"Within one month our revenues had jumped over 50%."

Top 5 Shipping Companies

Yesterday we did an article on the best ways of doing international money transfer. Today, we’re following up with a list of the top 5 shipping companies for businesses. Every business has different shipping needs, especially since there are so many different kinds of cargo to ship. With different shipping companies specializing in different shipping service areas such as Bulk Carriers, Container Ships, Roll-on/Roll-off , and Tankers, making a choice can be difficult. Plus, different shipping companies offer different shipping deals based on volume of goods, type of goods shipped, and the customer relationship.

Want to hear the real experiences and advice of business customers who ship their products every day? Skip ahead to these words of advice from business customers.

And don’t forget, you can always verify, network, and discover great shipping suppliers on the Globial business to business network.

The companies listed are active in multiple areas of shipping and can usually ship the largest and most diverse type of shipping stock. These companies are considered the best by the Freight Forwarding Association. 

UPS Website Screenshot

UPS’ Website


UPS delivers more than 15 million packages a day to 6.1 million customers in more than 220 countries and territories around the world. According to the Freight Forwarding Association, UPS is also a very well recognized company and is one of the topmost shipping lines with ships and aircraft hauling tons of cargo all over the world. UPS’s forwarding and logistics business provides services in more than 175 countries and territories worldwide, and provides a diverse array of services such as worldwide supply chain design, execution and management, freight forwarding and distribution, customs brokerage, mail and consulting services.

From the company:

Our involvement in the communities we serve and the dedication of UPS people worldwide have earned widespread recognition. FORTUNE magazine again recognized UPS as the world’s most admired transportation company, and The Reputation Institute ranked us No. 1 in the industry. We’re also quite proud of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ranking of UPS as No. 1 in the express delivery industry.

S&P Rating: AA- (3rd highest out of 17 possible ratings)

Moody’s Rating: Aa3 (4th highest out of a possible 21 ratings)

FoundedSeattleWashington (1907)
Founder(s)James E. Casey
HeadquartersSandy SpringsGeorgiaU.S.
Area servedWorldwide
Key peopleScott Davis (Chairman & CEO)
ProductsCourier express services
Freight forwarding services
Logistics services
RevenueIncrease US$ 53.105 billion (2011)[1]
Operating incomeIncrease US$ 5.874 billion (2010)[1]
Net incomeIncrease US$ 3.804 billion (2011)[1]
Total assetsIncrease US$ 34.701 billion (2011)[1]
Total equityDecrease US$ 7.108 billion (2011)[1]
Employees398,300 (December 2011)[1]
SubsidiariesThe UPS Store
UPS Supply Chain Solutions
UPS Capital
UPS Airlines
UPS Express Critical
UPS Freight
UPS Logistics
UPS Mail Innovations
UPS Professional Solutions
Maersk Website Screenshot

Maersk’s Website


Is a Danish shipping company and is considered by Freight Forward Associates to be the best shipping company in the world. With FFA saying, that the Danish company is the world’s top carrier with a market share of 15% and has a presence in all of the world’s ports. Their ships are regularly seen entering and exiting the top ports in the world. Maersk operates and has subsidiaries/offices in more than 135 countries worldwide. Involved in global liner shipping services, Maersk Line operates over 550 vessels and has a capacity of 2.2 million.

From the company:

Maersk Line continued the focus on Reliability, Ease of doing business, Environmental impact and Competitiveness with the aim to achieve a 5% point higher EBIT margin than its peers. A number of initiatives to facilitate business with Maersk Line have already been implemented and more initiatives will be introduced during 2012. Maersk Line continues to be the most reliable container carrier and during Q4 the highest overall on-time-delivery of 87.5% was measured by Drewry. Customer satisfaction further increased during 2011 and is now at an all time high.

S&P Rating: N/A

Moody’s Rating: N/A

HeadquartersCopenhagen, Denmark
Key peopleNils Smedegaard Andersen(CEO)
Michael Pram Rasmussen(Chairman)
ProductsContainer shipping andterminalsferry and tanker transportsemi-submersibledrilling rigs and FPSOsoil and gas exploration and production,shipyardsstore retail
RevenueDKK 322.520 billion (2011)[1]
Operating incomeDKK 55.016 billion (2011)[1]
ProfitDKK 18.083 billion (2011)[1]
Total assetsDKK 374.72 billion (end 2010)[1]
Total equityDKK 192.96 billion (end 2010)[1]
Employees108,110 (average, 2010)[1]
Mediterranean Shipping Company Website Screenshot

Mediterranean Shipping Company’s Website

Mediterranean Shipping Company

MSC is the world’s largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity. MSC serves 270 ports worldwide on the six continents. 350 local offices, employing a total of 29,000 people, providing a large agency network representation. The line was named shipping line of the year in 2007 for the sixth time in eleven years by Lloyds Loading List, which is an achievement not matched by any other shipping line. The Geneva-based company operates in all major ports of the world. MSC’s most important port is Antwerp in Belgium.

