When you book ocean freight with a carrier (e.g. Maersk Line), you essentially have two options for what to book:
- COC: Carrier-own-container
- SOC: Shipper-own-container
In option #1, the carrier provides both the container as well as the slot on the vessel—hence you “buy the bundle”. You will usually get a Maersk-branded container out of a Maersk-depot and will also return the container to a Maersk-depot in the POD.
In option #2, you essentially bring your “own” container and just purchase the slot on the vessel. Whether you own the container outright, have it leased from a leasing company or your client (the BCO) provides it to you, does not matter to the designation of the container as a SOC in the eyes of the carrier.
Booking a shipment with a SOC primarily makes sense when you need additional flexibility (e.g. when equipment supply is scarce) or if you can save costs compared to COCs.
- Flexibility: With a SOC, you are not dependent on the carrier’s equipment availability—hence you avoid situations where you have arranged a great rate with a carrier but the carrier does not let you book due to lack of stock
- Costs I: With a SOC, you don’t have to worry about Detention charges anymore—as the carrier cannot charge you for the box. You might even be able to charge detention to your shipper/consignee!
- Costs II: Oftentimes, you will also be able to either secure a better ocean freight rate if you bring your own container (e.g. in locations with equipment scarcity)