What is a VOCC?

When you import internationally, transporting your goods from the factory to your destination often means transporting your freight via ocean. The companies that own these ships are known as ocean freight carriers.

They are generally of two types:


Vessel Operating Common Carrier, or simply VOCC, is also referred to as ocean common carrier. These are shipping companies that own and operate their own fleet of ocean vessels. They also lease out the vessels to other organizations (like NVOCC or freight forwarders).

VOCCs are responsible for the cargo and for transporting it safely to the right destination at the assigned time. Most of these companies work with larger businesses for import/export and avoid working with small or infrequent shippers.

Usually, VOCCs are a great choice for giant retail chains (like Walmart or Amazon) — that need to transport huge quantities of merchandise and freight globally. These retail chain businesses have fluctuating demand and supply chains as per weather seasonality. Thus, the immediate availability of shipping containers at reasonable prices becomes super-important.

Here, as VOCCs take up full responsibility for freight transportation from port to port or from origin to destination, they are usually preferred by retail chains. VOCCs provide them with a regular supply of containers with assurance and reliability. They also help these businesses bypass the intermediaries and help them save additional costs on freight transportation.

Major global VOCCs include Maersk, Evergreen, APL, and COSCO.


Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier, or NVOCC, is like a virtual shipowner. These companies can help you transport freight, but don’t have their own fleet of vessels. Due to this, an NVOCC has to lease cargo space from VOCC, or ship-owners.

NVOCCs work with multiple shippers and commit huge volumes to different VOCCs — thus, allowing them to have a higher buying power at discounted rates. They also offer more flexibility than a VOCC with multiple freight transportation options. Carriers operating as NVOCC can issue their own Bill Of Lading (unlike freight forwarders).

Both VOCC & NVOCC need to register with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). Both can also issue bills of lading and are fully liable for the transported freight goods.

Terms related to VOCC

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