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Infobox on Automobiles
Example of Automobiles
Stowage factor (in m3/t)
  • 11,32 m3/t (unboxed)
  • 7,92 m3/t (boxed)
Humidity / moisture
Ventilation See text
Risk factors See text



An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor. Most definitions of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads, to have seating for one to eight people, to typically have four wheels, and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods.

It was estimated in 2010 that the number of automobiles had risen to over 1 billion vehicles, with 500 million reached in 1986. The numbers are increasing rapidly, especially in China and India.

Most cars are designed to carry multiple occupants, often with four or five seats. Larger cars can often carry six, seven or more occupants depending in the internal arrange of seats. Sports cars are often designed with only two seats, and very occasionally three seats. The differing needs for passenger capacity and their luggage has resulted in a large variety of body styles to suit personal requirements such as the sedan/saloon, hatchback, station wagon/estate and Multi-Purpose Vehicle/Minivan.

Most automobiles in use today are propelled by an internal combustion engine, fueled by deflagration of gasoline (also known as petrol) or diesel. Both fuels are known to cause air pollution and are also blamed for contributing to climate change and global warming. Rapidly increasing oil prices, concerns about oil dependence, tightening environmental laws and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions are propelling work on alternative power systems for automobiles. Efforts to improve or replace existing technologies include the development of hybrid vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. Vehicles using alternative fuels such as ethanol flexible-fuel vehicles and natural gas vehicles are also gaining popularity in some countries.

Shipment / Storage

New cars

Prior to shipment/dispatch of the automobiles, it is essential to ensure that doors, windows and tank fillers are securely closed, the tires are pumped up to a sufficient air pressure, the windshield washer contains sufficient water, external damage has been recorded and shown on the shipping documents, installed or dismantled accessories (e.g. radios, external mirrors) and spare parts are complete and in good condition, the fuel tank contains the appropriate quantity of fuel for cargo handling activities (no more than 3 liters), the automobile's battery is functional and installed in an upright position.

Newly manufactured automobiles are covered with films, foam cushioning or plastic moldings at sensitive points, such as the bumpers, lights, exterior mirrors, hood, driver's door, trunk lid, fenders, spoilers, roof (convertible roof), wheel rims and hubcaps, or are provided with an all over wax or acrylic coating.

Interior fittings (seats, rear view mirror, high grade trim, gear shift and steering wheel) are often covered with protective shrouds or adhesive films. Dismantled accessories, packaged in cartons or film, should be placed in the trunk.

If appropriately secured, valuable and individually shipped vehicles may be loaded in a standard container. For export to countries which apply high levels of customs duty to luxury goods, automobiles may be shipped in completely knocked down (CKD) or semi/part knocked down (SKD, PKD) form. In this case, the package sizes for the individual components are adapted precisely to the container in which they are transported, which means that the cargo is secured by tight fit.

Automobiles are primarily transferred onto the means of transport on their own wheels via ramps (roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ships, ferries and combined container/ro-ro ships, car carriers, auto freight cars).

Damage often arises due to incorrect cargo handling during loading and unloading of the means of transport and while the vehicles are being driven around the storage lot (speeding, collisions).

Stow cool with good ventilation, below deck for maritime transport. Vehicles must not be transported on the ship's deck without the shipper's knowledge.

The following general criteria should also be taken into account:

Vehicles are generally fitted with suspension, which means that they may vibrate in the vertical and horizontal axes, so care must be taken to ensure that the spacing left between the individual vehicles is sufficient to prevent them from damaging each other due to their differing vibration behaviour and to allow appropriate cargo securing to be applied. In maritime transport, care must in particular be taken to ensure that the spacing to the front is no less than 30 cm and that to the sides is no less than 10 cm.

Cargo securing is basically dependent upon the available securing means, the weight and type of vehicle and where it is stowed. The manufacturer's loading instructions must be complied with. If no specific loading instructions are available, lashings may be attached to special lashing rings or to the vehicle's towing gear. If no or insufficient lashing rings are available, the lashings may be attached to the springs, axles and, under certain circumstances, to the chassis or vehicle frame. Lashings must not, however, be fixed to wheels, rims or bumpers.

On inclined surfaces (ramps) and in the case of stowage athwartships, wheel chocks are additionally used and the number of front and rear lashings should be increased appropriately. Lashing belts should be tight, but not highly pre-stressed.