From the company:

MSC is one of the few carriers able to offer worldwide coverage with one MSC bill of lading, allowing the rapid movement of goods through dedicated transhipment hubs. MSC therefore provides swift connections and efficient on-carriage services.

MSC is the leading provider of direct port calls, serving the 6 continents and calling at 335 ports through 200 direct and combined weekly liner services. 

As of the end of September 2012, MSC was operating 438 container vessels with an intake capacity of 2,160,000 TEU’s. 

S&P Rating: N/A

Moody’s Rating: N/A

Area servedWorldwide
Key peopleGianluigi AponteCEO
ServicesFreight transportation
SubsidiariesMSC Cruises
Fedex Website Screenshot

Fedex’s Website


It is one of the most widely known and widely used shipping companies on the planet. Fedex is a leader in logistics and has a strong reputation for providing on time service without damage. As FFA put it, they ship hundreds of tons of cargo all around the world regularly and are a pioneer in this field. Fedex also uses air freight and FedEx Express operates one of the largest civil aircraft fleet in the world with the largest fleet of wide bodied civil aircraft; it also carries more freight than any other airline.

From the company:

As we grow, we know we must continue to connect the world responsibly. It starts with the Purple Promise, which FedEx team members deliver millions of times a day worldwide: “I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.” If the Purple Promise is our heart, Quality Driven Management (QDM) represents our hands — it’s how we do things at FedEx. As noted earlier, our QDM philosophy and methods are built on the proven premise that higher quality lowers costs, improves service levels, and enhances the customer experience. It’s a three-legged stool that supports our long-term growth strategies.

S&P Rating: BBB (7th out of 17 possible ratings)

Moody’s Rating: Baa1 (8th out of 21 possible ratings)

FoundedLittle Rock, Arkansas (1971)
as Federal Express Corporation
Founder(s)Frederick W. Smith
HeadquartersMemphis, TennesseeU.S.
Area servedWorldwide
Key peopleFrederick W. Smith
(Chairman, President & CEO)
ProductsPost deliveryexpress mail,freight forwarding, third-party logistics
RevenueIncrease US$ 39.3 billion (2011)[1]
Operating incomeIncrease US$ 2.37 billion (2011)[1]
Net incomeIncrease US$ 1.42 billion (2011)[1]
Total assetsIncrease US$ 27.3 billion (2011)[1]
Total equityIncrease US$ 15.2 billion (2011)[1]
Employees300,000 (2012)[1]
SubsidiariesFedEx OfficeFedEx Express,FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, FedEx Custom Critical, FedEx Supply Chain, FedEx Trade Networks, FedEx Services
Hapag Llyod Website Screenshot

Hapag Lloyd’s Website


Hapag is one of the largest logistics companies on the planet, and they have been in the business for quite a while now, since they began operating in 1970. Thus, giving them a deep background of experience in shipping and freight management. They are one of the leading players of the shipping line industry, and are a go-to group for all  cargo shipping needs.

From the company:

In 2007 Hapag-Lloyd was the first container shipping company in the world to be awarded the “Excellence – 5 Stars” rating by Germanischer Lloyd, one of the world’s largest ship certification and classification societies, for the high standards of its quality assurance and sustainability activities. This certification was renewed in 2011. As a global company, Hapag-Lloyd performs annual audits in order to maintain its high quality and environmental protection standards. In 2011, 128 audits were carried out in the Group.

