one of the ports that vessel A calls.. Lets assume that this port is Singapore.. These container(s) will be off-loaded at Singapore and then loaded onto another vessel that operates on a route that connects Singapore to Manila.. Lets call this vessel B..
So the container that left Durban on vessel A will reach Manila on vessel B via transhipment at Singapore.. The bill of lading that the customer has been issued will show Vessel A, but the arrival notification that the consignee in Manila receives will show Vessel B..
Most of the big lines like MSC, Maersk etc have services covering virtually all corners of the globe via transhipment connections from one port or the other.. These lines also have what is known as Transhipment Hubs which are the ports on their service routes that have transhipment connection options to other parts of the world..
Example : MSC’s transhipment hub for their service to Australia is Port Louis, Maersk’s transhipment hub for their service to Middle East is Salalah..
This transhipment concept truly connects the world and one is able to ship a container from anywhere to anywhere in the world..