If you want to keep your ocean freight rates down, then you must ensure timely pick-up and drop-off of containers at the terminals. Otherwise, you will be hit with demurrage and detention charges. Demurrage can occur when a container, filled with the cargo, sits at the terminal for a time longer than what is permitted during free time. Detention charges occur when an empty container is not returned to the port before or after a maritime shipping voyage.
Recently, there have been more complaints than usual, asserting that some of the demurrage and detention charges were given unfairly to many shippers. What is most alarming about these complaints is that they were not targeted towards shippers a single port; rather it seems that this problem is occurring at ports throughout the West Coast and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
The Journal of Commerce reported on these current issues regarding demurrage and detention fees from the carriers. It seems that importers, including many smaller shippers, are being targeted to pay these charges for not getting their containers out of the port before the deadline. However, shippers say that the recent congestion is the real reason beyond them not being able to get their containers before the deadline. In addition, exporters are also being targeted for not returning empty containers.
The good news is that the US Federal Maritime Commission might be looking into these complaints. But, they require more proof. Shippers, looking to avoid demurrage and detention charges, must work with a smart freight forwarder to help them plan ahead.