How to Calculate Fuel Consumption in Cargo Shipping

by Will Charpentier ; Updated September 26, 2017
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Continued volatility in fuel prices around the world affects transportation costs and the final cost of goods and materials. This makes shipping costs--even in ocean freight--a factor in manufacturing, wholesale and retail operations. Modern container ships provide a cost-effective way of moving goods in "intermodal freight," where one trailer-like container is packed with goods, then carried by ship, rail and truck without loading or unloading individual pieces of freight along the way. These ships are propelled by high-efficiency diesel motors like the turbocharged Wartsila-Sulzer RT-flex96-C that consumes more than 1,600 gallons of fuel per hour.

Step 1

Convert the transit time specified in the shipping contract into hours by multiplying the number of days by 24. Add any remaining hours to that result. For example, if the contract calls for a transit time of seven days, nine hours, multiply seven days by 24 hours (7 x 24 = 168) and add nine hours to the result (168 + 9 = 177) for a total transit time of 177 hours.

Step 2

Ask your shipping agent how much fuel the ship chosen to transport the materials consumes per hour. The shipping agent is your "point of contact" for such information.

Step 3

Multiply the number of hours (in this case, 177) by the best fuel consumption of the vessel's engine. For example, if the ship's motor consumes 1,660 gallons of diesel fuel per hour, multiply the number of hours in transit by the hourly fuel consumption, thus: 177 x 1,660 = 293,820 gallons of fuel.

Tips

  • Most ocean shipping contracts are called "voyage charters": You're hiring a bit of space on a ship that's already going between two ports. Voyage charters are for a set fee that's all inclusive. If you hire the whole vessel (called a "time charter") for a specified period, then you're liable for the fuel costs as a separate item.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

  • containerschiff image by Angelika Bentin from Fotolia.com