What is an actor carrier?

Actor carriers (equivalent to transshipping) consist in transiting merchandise from an arrival dock to its place of exit. The freight never transits through a storage or warehousing area. The operation is conducted within very short deadlines, to optimize delivery lead times whilst reducing immobilization for the means of transport in question.

There are several types of actor carrier operations. It can be done between two ships, from a boat to a train (or road vehicle), or even between two forwarding docks. The latter is referred to as “Cross Docking”. It should be noted that the various sites dedicated to this type of maneuvers are free zones, to limit inspections and potential delivery delays.

Transshipment is essentially applied to sea freight operations. This solution is commonly used for multimodal and intermodal journeys, so freight can be transferred efficiently from one means of transport to the next. With a view to optimizing processes, this practice also means several batches of goods can be combined, so long as they have the same destination or journey. This is known as consolidation. Conversely, transshipment can lead to cargo being separated into batches heading to different destinations.

The 4 main specificities of an actor carrier operation

An actor carrier operation is qualified based on various criteria. They make its organization easier to manage:

  • There are no storage areas. The goods are switched from their initial means of transport to the one journeying to their destination;

  • Completion lead times are very short, to minimize immobilization costs;

  • This type of operation considers all customs duties, and boasts clear advantages when it comes to implementing intermodal or multimodal flows;

  • Several means of transport are authorized: ships, trains, trucks, etc.

Given the logistics rolled out, transshipment is generally found in international trade and global exchanges. It is particularly appreciated for container transit.

Examples and practical applications

Regardless of the amount of goods to be transited, the different actor carrier stages are similar from one cargo to another:

  • The goods arrive at a dock;

  • Freight zone personnel conduct the required unloading operations;

  • The goods are transferred to a departure dock;

  • Once loaded into their new means of transport, the freight pursues its journey to its next destination.

It should be noted that there are several types of transshipment:

  • Transit through port terminals or zones: this is the most common form of transshipment, boasting high-performance solutions for international trade;

  • At-sea transshipment: this practice is not particularly regulated, as it is carried out in international waters. Legally, it is mostly akin to deep-sea fishing;

  • Secondary at-sea transshipment: this namely concerns waterway convoys, where cargo is transferred from one vessel to another in a transition area.

Actor carriers in figures

Actor carrier operations are one of the main factors for maritime traffic development, namely with regard to containers and TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). They represent close to 80% of worldwide trade.

In France, over 7 million containers transit through major port areas, i.e. 3 in 4 shipments. Transshipment plays a key role in making sure these exchanges run smoothly.

(Source: https://www.e-tlf.com/dossiers-tlf/chiffres-cles/)

Regulatory cornerstones

  • Customs regulations pertaining to sea freight and import-export

  • Transport Code

  • Laws on international trade