How long does it take a cargo ship to cross the Pacific? This posts lists popular cargo ships routes and their durations for crossing the Pacific Ocean on a ship.

I recently checked some Google search statistics of my blog. I noticed that I get some traffic from searches like “how long does it take a cargo ship to cross the pacific” or “how long to cross the pacific by ship/boat”.

These searches have led people to my blog post “Crossing the Pacific – My Cargo Ship Travel Experience”. That post gives a lot of information about crossing the Pacific on a container ship. However, it does not answer that one question: How long does it take cargo ships to cross the Pacific?

To help you, my random Google reader, I decided to write this new post with  more information.

"how long to cross the pacific by ship

How long does it take a cargo ship to cross the Pacific?

How Long Does It Take a Cargo Ship to Cross the Pacific?

Most crossings of the Pacific Ocean take between 15 and 30 days. The duration of the crossing naturally depends on the starting point and the destination.

Below are the estimated lengths of popular Transpacific cargo ship routes. This being a travel blog, I’ve only listed routes with cargo ships that take passengers.

  • Balboa (Panama) – Auckland (New Zealand) = 18 days

It’s also possible to start the trip from the East Coast of United States, passing through the Panama Canal. This will add around 8-10 days to the journey.

Source: freightercruises.com

  • Sydney (Australia) – Los Angeles (California, US) = 25 days

The freighter also stops in Tauranga, New Zealand, and Oakland, California:

Tauranga (New Zealand) – Oakland (California, US) = 18 days

Sources: cargoshipvoyages.com, freightertravel.co.nz

  • Vancouver (Canada) – Yantian (China) = 22 days

The same ships start from Seattle (Washington, US) a day before leaving Vancouver. After Yantian, the cargo ships also go to the Chinese cities of Xiamen, Ningbo and Shanghai (23, 25 and 27 days) as well as Pusan in South Korea (29 days). The return trip goes from Pusan to Seattle:

Pusan (South Korea) – Seattle (Washington, US) = 12 days

Source: freightercruises.com

  • Manzanillo (Mexico) – Kaohsiung (Taiwan) = 19 days

I haven’t found any direct connections between South America and Asia or Oceania. This route, however, also goes from Manzanillo (Mexico) all the way San Antonio (Chile). This extra leg adds 15 days to the journey.

Source: freightercruises.com

A cargo vessel ready to cross under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Our cargo ship passing under the Golden Gate bridge before arriving in Oakland, California.

How exact are the durations of the cargo ship voyages across the Pacific?

The schedules of freighter ships are only estimations. The departure dates can shift by a day or two, and the same applies for the length of the journey.

My crossing from New Zealand to California was estimated to take eighteen days, but it eventually took only sixteen. Our ship left two days later than originally expected, but the arrival time remained unchanged.

Why does it take cargo ships so long to cross the Pacific?

There are two reasons why it takes so long to cross the Pacific by cargo ship.

The first reason is quite obvious: the Pacific Ocean is huuuuge. As Worldatlas.com kindly tells us, the Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth’s oceans. It covers about one third of our dear planet’s total surface area, making it larger than all of the Earth’s land area combined.

At its widest point, the east-west width of the Pacific is approximately 19,800 kilometers (12,300 miles). Oh boy, those are some pretty big numbers!

How long does it take a cargo ship to cross the Pacific?

The wide blue ocean.

Cool! And what’s the other reason for the slow cargo ship crossings of the Pacific?

The second reason is quite interesting: cargo ships travel slower than before to save fuel. Even though freighters can usually reach speeds over 25 knots (46 km/h, 29 mph), they now travel at speeds like 12 knots (22 km/h) or 20 knots (37 km/h).

My cargo ship from New Zealand to Oakland traveled at an average speed of 15 knots (30 km/h).

Thank you for the answers! Now I finally know how long it takes cargo ships to cross the Pacific Ocean.

You’re welcome!

* * *

Final note: If you’ve decided to book a freighter expedition, I also recommend reading my post “How to Prepare for Container Ship Travel?”.