How long does a ship take from London to Montreal?
August 5, 2017 5:11 PM   Subscribe

How long does it take a ship (of the kind that would carry mail) to travel from London to Montreal? Note, I don't mean how long it takes sea freight to be shipped in total - I can find answers to this, which is that it takes a couple of weeks. I'm curious about how much of that time is actually the ocean transit (if a direct route is taken), and I can't find this info by googling at all.

I was talking with jeather about how with airmail a flight only takes about 7 hours, but it's not like you can post airmail and have it arrive the same day; the mail itself takes a few days at least. So then we were wondering whether the ratio of travel time to total time for goods to arrive was similar or different for sea freight, i.e. is it ever possible that a book that takes a week to get from London to Montreal was actually sent by ship, or is that implausibly fast when you consider postal processing, customs, loading, shipping delays, etc? Then we realised we don't know how fast the crossing by ship is at the best of times anyway.

I can find info on historical Atlantic crossings, but I assume modern ships are faster (and most of what I can find is to New York or somewhere too, which I assume takes longer than to Canada).
posted by lollusc to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
As a data point, I sailed on a modern ship from Hawaii to Vancouver in aprox 6.5 days. This was not at 'maximum' speed, so theoretically it could be a bit faster. Or slower for fuel economy.

This Site would let you see a shipping lines schedule and transit times for what looks like container ships. For example, it looks like the sailing time Liverpool to New York is about 9-10 days.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:39 PM on August 5, 2017

I am by no means an expert, but I've been fascinated with since a MeFi post the other day, and quickly I can find a Montreal to Tilbury GB (the Fuldaborg) and a few Montreal-Antwerp crossings for cargo ships (green) that all run 10-12 days. There is a Hamburg-Montreal that's 7 days, but it looks like it's a much smaller ship.

That said, I'm not entirely sure if mail is normal cargo or somehow special.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:52 PM on August 5, 2017

The theoretical maximum speed is determined by the length of the boat's waterline.

But steaming at full speed is inefficient, and modern cargo ships routinely slow their roll to save fuel.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:01 PM on August 5, 2017

The Queen Mary sails at about 20 kts and can sail from NY to Southampton in 6 days, but usually does it in 7 or 8 for cruise planning purposes.

It might not take that much more time from Montreal, since the route from New York is a little inefficient. Due to Nova Scotia's existence, ships from NY take a plain due-east course until the great circle route becomes open water.
posted by hwyengr at 7:11 PM on August 5, 2017

Realistically, surface mail isn't going on a fast ship though. It is being loaded into containers and put on a cargo ship, so ~10 days is more realistic.

(And the distance from London to NY or Montreal by sea is more or less the same).
posted by ssg at 8:23 PM on August 5, 2017

If you're asking because you've received book orders from the UK (say, via a seller who lists books on ABE), Royal Mail seems to have worked out some very low-cost book shipping deals with many such high-volume sellers. I once received a huge hardcover historical Atlas--we're talking tall, thick, and HEAVY!--that ended up costing me around $10 total (book + shipping). It was actually delivered to my door in its own gigantic Royal Mail mailbag, and arrived here (West Coast) in around ten days.

Not only would it have cost many times what I paid just to ship that book across the country (at local rates), it also would probably have taken just as long to arrive. Anyway, that's just to say that although I paid what seemed like a surface delivery fee in that case, there's no way the book could have travelled all the way from the UK to the West Coast that way in ten days. Many, if not most, of those books are going airmail.

On the other hand, just yesterday I was surprised to find a package in my mailbox sent from Jersey, with a shipping date of April 12th! I long ago gave up any hope of ever receiving the book within that black plastic wrapper, and received a refund for it back in May. Maybe that one actually did--mistakenly?--make its way here by boat and mail truck.
posted by tenderly at 11:53 PM on August 5, 2017

Container ships are not necessarily slow and I doubt they go all the way to Montreal before unloading.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:54 AM on August 6, 2017

I found a website site that said the UK to Toronto container shipping time is 10 days.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:01 AM on August 6, 2017

Container ships are not necessarily slow and I doubt they go all the way to Montreal before unloading.

FWIW, Montreal handles roughly 3/4 of Canada's East Coast container traffic.
posted by ssg at 8:49 AM on August 6, 2017

And CBSA only clears parcels through customs at Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, so I'd be very surprised if Canada Post received any volume of mail in containers at Halifax.
posted by ssg at 8:52 AM on August 6, 2017

We have a container on its way to Montreal from Europe right now. It left Liverpool on the 5th and it's estimated to arrive in Montreal at 6:30am on the 10th. (No stops between Liverpool and Montreal.)
posted by philotes at 9:47 AM on August 6, 2017

Transatlantic crossings are 5-12 days depending on the season and route.
posted by fshgrl at 11:51 AM on August 6, 2017

you should find a brit who'd like to send you a letter! nb reverse time often very different, experience of uk to and from many countries
posted by maiamaia at 4:53 PM on August 7, 2017

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