What is Transshipment and Shipside?

Transshipment and shipside are not words that are commonly used when dealing with personal effects shipping, but are known for those dealing with commercial trade.  In this blog, we look at what transhipment and shipside is and what it all entails.


Transshipment is essentially the transfer of a shipment from a vessel or a carrier to another while it’s still in transit. Vessel to vessel transfer is the most common. Whilst most transshipments occur in transport hubs, there are also some exemptions whereby they occur in designated customs areas when it comes to international transhipments. These transport hubs can either be sea transport hubs or air transport hubs. The need for transhipment of cargo comes down to practicality; restrictions in coverage of ports by carrier lines or trade lanes are examples of such practicalities. The following are the global trade lanes and transshipment incidence (which means the share of containers transhipment traffic – traffic to traffic – takes in with regards to total volume handled by port).


Shipsde includes transfer of cargo to the area adjacent to a shipping vessel, at a dock or at sea where freight is unloaded usually to a smaller vessel (lighter/barge). A shipside transfer requires written authority to discharge the cargo as per customs regulation. This permit will be handed over to the Customs Inspector onboard the vessel.  A barge is a flat bottomed barge used in the transfer of  goods to and from moored vessels that is other powered or towed by another boat, whereas a lighter are traditionally unpowered.

For a shipside transfer, it must be carried out under guard of authority and done so continuously. Due to the sensitive nature of this transaction, all cargo needs to be checked against the Permit and inward foreign manifest with descriptions weight and quantity. The Customs Inspector onboard the vessel must take due caution and strictly adhere to the conditions and/or requirements mentioned in the permit, and furthermore also issue a Boat Note with mention of pertinent criteria which will act as a receipt to the master of the ship as well as  ascertain responsibility of the transfer and proceedings. This Boat Note will include the following information; Name of vessel, date or arrival, and registry numbers, Name of lighter/barge, Name of Broker and/or Consignee, Shipside permit numbers, Shipping marks numbers, Type and description of cargo, Time & date of lighter/barge leaving vessel, names and signatures of Customs Inspector, Customs guard or guards in charge of lighter/barge.


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