Port charges for containers

By: Explect, January 4, 2023


Port charges for containers can increase shipping costs. In this blog, you will learn everything about port charges, and we will provide you with tips on how to avoid them. Shipping processes can be quite complicated, with hidden costs that can make it difficult to determine the true cost of shipping your cargo. Additionally, there are many types of port charges that you may not be aware of. For example, did you know that charges can be levied if your cargo arrives too early at the port?

These charges can quickly add up, making shipping pricier than necessary. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of any potential charges so that you can determine how best to avoid them.

What are the port charges for containers?

Some port charges for containers are fees that shipping lines pay to port authorities for their services. Other port charges are generally fines that you pay to the port authorities or shipping lines. These charges are levied if the cargo arrives too early or too late, or if there is a last-minute change in the route of your cargo. These are costs that increase shipping costs and often affect the final price of the freight being transported.

While some port charges, such as demurrage and detention, can be avoided, other charges are fixed. These include terminal handling charges and wharfage fees. If you would like to know more about the different port tariffs and how to avoid them, read on.

Port charges are calculated based on several factors. Some charges consider the type of cargo, how it is packaged, its weight, or how long it has been in the port. There are also many external factors that impact the port charges you pay. For example, if the port is congested, it will take longer for your container to be unloaded. In this case, you may have to pay port storage fees, which are not your fault. If you are aware of all the port charges in advance, you can plan better and avoid them. To help you, here are some of the most common port tariffs for containers.

Wharfage fees

Wharfage fees, also known as cargo dues, are levied on all goods loaded or unloaded from a ship. In fact, they are also levied on goods that are transferred between ships.

The rates for these charges vary from port to port/terminal. Usually, they are calculated based on weight, volume, or the number of goods. Wharfage fees can also be established based on the nature of the cargo, such as liquids and dry cargo. Wharfage fees may be applied here based on the volume of the cargo. While goods transported on pallets may be charged based on their weight. Additional fees may be charged for hazardous cargo. These are costs that you are responsible for and not the shipping line.

Terminal handling charges

The terminal handling charge (THC) is another port charge for containers that you cannot avoid. As the name suggests, the THC is a fee collected by terminal operators for loading, unloading, storing, moving, and maintaining containers at a terminal, container freight station, or even on the wharf. Both the ports where the cargo is loaded and unloaded charge terminal handling fees. If your containers require only transshipment, then the port where this happens also charges THC. In this case, the terminal handling charges are paid directly by the shipping line. For THC at the loading and unloading gates, this is often not the case. Here, the shipper and consignee of the cargo decide who pays the THC.

Gate storage fees

Gate storage fees are the costs paid for the space occupied by containers in the terminal yard, warehouse, or container depot. This storage period begins when your containers enter the storage facility and ends when they leave the territory. Ports offer only a few free days (3-7 days) to load or unload the containers and leave the terminal. If your containers can leave the terminal before the free days expire, you do not need to pay gate storage fees. However, if your container gets stuck in the port due to port delays, port congestion, or other external factors, you must pay the gate storage fees.

Early arrival fees

Early arrival fees are charged when your container arrives at the port earlier than planned. Most ports operate on a strict schedule, and the port assigns stacking dates to each ship and coordinates their activities accordingly. If your containers are at the port before the stacks are open, it creates additional work for the port authorities, and you will be charged early arrival fees.

Late arrival fees

Similar to early arrival fees, there are also late arrival fees. If your container arrives later than planned, the port may charge you a late arrival fee, especially if the container has incurred enough delay that the stacks to which the container was to be taken are already closed. This will create additional work for the port workers.

Lift on/lift-off fees

Lift-on/lift-off fees are charged for containers that can be added by the port. Each container must be loaded or unloaded from the ship, and some ports may charge extra for this service.

Cancellation or amendment fees

Cancellation or amendment fees are charged in every industry, especially at the last minute. In shipping, you must pay cancellation fees if you want to cancel the arrival of your containers, and amendment fees are charged if the route of your containers is changed to include or exclude another port.

Demurrage fees

Demurrage fees are charged by carriers for delayed use of containers within the terminal. As explained earlier, if your container does not leave the terminal within the free days assigned by the shipping company, you must pay demurrage fees. Demurrage is similar to gate storage fees discussed above, and sometimes demurrage and storage fees overlap, requiring payment for both. There are only a few ports where gate storage fees and demurrage fees are recognized as the same. The main difference between the two is that you pay demurrage fees directly to the carriers, while the terminal collects storage fees through carriers.

Detention fees

Unlike demurrage fees, detention fees are charged when a container is outside the port. Read more about what these fees entail and how they work in the link provided.

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