Most countries impose a maximum gross container weight, in order to be transported across national highway systems. However, under certain circumstances this weight threshold may be passed, in which case special permits need to be applied and special handling equipment needs to be arranged. 

A heavy lift charge is a fee imposed by carriers when handling containers that exceed a certain weight threshold. Heavy lift charges help carriers to offset the additional cost for arranging the necessary equipment in order to handle exceptionally heavy shipping containers. 

This article aims to provide you with more information about heavy lift charges, how they are billed, who pays these charges and how it’s calculated.

Who Bills Heavy Lift Charges?

Heavy lift charges are billed by carriers, as they have to organize and arrange specialized port cranes and spreaders, in order to lift the heavy container. 

Heavy lift charges may also apply for breakbulk cargo, whereby a specialized crane has to be arranged in order to lift the heavy bulk cargo onto the vessel. In this scenario, the shipowner charges these fees to the charterer. 

Take note that not all carriers charge a heavy lift fee for moving containers above a certain weight threshold. This depends on several factors, which we will explore later. 

Who Pays for Heavy Lift Charges?

Heavy lift charges are paid either by the shipper or consignee, depending on the freight term. They form part of the origin charges and are typically billed together with the ocean freight charges. 

In certain cases, heavy lift fees may be absorbed by the carrier or the carrier may outright reject loading cargo that exceeds the stipulated weight threshold. 

How Are Heavy Lift Charges Calculated?

Heavy lift charges are typically calculated based on the total gross weight (GWT) above the threshold. The total gross weight of a container is the container tare weight plus the weight of the cargo. 

Here is an example to further illustrate this. A 20” general purpose container has a tare weight of 2,300 kg (about 5,000 lbs) and the cargo weighs 17,000 kg. This means that the total gross weight of the container is 19,500 kg.

In this example we assume that the carrier’s heavy lift threshold is 18,000 kg. As the weight of the container is 1,500 kg above the threshold, the carrier may impose a heavy lift fee to the cargo owner. 

How Much Is the Heavy Lift Fee?

Heavy lift fees can range from about $100 – $250 per container which goes over the carrier’s stipulated weight threshold. Certain carriers may also have a tier system with various weight thresholds. 

Here’s a list of what heavy lift charges depend on:

  • Location – Carrier’s can charge different heavy lift fees depending on the origin port or country. This is because container handling equipment charges can vary between different locations.
  • Weight – The total gross weight of a container determines if a container qualifies as heavy lift. If it qualifies, carriers may charge a heavy lift fee in line with its tariff.
  • Carrier – Carriers do not have uniform rates for heavy lift surcharges. This type of surcharge may be observed by certain carriers. 
  • Equipment – Subject to terms and conditions of the carrier, there may be a different charge per container type or size. 

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.