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by Sam Franklin | July 01, 2022 | 13 min read

12 biggest international shipping and logistics companies (For UK eCommerce businesses’ consideration)

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Last updated: July 08, 2022

According to data by the International Chamber of Shipping, 11 billion tons of goods are transported by ship annually. Container shipping by sea has become quite critical thanks to globalisation and the demand for goods in different parts of the world. It is a popular mode of shipping because it has a much better capacity and is much cheaper than aircraft.

If your small business is involved in importing and exporting products, you have to use shipping companies to meet your customer demands. Because of this, you need to know the different container shipping companies you can use to move your products.

In this article, we have compiled a list of the biggest international shipping and logistics companies in the UK that you can use based on their price, reputation, and quality of service.

Table of contents

What to look out for when choosing a shipping company

Choosing a shipping company is a critical process in your business because it has lasting implications. Your choice will considerably impact your business operations; therefore, you should select a carrier that fulfils your supply chain needs and customer requirements. Here are the main decision factors to consider.


You need to have a clear budget on what you can spend on shipping and stick to that. Before paying for any shipping service, do your research to see which shippers will give you the best deal.

When deciding on the cost, keep in mind that cheaper shipping services are not always the best - this could slow down the delivery time and quality of service. It's advisable to avoid compromising on quality for a lower price. 

In addition, you can also negotiate the prices. Different carriers have diverse offers, which could lower your price.

Services offered

Your choice of shipping company should meet all your business needs. For instance, small businesses require different services from mega-companies.

If your business requires more than one service, it’s cheaper and easier to go with a carrier that offers multiple services rather than hiring several shipping companies.

Shipment tracking

Statistics show that shipments are delayed by approximately 4.4 days on average. Because of this, you need real-time tracking of your shipment to keep you and your customers well informed.

Ensure that the shipping company you choose has the right infrastructure in place, such as GPS data and live satellite feed technology that enables you to track the movement of your goods. Real-time tracking allows you to manage customer expectations and inform them in case there's any delay.


Shipping your cargo with a carrier that prioritises safety can build your business image. When choosing a shipping company, it's advisable to check their accreditation, safety rating, accident rates, protocols, and accountability to determine their safety levels. 

But you need to keep in mind that hauliers have limited liability when some disasters happen; therefore, you need marine insurance to protect your business.

Dedicated support

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Is your shipping company reachable? This is one of the key things to consider when selecting a partner. Your shipping partner should be responsive, especially if you need to track down your cargo or get feedback.

Always ensure that the carrier has 24/7 live, email, and phone support. This makes it easier to follow up on any inquiries and track your shipments.

Industry experience

As a small business, you need to deal with a stable shipping company. Choosing a company that is yet to build a fleet or has zero industry experience is risky for your business.

Compare shipping companies and select a trustworthy one that can meet all your business needs. This is important, especially if you are shipping internationally. It would help if you had a carrier that lessens your burden and handles the movement of goods more independently.

Shipping carrier type

Carriers can either be asset-based or non-asset based. Asset-based carriers own all the equipment such as ships, trucks, and warehouses used for shipping and logistics. On the other hand, non-asset-based carriers don’t own the equipment used to transport your freight; therefore, they lease or partner with subcontractors.

When choosing a shipping company, consider the services you need. An asset-based might be the best option if you need additional services such as warehousing, inventory, and packaging. Using a non-asset-based carrier leaves more room for error because more people are handling your freight. This type could also be more costly.


Your carrier should have the capacity to meet your transportation demands. 

Top 12 international shipping and logistics companies (Ranked from the largest)

If you are looking for an international container shipping company to use for your business, here’s a list of top carriers you can use in the UK.

1. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)

For the first time in 25 years, Maersk Line lost its standing as the largest shipping line by container capacity to the Mediterranean Shipping Company. According to data by Alphaliner, MSC owns or charters ships that carry an equivalent of 4,413,344 shipping containers compared to Maersk’s total capacity of 4,278,370 containers as of June 2022.

MSC is an Italian Swiss company established in 1970 by seafarer captain Gianluigi Aponte. It's the largest privately-owned shipping company in the world, with 600 offices in 155 countries globally.

Aponte bought his first ship Patricia and another one, later named Rafaela, which he used to open a shipping line between Somalia and the Mediterranean. As he continued buying more used cargo ships, the company expanded to serve the Indian Ocean, Africa, and Northern Europe by 1977. A decade later, MSC had expanded to Australia and North America.

