Cars can be transported in containers or on a Roll on/Roll off – vessel. Most cars are shipped on this ro/ro ships, that’s much cheaper than transport in a container. I will try to explain:
Roll on/Roll off Shipment: Worldwide most of the cars are shipped on so called Ro/Ro vessels which function just like ferry boats. These are special ships that were solely built to transport cars and no passengers. Each has a capacity of thousands of cars which are driven on and off board. That means somebody of the ship’s crew or harbour workers are driving the cars on and off the boat. These shipping lines are specialized in this kind of transport and generally no problems or dents occur. Ro/Ro shipment is the cheapest way to ship a car. Some ports are not equipped with the ramps to unload such car carrier vessels. Ro/Ro shipment is not available for every destination! But this kind of transportation also bears some risks: 1. Habour workers drive the car from the pier into the ship. In some ports cars are even loaded by fork lifts. At the port of destination other people will drive the cars off the boat. Cars can be damaged during the loading and unloading. 2. Cars are parked extremely close to each other on the boat and they are fastened by heavy chains to the deck. This can result in dents and scratches. 3. The ship’s journey will follow more or less a fixed schedule and it will stop at different ports. Cars will be loaded and unloaded at every place. Many different people are on the boat during such stops, and things might get stolen from inside the cars. 4. For some reasons cars can be parked at the port of destination for several days. Port authorities are unable to watch the cars. Things can be stolen from or out of the cars.
Please note: Brand-new cars and cars younger than 4 years can be transported on the “new car deck” of a ro/ro vessel. That cost more, but this deck is locked during the passage, every car is fastened to the deck and at the ports during loadig somebody will watch this deck. Ask your shipping agent for “high value shipment”.
Container shipment: A 20 ft Container (approx. 6 Meter long) can hold one normal passenger car. A 40 ft container (approx. 12 m) can hold two cars of average size or even three very compact cars. 1. Cars transported in containers must be securely fastened in the containers to avoid damages in cases of rogh weather conditions during the transport on the boat. The fastening services are at extra charge and are generally not included in the quotes for freight rates you might receive! 2. Container shipment is safe and perhaps the best way to ship a car, because the container will be filled, locked and sealed in Germany and will not be opened until it reached its destination. 3. Normally a container contains goods destinated for some country and after delivers it is loaded with other goods to the next destination. Most African countries do not export many goods, meaning that many containers must be transported back to the last port empty. That is one reason why container shipment is more expensive that shipment on a ro/ro ship. It is much cheaper to ship a containers from Europe to Asia than to most African ports. 4. Shipment of a car in a container to a West African port cost approx. Euro 3.500 to 4.500 including packing (fastening of the car) and Hamburg harbour charges.
Find some more information of the different container types and the dimensiones here: