Stowage in international container shipping refers to the amount of space available on a vessel for cargo. Obviously, since there are different vessel designs and sizes, the stowage levels will differ on every space. And of course the biggest variable is the amount of cargo on a ship. In terms of a mathematical equation, there is a stowage factor determined by cubic feet divided by freight space. And in stowage, when factoring the space available for the shipping freight, you must factor in enough space to make sure that the cargo, the crew and the ship are safe. And also when factoring stowage, there must be enough room on the ship so that the containers can easily be loaded and unloaded onto the dock.

For shippers, understanding stowage might not seem that important. But that is a stowage charge that international shippers of containers and break bulk have to be on the watch for it. The stowage charge could apply to shipments that are an export or an import. Typically, a stowage charge is very rare in the shipping world. However, there are times when it might be used. For example, if you have cargo that you are shipping, and the destination of the cargo changes while in transit, the carrier would have to re-stow the cargo onto another ship. In that scenario, you will be hit with a surcharge for the change. And that surcharge is usually not included in the ocean freight rate that you were given.