It has 700 vessels travelling on more than 250 different routes at any given time and 500 ports of call. Since its establishment, MSC has continued to deliver different types of cargo for various sectors, including food and beverage, chemicals, agriculture, and more. They also have bespoke container types to suit various cargo loads from reefer cargo, special cargo, dangerous goods to dry cargo.

Additionally, the company also provides intermodal transportation services via truck and rail. They handle door-to-door, factory-to-consumer deliveries and additional transport solutions for their customers. Apart from container shipping, MSC offers storage, warehouse, and custom clearance services.

2. Maersk Line

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Maersk Line is part of the A.P. Moller Group. Established in 1904 by Peter Maersk Moller and his son, this shipping company is based in Denmark. Until 2021, Maersk dominated as the largest shipping company.

Well known for its fleet of container ships, Maersk operates internationally, with most of its operations being between South America and Europe, Asia and Europe, and North America and the UK.

Having been in operation for more than 100 years, Maersk is probably one of the most famous container shipping lines globally. It’s easily identifiable with the brand’s light blue colours. Maersk deploys more than 730 container vessels, has 67 terminals across 42 countries, is in more than 130 countries, and has more than 100,000 employees worldwide.

With its headquarters in Copenhagen, Maersk has built one of the most integrated shipping networks, including warehouse storage in different countries. According to their website, they have more than 3 million square metres of warehouse capacity globally. They also have a TEU capacity of 4,278,370.

3. CMA CGM Group

CMA CGM Group is the third-largest shipping company in the world and France's largest shipping carrier. Established in 1978, this company is headquartered in Marseille. Its name is derived from the French acronym "Maritime Freighting Company – General Maritime Company."

This company is a result of a series of mergers between several shipping corporations. Today, CMA CGM Group offers international shipping services, including freight delivery, container fleet management, logistics, and cargo cruises.

CMA CGM Group is present in 160 countries and has 400 offices, 566 vessels, 750 warehouses, and 130,000 employees. The company serves 420 of 521 commercial ports worldwide and has 257 shipping lines. In addition, it has a TEU capacity of 22 million. Its warehouses are about 9 million square metres.

Apart from shipping, the CMA CGM group handles other types of freight. They transport 2.8 million tons via ground freight and 0.4 million tons using air freight. They have experience transporting dry, refrigerated, dangerous, and special goods.

Furthermore, the company is quite proactive when it comes to sustainability. Through their CMA CGM plus scheme, they aim to reduce their cargo carbon footprint.


Formerly known as China Ocean Shipping Company, COSCO was established as a Chinese government agency in 1961. In 2015, COSCO merged with another government-owned company China Shipping Group to form China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited.

As the largest shipping company outside Europe, COSCO is based in Shanghai, China. Its subsidiaries include Shanghai Pan Asia Shipping, New Golden Sea, Orient Overseas Container Line, and Coheung. As of February 2022, COSCO has a total fleet of 1349 vessels and 51 container terminals across the world. COSCO Shipping has a TEU capacity of 3,299,470.

The shipping company is China's largest dry cargo carrier and a prominent dry bulk shipping operator globally.

5. Hapag-Lloyd

Hapag-Lloyd is Germany's largest shipping liner and carrier. Established in 1970, the company was formed due to a merger between North German Lloyd and Hamburg-American Line. The shipping company has 248 vessels, operates on 123 routes, and is in 418 locations in 137 countries.

The carrier deals in different types of cargo, including coffee, dangerous goods, special cargo, and reefer cargo. As a leading global liner shipping brand Hapag-Lloyd has a TEU capacity of 11.9 million annually.

With about 14,000 employees, Hapag-Lloyd has a dedicated global inland team catering to logistics needs. 

6. Evergreen Marine Corporation

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This shipping conglomerate is based in Taiwan. Established in 1968, Evergreen Marine Corporation is among the world’s largest carriers. Today, Evergreen has 315 service locations and more than 200 vessels and covers 114 countries in its shipping network.

Evergreen’s route links Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, and Korea to the U.S. It also connects the Mediterranean and Europe to Japan, Korea, Mainland China, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan and links Asia with Africa. Apart from covering the main routes, it also handles the feeder services in the Caribbean and India.

While their container ships are considerably smaller than the competitors, they use these to reduce fuel consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The company’s TEU capacity is 1,533,410.