If the vehicle is so equipped, its parking brake must be applied and 1st gear engaged or, in the case of vehicles with an automatic transmission, park position selected. The steering lock must be engaged.

Used cars

The term "USED CARS" applies to used vehicles, fuelled with a flammable liquid, with flash point c.c. equal to or less than 60° C.

Flat Racks or containers with Diesel vehicles may be stowed below deck, provided vessels Letter of Compliance permits.
Containers with used cars, fulfilling following requirements are not covered by above restrictions:

  • The fuel tank is empty. Attention, this is not for Diesel powered cars as when doing so this is resulting in seriously damaging the engine. For Diesels max about 5 litre is allowed.

When LPG/LNG powered than "gas free" certificate, related to the tank contents, to be supplied.

  • The engine is run until it stalls for lack of fuel. Attention: this is not for Diesel powered cars as when doing so this is resulting in seriously damaging the engine.
  • Both battery cables are disconnected or fitted with battery terminal insulators, fulfilling USGC and ISO standard
  • No hazardous material is stowed in the car
  • A plastic sheet must be laid out on the container floor, in order to protect container from stains, dirt, etc. from the car.

For vessels calling ports or countries with additional limitations, the various local (national) legislation, such as CFR 49 par. 176.905 in USA, must also be observed and adhered to.

Country specific provisions
All internal combustion engine powered vehicles fuelled by gasoline are regulated as a hazardous regulated commodity (Class 9 UN3166) under USA hazardous material regulations and must be declared, prepared and documented as hazardous when transported by water. These regulations apply to both imports and exports. For transport by road or rail within the USA, the only requirement is that the fuel tanks must be securely closed. However, individual rail carriers may have more specific requirements.

Requirements for containerized transport by water:

  • Vehicles must be inspected before loading in containers for fuel leaks and identifiable electrical faults
  • Fuel tank cannot be more than one-fourth full warning sign legible from 8 meters must be put on doors stating: "warning: may contain explosive mixtures with air-keep ignition sources away when opening"
  • Ignition key must not be in the ignition
  • Standard hazardous documentation must be submitted

Exception - Above requirements do NOT apply if:

  • Fuel tank is empty and the engine is run to a stall
  • Diesel fuel powered, vehicle has less than 418 L (110 gallons) in tank and there are no leaks in fuel system
  • Vehicle is electrically powered by wet electric storage batteries
  • Compressed gas powered and tanks are emptied of liquid and positive pressure in tank does not exceed 2 bar

Items which would be regulated when shipped as spare parts (e.g. fire extinguishers, airbag inflators, batteries, etc) are not regulated when installed on the vehicle and are necessary for the operation of the vehicle or the safety of the operator or passengers.

Auto age Nigeria as per November 20th, 2006 Based on Federal Government policy please note only cars that are 8 years and below max from date of manufacture are allowed for import into the country.

Saudi Arabia
Import of vehicles - restrictions.

Please note Saudi Arabia customs have banned/restricted import of vehicles which do not meet the following conditions:

  • Cars, buses, light trailers, private trucks should be less than 5 years from manufacturing year
  • Heavy trucks should be less than 10 years from manufacturing year
  • ntique/vintage vehicle should be over 30 years from manufacturing year and a sticker of "antiquities" will be written in customs records and no "number plate" will be issued for such vehicles

It will be effective as from 1st June 2009, as per customs circular.
Please be guided accordingly.

Handling Instructions:
The automotive industry and vehicle transporters have various methods for the stowage of vehicles in containers. Although there is no one recommended method, the vehicles should be properly secured to prevent possible damage to the vehicles and the container, plus the fuel system should be checked for leakage.

Three modes of transport exist:

  • Conventional carriage in Standard Containers (Describes the handling procedures from three different car manufacturers: DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Volkswagen)
  • Conventional carriage in Non-Operating Reefer
  • Carriage in Racking Systems (using 20'/40'/45' standard containers)(Describes the handling procedures for widely used racking systems)

Important remarks: It is absolutely not allowed both to stow any car being lashed/secured hanging in e.g. chains/belts/wires attached to the roof lashing eyes.

Risk factors

  • Physical damage
  • (Sea) water damage
  • Theft (accessories)