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The Best Way to Import Machinery Into Australia: Choosing the Right Shipping Method for Your Machinery

Best Way to Ship Heavy Machinery to Australia

Selecting the right shipping method is a pivotal step in the import process of machinery into Australia. Whether you’re dealing with new machinery or used machinery, each category comes with its own set of considerations and shipping requirements.

In this guide, we’ll explore the various methods available for shipping machinery to Australia, including containers, flat racks, RoRo (Roll on, Roll off), and LoLo (Lift on, Lift off). Understanding these methods will help you make an informed choice based on your specific shipping needs.

Containers: Affordable and Secure

Containerised cargo is one of the most popular and cost-effective methods for shipping machinery. It involves placing your machinery inside standard shipping containers.

Considering that over 80% of all global goods are transported by ships, it’s no surprise that various cargo shipping containers are available to accommodate this massive volume of goods, each differing in size and storage capacity. Refer to this guide for a detailed breakdown of the different types and sizes of sea containers.

Now, let’s explore the pros and cons of using containers for machinery shipping

Pros of Containers for Machinery Shipping

  • Protection from Elements – Containers offer machinery protection from weather conditions, ensuring the equipment remains in good condition during transit.
  • Security – Containers are sealed, reducing the risk of theft or tampering during transportation.
  • Flexibility – Containers come in standardised sizes, making it easier for logistics planning and stacking on ships, trains, or trucks.
  • Cost-effective – Using containers can be more economical than other methods, especially when shipping multiple smaller pieces of machinery in one container.

Cons of Containers for Machinery Shipping

  • Size limitations – Not all machinery will fit into standard container sizes. Oversized machinery may require special arrangements or even dismantling.
  • Handling Care – Improper loading or unloading can result in damage to the machinery.
  • Cost Variability – While containers can be cost-effective, prices can fluctuate based on container availability, seasonality, and global events.

The class of machinery we generally offer containerised solutions for include Rollers, Motor Graders, Skid Steer Loaders and Wheel Loaders. Larger versions of such machines can also require dismantling. We utilise specialist loading/unloading techniques to pack heavy machinery into containers.

Flat Racks: Handling Oversized Cargo

handling oversized cargo

Flat racks, designed as a specialised type of container for shipping out-of-gauge (OOG) cargo, are an excellent option when dealing with oversized or heavy machinery that cannot fit inside standard 20-foot or 40-foot shipping containers.

These flat rack containers are built with reinforced frames and strong corner posts to withstand heavy loads and provide stability during transportation. Note that not all ports can handle heavy or oversized flat racks. If you’re thinking of using flat racks for your shipment, have a chat with our expert agents to make sure your chosen port is a good fit for your cargo.

Typical machines best suited for Flat Racks include:

  • Earthmoving Machinery – Excavators, Articulated Dump Trucks, Track Loaders, Wheel Loaders & Dozers
  • Construction Machinery – Motor Graders, Road Rollers, Pavers, Asphalt Machines & Profilers.
  • Agricultural Machinery – Combine, Harvesters, Tractors, Cotton Pickers, Balers, Seeders, Fertilizer Spreaders, Sprayers, Harrows & Plows
  • Forestry Machinery – Tree Fellers, Log Skidders, Log Forwarders & Mulchers
  • Recycling & Waste Management Machinery – Screeners, Shredders, Compactors & Material Handlers
  • Mining Machinery – Fixed plant, Excavators, Motor Graders, Rollers, Dozers & Drill Rigs

Now, let’s delve deeper into the pros and cons of using flat racks for shipping machinery.

Pros of Flat Racks for Machinery Shipping

  • Versatile and spacious – Flat racks can carry larger cargo than standard containers and can be loaded with almost any size or type of cargo as long as it meets the payload criteria.
  • Flexibility in cargo protection – If your cargo doesn’t need full protection from the weather, flat racks might be a better choice than containers.
  • Expanded shipping opportunities: Flat rack transhipping services allow for the transfer of OOG merchandise off or onto ocean vessels, opening up additional shipping opportunities and cost-saving possibilities.

Cons of Flat Racks for Machinery Shipping

  • Cargo exposure – Flat racks have open sides and tops, so cargo must be protected with a waterproof tarpaulin to avoid water damage.
  • Weight restrictions: There’s a limit to how much weight a flat rack container can handle, and if the cargo exceeds that weight, roll-on, roll-off (RO-RO) service may be the only option.
  • Suitability limitations: Flat racks might not be suitable for some cargo, longer cargo such as cranes or mining sized machinery can be difficult to fit.

