When talking about the weight of your shipment, things aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. However, they aren’t too complicated either! In this article, we will take a look at three terms commonly used when talking about shipping weights and clearly define the relationship between them.

View our case studies to learn how gross and net weight discrepancies can lead to Customs compliance issues.

Irrespective of the method of shipment, the terms applied to weight calculation always takes place. Almost all transport documents and other shipment related paperwork mentions the weight of the shipment because that is a significant element of information for the freight forwarder. In most cases, transportation costs are calculated based on the weight of the shipment.

There are three main terms that you need to be familiar with:

  • Tare weight
  • Net weight
  • Gross weight

Tare Weight

Let us first start with tare weight, as it will help us define the net and gross weight. To put it simply, the tare weight refers to the container’s weight and/or the packaging the product is packed in. For instance, if you have a box of beans, the weight of the box is the tare weight. In the case where more boxes are packed into a bigger box, then the bigger box’s weight also counts as tare weight.

Net Weight

The net weight refers to the weight of the product itself. For instance, if shipping raw material, the raw material’s weight will be the shipment’s net weight. The container or packaging that the material is packed in does not count towards the net weight. Similarly, when considering a can of peas, the weight of the contents of the can counts as net weight. This would, therefore, include the peas as well as any liquid included in the can to preserve its contents.

Gross weight

As the name suggests, this is the total weight of all the items in your shipment. You could mathematically define it as:

Gross weight = Net weight + Tare weight

Therefore, this is the total weight of your shipment, i.e. gross weight is the sum of the tare weight and net weight. For shipping purposes, usually, all three weights concerning the shipment need to be known. So if you are about to send a shipment, make sure you know all the exact weights to avoid any problems during the completion of the paperwork.

Depending on the mode of transport, the definition of gross weight might vary slightly to the master of the vessel, pilot of the aircraft or operator of the vehicle.

  • Air Transport: To a pilot, the gross weight includes the tare weight, net weight of the product, and the weight of the aircraft, fuel, passengers, and crew.
  • Road/Rail Transport: To a lorry operator, gross weight includes the net weight of the product, tare weight, and the weight of the transport vehicle.
  • Waterway Transport: To a vessel’s master, gross weight is simply the sum of net weight and tare weight.

Some differences between the gross and net weight

  • Gross weight refers to the total weight of the shipment. The net weight is simply the product’s weight excluding its packaging.
  • You can think of net weight as that excluding the packaging’s weight  whereas gross weight includes the weight of the packaging
  • You can use the following two formulas to calculate the gross and net weight. You will need to know the tare weight for this calculation.

Gross weight = Net weight + Tare weight

Net weight = Gross weight – Tare weight


Weight declaration on Bill of Landing

These weights play a vital role when it comes to shipping products across borders. For example, some buyers buy raw materials according to the weight of the material. They are not interested in the packaging whereas the transport company actually shipping the product has to account for the packaging weight as well. It is therefore vital that the seller of the goods knows and mentions all the weights.

Another perspective that is relevant to shipping is that of the transport company. The transport company knows how much weight it can carry. It also has to comply with regulations and ensure the weights of the shipments they undertake isn’t above the specified levels. A company cannot comply with these rules if it doesn’t know all the weights of the products. Obviously, the gross weight is the most relevant one for them as it gives them a good idea of the overall weight of the shipment. Not knowing the gross weight will almost always cause problems for the shippers as well as the buyer of the shipment.

Why is knowing the weight of the shipment important?

Shipping vessels have a huge capacity as you can load containers on top of each other but the weight of the containers plays an important role, as the ship is eventually going to sink if there is too much weight on it, or if there is too much weight on one side of it. That is why knowing shipment weights are important to the master of the vessel. moreover, although the size of the containers is already known, how much those containers weigh decides how many containers can be put on a shipping vessel.


Tare Weight: Weight of the packaging or the container containing your products.

Net weight: Weight of the actual product itself.

Gross weight: Weight of the product plus the weight of its packaging.


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