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  • Writer's pictureVegard Synnes

Efficient Motorcycle Transportation in Containers

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Major motorcycle manufacturers have a global presence and produce motorcycles in multiple locations around the world. These manufacturers use various transportation methods to move motorcycles from production sites to dealerships and customers in global markets. Logistics service providers are usually engaged to organize such transportations, service providers ranging from niche service providers using specialized equipment to ship bikes, to the standard freight forwarder organizing container transport of bikes. In this post we look at how Kar-Tainer adds value to motorcycle transporters across the world.

The Motorcycle Cassette System

The Kar-Tainer Motorbike Cassette System (or motorcycle cassette system which is used interchangeably), was introduced in a previous post: “Motorbike Transportation - An Introduction”. Before looking at the broader value-added input we provide and how we support our partners to achieve efficient motorcycle transportation in containers, let’s first explore the equipment in more detail.

System Description

One module with various motorcycles loaded

The system is a steel-based, fully returnable loading system which allows for loading up to 40 bikes in a 40-foot-high cube shipping container. It consists of eight steel cassettes each measuring roughly 2300mm times 3000mm. Two cassettes are stacked on top of each other using four steel legs inserted into each corner of the bottom cassette to combine into one module, a 40HQ container will be loaded with 4 modules, totaling 40 bikes. The footprint of four modules combined makes up the same space as the internal floor dimensions of a 40-foot shipping container. Filling out the whole container space, wall-to-wall, adds additional strength and stability to the system once loaded inside the container. The system is designed mainly with smaller motorbikes and scooters in mind but can also be used for larger touring or racing bikes, as long as bike dimensions allow for it.

Operating Procedure

To load motorbikes onto the cassette, each cassette is placed on flat ground and the bike is rolled onto the cassette where a tire-clasp is tightened across the front-wheel of the bike, and lashing is applied to designated areas on the bike (handlebars, footrest, seat handles, tires, or similar). The bikes are loaded with the side facing towards the container door, and each bike is loaded in opposite direction to ensure sufficient space between bikes.

One cassette loaded with 5 motorbikes

Once two cassettes are loaded with five bikes each, they can be stacked on top of each other. This is done by inserting the legs into each corner of the bottom cassette before a forklift picks up the top cassette (now loaded with bikes) and positions it on top of the bottom one. Lashing is applied between the two cassettes to make the module rigid, and ensure they stay connected throughout transportation.

With four modules pre-staged, container loading can commence. Each module is pushed into the container with a forklift, where each new module loaded will push the previous ones further into the container until all four modules are fully loaded.

To unload the container the process is simply reversed and the module closest to the container door is unloaded first, followed by the rest. If unloading is done with the container still positioned on chassis, an extraction sling is used to pull the cassettes to the container door opening for easy unloading. If container is positioned on the ground or at loading dock, the forklift can enter the container to drag out the cassettes directly.

Empty cassettes are stacked on top of each other with all legs, lashing and other lose parts secured to the top cassette in each stack. 48 – 56 empty cassettes can be loaded in one container for empty repositioning.

Check out this illustrative video showcasing the full process from equipment preparation to pre-staging of bikes, container loading and unloading:

Operative Advantages

Transporting motorcycles over long distances, and particularly in an import/export setting, can lead to a range of difficulties which impact operational efficiency in a negative way. Dedicated motorcycle carriers are mainly limited to domestic use, bikes go through excessive handling from factory to customer resulting in an increased chance of damages occurring, and if packaging material is used it is usually expensive one-time use material which greatly adds on to the overall transportation cost. However, by leveraging the Kar-Tainer Motorcycle Transportation System, shippers can mitigate several of these concerns.

Multi-Modal Network Access

When shipping motorcycles in containers the shipper can fully tap into the global multi-modal network. Being able to ship by road, rail, and ocean increases the ease of moving cargo in a cost-effective manner around the world. Container connectivity around the world is also extremely well developed, so using containers as a means of distribution will enable shippers to ship from almost anywhere to anywhere without a hassle.

Improved Safety

Motorbikes, especially smaller low-cost bikes, are typically not handled very well during transportation where they are either stacked side by side on specialized motorbike carriers or lashed in close quarters inside a container. The Kar-Tainer Motorbike cassettes are designed in such a way that each bike has its own lashing points and wheel-clamps keeping the bikes steady and safe during transportation, avoiding bumping into other bikes resulting in scratches. Loading operations are done outside in the open where operation personnel easily can load one bike at a time without having to work inside a crowded container or truck where it is difficult to properly lash and secure the individual bikes. This results in a very low damage rate, which in turn reduces any need for repair work or other additional costly activities to be performed before the bikes end up with the end-customer.

Ease of Handling

Last cassette with bikes loaded in container

Combined with the flexibility achieved through tapping into the multi-modal network, the ease of handling offered by the Kar-Tainer cassette system opens a range of options for the shipper in terms of how to design the distribution network of motorbikes. First off, as bikes are loaded on cassettes and inserted into containers, the number of handling points is reduced to the bare minimum which reduces both cost and chance of damage to the bikes. Secondly, bikes can be loaded and unloaded anywhere, with a minimal requirement for logistics equipment and infrastructure. Operations personnel, a forklift, and flat ground are the only things required to either load or unload bikes from cassettes and containers. This allows for loading to be done even at the manufacturing plant, and unloading can be done close to end-customer.

Financial Advantages

Setting up transport solutions for moving a finished built motorcycle over long distances can also be a costly affair. There is no standardized cargo load unit for international shipping of motorbikes, proper consideration into packaging to keep the product safe is required and loading of cargo with non-standard sizes and shapes such as motorcycles, will require special equipment to ensure safety of the product throughout handling and transportation. Acquiring the right systems and expertise to do so can be a cast multiplier, however, through the business model and distinct advantages offered through the Kar-Tainer Motorcycle Cassette System, we help lower both risk and cost.

Optimize Load Rate

The Kar-Tainer cassette system allows shippers to optimize the number of bikes loaded in each container. Being able to load up to 40 bikes per container has the potential to unlock huge cost savings for motorbike shippers when compared to standard “one-layer-loading” using wooden skids or boxes to secure the bikes in the container.

Forklift moving a module with 10 motorbikes

Returnable Solution

Besides allowing for more motorcycles to be loaded per container, the Kar-Tainer system also offers potential cost savings by the simple fact of being a returnable system. Instead of spending huge amounts on expandable packaging, which is thrown away after only one-time use, Kar-Tainer cassettes can be returned and reused again and again. Save money and reduce carbon emissions through eliminate waste in the supply chain!

No Investment Required

As the Kar-Tainer cassettes are offered as a leasing model, there is no need for the shipper to invest capital in professional equipment to transport motorbikes. Equipment is delivered when a new project starts, and the shipper only starts paying a monthly leasing fee when shipments start. This ensures any equipment cost stays a cashflow item and not a big CAPEX requirement in order to start shipments.

Efficient Motorcycles Transportation in Containers is Possible

Motorcycle transportation can be a complicated process and in domestic markets, or at least over transport routes that only cover road transport, is usually done by logistics providers specializing in this type of transport services. However, when shipping motorbikes across borders and oceans, using a container to do so is the only sensible option. Several challenges arise when doing so which can result in both high cost and low operational efficiency. The Kar-Tainer Motorcycle Cassette System allows shippers and logistics providers alike to offer a high quality, cost-effective solution to Motorcycle transportation.

If you want to learn more of the Kar-Tainer Motorcycle Cassette solution and how we can help optimize your motorbike transport activities, get in touch with your closest Kar-Tainer representative or reach out to us through the website contact forms on

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