7. Ocean Network Express (ONE)

Established in 2017, Ocean Network Express is a joint venture between Japanese shipping companies K Line, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. The company started in Japan, but its headquarters are in Singapore.

ONE was established to boost shipping services in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. As one of the largest shipping alliances in the world, the company has 240 vessels, 220 port calls around the world, and 140 weekly service loops. According to data by Alphaliner, ONE has a TEU capacity of 1,508,272.

Apart from shipping, ONE also has inland services that include rail, truck, and barge shipping.

8. HMM

Formerly known as Hyundai Merchant Marine, HMM is a leading container shipping company. Established in 1976, HMM transports most of South Korea’s exports and is Korea’s top container carrier, playing a big role in the country’s economic development.

HMM has more than 100 state-of-the-art vessels and a vast global network of 6 regional headquarters. It also has 27 subsidiaries, 5 liaisons, and 60 branch offices globally. Apart from international shipping, HMM also offers additional services, including customised supply solutions for refrigerated, dry and specialised cargo.

9. Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation

Established in 1972, Yang Ming Transport Corporation offers international shipping and logistics services. This Taiwanese shipping company transports cargo around Asia, Europe, Australia, and America. Together with Hapag-Lloyd, HHM, and Ocean Network Express, Yang Ming is part of THE Alliance.

As of May 2022, Yang Ming had 93 vessels with a TEU capacity of 670,000. The shipping company has invested in terminals at Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan, Antwerp in Belgium, and Los Angeles in the US to serve its customers much better.

The company subsidiaries include Yes Logistics Corporation, Kuang Ming Shipping Corporation, and Jing Ming Transport Company. Yang Ming has more than 100 vessels. Aside from logistics and transport, the company also offers warehouse services and lease of containers.

10. ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd

ZIM Integrated Shipping Services, also known as ZIM, is an Israeli cargo shipping company. It was established in 1945 under the name ZIM Palestine Navigation Company Ltd by the Israel Maritime League, the Jewish Agency, and the Histadrut. The company was privatised in 2004 after the Israel Corporation purchased shares held by the Israeli government.

With its state-of-the-art fleet, ZIM has 80 vessels and covers 180 ports of call globally. ZIM’s shipping line covers Asia, Africa, Europe, America, the Mediterranean, and Intra America Caribbean routes.

It has regional headquarters in Haifa, Israel, Liverpool, Norfolk, Virginia in the US, Hamburg, and Hong Kong. The company also has more than 170 offices in 100 countries.

Thanks to their shipping expertise, ZIM can handle different types of cargo, including dry cargo, reefer cargo, and project cargo. Their TEU capacity stands at 474,969. 

11. Korea Marine Transport Company (KMTC)

Since its establishment in 1954, Korea Marine Transport Company has provided full liner service logistics services. As one of the largest shipping companies in Korea, KMTC has major operations in Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, and other countries.

Thanks to its global logistics network, KMTC has offices in Incheon, Ulsan, and Busan in Korea and over 30 ports in Japan and Hong Kong. In addition, the company has more than 16 ports in China and 9 global ports in the Middle East and Northwest Asia. KMTC has a fleet of 50 vessels and a TEU capacity of 152,123.

12. IRISL Group

The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL Group) was established in 1967. As Iran's national maritime carrier, its main focus is cargo transportation, ship management, container transport, and shipping services in the Caspian Sea.

In addition, the company also covers the Mediterranean Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the Persian Gulf. IRISL owns 87 vessels, and the group's subsidiaries own an additional 28 vessels. The company has a TEU capacity of 150,040.

Comparison table

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If you are shipping your cargo from different parts of the world to a port in the UK, these are some of the largest shipping and logistics companies you can use. These international shipping companies have the capacity to move goods across several countries worldwide. Most of them carry different types of goods, whether you are shipping dry, reefer, or dangerous cargo.

Before choosing one of these international shipping companies, consider factors such as price, real-time tracking, reliability, services provided, and safety of your products. If you need more services like warehousing, packaging, and delivery to customers, choose a logistics company that offers all these services.

Selecting an international shipping company that meets your shipping and logistics needs is important for the growth of your small business as well as for meeting customer expectations.

Written by

Sam Franklin
Sam Franklin

Sam founded his first startup back in 2010 and has since been building startups in the Content Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and SaaS verticals. Sam is a generalist with deep knowledge of lead generation and scaling acquisition and sales.


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