Flat racks, though the most expensive of the four methods, are a versatile option for shipping out of gauge cargo (OOG) cargo that is too large for standard container types.

RoRo (Roll on, Roll off): Simplicity and Convenience

RoRo Shipping

RoRo shipping, or Roll on, Roll off, is undoubtedly our favourite method for shipping machinery due to its simplicity.

With RoRo, the process is as straightforward as its name suggests: machinery is driven or towed onboard and anchored securely using specialised points across the vessel’s deck. Think of it as placing your machinery in a floating, secure parking space.

Most RoRo vessels we encounter have a 5m door height and a ramp allowing a 100t machine to be trammed up. However some vessels have much larger capability that allows for assembly of machines at the port into optimal shipping configuration before been driven onto the vessel.

Pros of RoRo for Machinery Shipping

  • Safety and Security – RoRo ships are designed to protect machinery from sea elements, although they don’t offer the all-around protection that enclosed containers do.
  • Cost-Effective – RoRo might be more cost-effective for larger machinery that would require multiple containers or specialised containers like flat racks. Additionally the shipping lines provide the lashing materials which saves on packing related costs associated with container or flat rack shipping.
  • Port Efficiency – RoRo’s strength lies in its efficient port operations, with streamlined loading and unloading processes. Minimal cargo handling during port operations means a lower risk of machinery damage.
  • Versatility – RoRo can handle machinery of various sizes and configurations, especially those too large or uniquely shaped for standard containers.
  • Transhipment Possibilities – Due to the simplicity of this shipping method, transhipment of cargo in transhipment hubs like Singapore or Melbourne are common. This enables us to create a RoRo route that is not typically available in the market.

Cons of RoRo for Machinery Shipping

  • Service Availability – RoRo services depend on ports equipped for such vessels, limiting its availability in certain regions.
  • Transit Time – Despite efficient port operations, RoRo ships might have longer overall transit times due to their sailing speeds and service frequency.

What types of cargo are best suited for RoRo shipping?

  • Heavy construction and agricultural equipment.
  • Oversized machinery or those with unique dimensions.
  • Machinery that’s self-propelled or can be loaded using rolling equipment.

Selecting RoRo shipping offers convenience and efficiency, but it’s crucial to ensure it aligns with your specific needs. Engaging with a reputable shipping company or customs broker can give you more in-depth information on what is more suitable for your cargo.

LoLo (Lift on, Lift off): Specialised Handling

LoLo (Lift-on/Lift-off) shipping is a specialised method that uses cargo ships equipped with onboard cranes, also known as geared vessels. This method is particularly suited for heavy or oversized machinery that cannot be driven onto a ship, as is done with RoRo shipping.

Pros of LoLo for Machinery Shipping

  • Reduced Risk of Damages – The onboard cranes provide a safe and controlled environment for loading and unloading heavy machinery, minimising the risk of damage.
  • Ideal for Large Machinery and Equipment – LoLo vessels are ideal for transporting large machinery that exceeds the dimensions of standard shipping containers.
  • Eco-Friendly Option – When combined with rail transport, LoLo shipping forms part of a sustainable logistics chain, often resulting in a lower carbon footprint compared to other methods.
  • Cost Efficiency for Large Shipments – For substantial or heavy machinery, LoLo can be more economical due to the ability to handle cargo that would otherwise require disassembly for containerisation or multiple RoRo spaces.

Cons of LoLo

  • Speed – LoLo operations can be slower due to the meticulous process of crane operation.
  • Cost Considerations – While potentially more cost-effective for certain cargo types, LoLo may be more expensive for smaller shipments due to the specialised equipment and operations involved.

Choosing the right shipping method for your machinery is more than a logistical decision. It’s a strategic move that can affect the efficiency, cost, and safety of your cargo. Each method has its unique set of benefits tailored to different needs.

Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your specific machinery shipping requirements. If you’re closer to making a decision, request a free quote and we’ll provide you with a detailed and competitive pricing structure. And for those who prefer a direct conversation, call us at 13SHIP.

Remember that the right partner can make all the difference. Our team of expert agents is dedicated to providing you with the insights and support needed to ensure your machinery arrives safely, on time, and within budget.

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