A Brief Summary of Container Demurrage

A Brief Summary of Container Demurrage


Container demurrage is a term used in the shipping industry to describe charges imposed on cargo importers and exporters for failing to retrieve or return shipping containers within a specified time frame. Thus, it is a significant challenge faced by the shipping industry causing financial losses for both shippers and consignees. This fee is levied when the containers are detained at the port, rail yard, or inland depots beyond the allowed free time, and it can quickly escalate into a costly affair for importers and exporters.


When a shipment arrives at a port, the shipping company allows a certain amount of free time, which varies depending on the port, to retrieve the containers. This free time typically ranges from a few days to a week, and it's intended to give importers and exporters ample time to unload or load the cargo and return the containers to the shipping company. However, if the containers are not retrieved or returned within the allowed free time, the shipping company imposes container demurrage charges.

Container demurrage fees are often calculated per container per day, and the rates can vary depending on the port, the shipping company, and the type of container. The cost of demurrage can quickly add up, particularly for importers and exporters dealing with high volumes of cargo.

There are several reasons why containers may be detained at ports beyond the allowed free time. These include delays in customs clearance, issues with paperwork, congestion at the port, or unavailability of the transport equipment needed to move the containers. It's crucial for importers and exporters to stay on top of these issues to avoid incurring demurrage charges.

One way to avoid container demurrage fees is to have a clear understanding of the shipping company's policies regarding free time, demurrage charges, and detention charges. Importers and exporters should also work closely with their shipping agents to ensure that all necessary paperwork is in order and that the cargo is cleared quickly through customs.

Another strategy is to negotiate longer free time periods with the shipping company. Importers and exporters can often negotiate more extended free time periods by demonstrating their ability to unload or load the cargo quickly and return the containers promptly.

In conclusion, container demurrage is a common issue faced by importers and exporters in the shipping industry. It is essential for these businesses to stay on top of the policies and procedures of the shipping companies they work with to avoid incurring costly demurrage charges. By negotiating longer free time periods and working closely with shipping agents, businesses can reduce their risk of container demurrage and ensure that their shipments are delivered efficiently and cost-effectively.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the subject matter.


Selçuk Esenyel

Managing Partner

Ali Nihad Özgürel


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