Awards in 2011:

October 2011, Quest for Quality Award, Logistics Management, magazine
October 2011, Easyfresh Award for Excellence, Easyfresh
August 2011, Carrier Award for “Excellence in Performance”,UTI and Dow Corning
July 2011, Carrier of the Year, Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association
May 2011, 2010 Blue Circle Award (EcoAction Program), Port Metro Vancouver
March 2011, Green Flag Environmental Achievement Award, For our vessels docking at the Port of Long Beach
March 2011, Green Supplier, GreenCarrier Sweden AB, Swedish logistics provider
January 2011, Supplier Innovation Award, John Deere

S&P Rating: B+ (9th out of 17 possible ratings)

Moody’s Rating: B2 (15th out of 21 possible ratings)

HeadquartersHamburg, Germany
Area servedWorldwide
ParentTUI AG


Words of Advice from Business Customers

Back to the Top

Nothing is stronger than a recommendation from a peer so we asked business customers and entrepreneurs who they preferred when shipping their products and any advice they could offer.

Patrick Barnhill, President of SpecialistID.com, advises shippers not to forget the government options as he shares some of his cost-saving tips:

Even with all their flaws, the Post Office can be an amazing partner. In the beginning, most people are wary of lines, lost packages, etc. You may not know that there are professional tools for business to save on postage cost and time. (For example, we never actually wait in line at the post office, instead we pull up where the trucks are in the back and load our bins on the dock just like the post office does and this is a common practice among pro shippers). Using Express1 gets you commercial Plus pricing, which you wouldn’t normally qualify for unless you mailed over 75k Priority Mail pcs per year. Using tools like Shipworks and Endicia save lots of time with automated label printing, virtually eliminating any typing by importing directly from your eCommerce or shopping platform.

On top of that, knowing how to properly use First Class mail, Flat rate envelopes and Regional rate “A” boxes will start saving you money on every package you ship, with a 2-3 day delivery to all 50 states and PR, APO/FPO addresses. Top that with all the free supplies and boxes and it gets very hard to beat.

Marcel VandenTop, President and General Manager of Intella LiftParts, prefers to use different shipping companies depending on the region being shipped to:

The best international airfreight shipper to Asia is Fedex.  They have a Great Rates hotline which allows you to get even better rates than those published, in the event that Fedex has extra capacity on their planes.  [The phone number for the hotline is] (877) 463-7408

The best international airfreight shipper for parcels coming from Europe is UPS.  In addition to their 2 and 4 day transit times, they have a service level called NA1 which actually gets shipments from major cities in Europe to the USA in one business day.  In addition, UPS has what’s called ‘neutral delivery’ which means UPS removes all commercial invoices after they clear customs.  That allows us to drop ship orders direct from Europe to our customers in the USA.  We pay customs duties and shipment costs; customers get the packages in only 1 work day.  It’s great that UPS removes the commercial invoices since that would be showing product costs to my customers.

Craig Wolfe, President of CelebriDucks, tells her Southern California located pick for exporting her products:

No question for me, DSI Tiger in Southern California is the best! I have worked with them for years and years in exporting from overseas. They are always right there with the best pricing possible and take your shipments door to door and handle it all. I love working with them. They are some of the best out there in the biz.

Author and Speaker Karen Loucks recommends UPS as her go-to shipper:

I have consistently had a great experience shipping through UPS. Last week, we sent 50 handmade security blankets back to the east coast through my children’s charity, Project Linus, for Hurricane Sandy victims. They helped me get the blankets into the store (bulky!), donated a used box (new one would have been $20) and gave us a 20% discount (we don’t even have a corp account with them!) I’ve had several experiences like that with them–they have definitely won my loyalty! The cute drivers with brown shorts and a great attitude are a bonus!

Ruta Fox, the CEO of DivineDiamonds.com, certainly agrees with her own positive experience with UPS when she needed to ship over 6,000 orders of her Ah Ring product:

I depended on UPS to ship the Ah Ring. I sent out at least 6,000 over the first few years and I can honestly say only a handful went “missing”. UPS was fantastic about making a claim, and reimbursing me, so I could re-ship an Ah Ring out to the customer promptly. They picked up everyday. I had a great relationship with the UPS driver.

And don’t forget, you can always check out the Globial business to business network to discover a fantastic shipping company to work with you!

Additional Resources

For a general overview of the shipping industry as a whole and it’s performance, check out this report issued yearly by Price Waterhouse Coopers

The top 100 shipping companies based on fleet size and order book, ranked by TEU, along with market share data. Top 100 Report by Alphaliner

The 100 most influential people in the shipping industry on Llyod’s list

A list of cargo carriers divided by general cargo and multicargo. List of international shipping companies on Danex Marketing and Business Resources

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Author:Globial International Business Team

The Globial International Business Team researches, analyzes, and reports on all things related to global trade and business.


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