What is the difference between demurrage and detention

What is Demurrage and Detention in Shipping for Buyers?

Are you a buyer seeking enlightenment on demurrage and detention? This piece is crafted for you. We look at what demurrage and detention entail, their interrelation, and the significance of understanding these terms.

Though both may incur costs, these terminologies are not to be dreaded. With a solid grasp of your logistics, they are merely another facet of your cargo’s odyssey and a pivotal component of a meticulously orchestrated, seamlessly functioning global supply chain.

Distinction Between Demurrage and Detention

Demurrage and detention frequently coexist in logistics, yet they are distinct entities that are intricately intertwined.

  • Demurrage: This pertains to the duration filled containers linger within the terminal. The timeframe commences when they are offloaded from the vessel or train and concludes upon their retrieval from the port (gated out).
  • Detention: This denotes the period containers remain outside the terminal. It is measured from the point of collection at the port when they are full to their return to the port or a depot when they are emptied. For an importer, this generally encompasses the unpacking phase.

What is the difference between detention and demurrage

Further Insight on Demurrage

Demurrage arises from non-compliance with the stipulations of a charter agreement. Specifically, it is a fee payable to the ship owner if the vessel is not loaded or discharged within the agreed timeframe.

Importers and exporters are allotted a set number of ‘free’ days to maneuver goods in and out of ports, encompassing the necessary logistics.

The charges, applied per diem, are remitted to the shipping company and delineated in the contract with your shipping provider. Escalating freight costs coupled with these ancillary fees can impinge on your trade profitability. Hence, a thorough understanding of demurrage is crucial for safeguarding profitability in your trade transactions.

Demurrage for Importers

This period extends from the container’s arrival at the port terminal from the ship until its release from the terminal. Charges are incurred if the container remains in port beyond the allocated free days.

Demurrage for Exporters

This spans from the container’s arrival at the port for export until it is loaded onto the ship. Charges are imposed if the container stays in the port terminal after the free days have elapsed.

Demurrage fees incentivize importers to expedite the removal of goods from the port and discourage exporters from bringing goods to the port prematurely. Container hold-ups prevent shipping companies from utilizing the containers, thus diminishing potential revenue streams.

It’s imperative to note that the bulk of a shipping company’s revenue is derived from freight movement, not from these charges.

Calculating Your Costs

To ascertain the demurrage costs for a particular shipment, input the shipment details, estimated discharge date, and estimated truck gate-out day into a calculator, which will provide the applicable charges.

Strategies to Prevent Demurrage Charges

  1. Understand the Shipping Contract: Scrutinize and negotiate terms with the shipper. Review the charges and ensure you can adhere to the terms. If delays are anticipated, request additional free days.
  2. Clarify Roles in Contracts: Understand the responsibilities and roles in your contract with the importer or exporter concerning the shipment of goods.
  3. Pre-clear Customs: Familiarize yourself with the customs clearance process and port regulations. Provide accurate documentation to facilitate the process.
  4. Assess Land Courier Reliability: Evaluate land couriers’ rates and reliability, factoring in loading and unloading times relative to competitors.
  5. Have a Contingency Plan: Ensure an alternative land courier is available for moving goods and containers. Investigate less congested ports if demurrage is problematic or alternative drop-off points if detention is a concern.
  6. Consider SOCs Over COCs: Carrier-owned containers (COCs) offer convenience but pose a risk of additional charges if terms are not met. Shipper-owned containers (SOCs), despite the initial investment, can reduce long-term costs and simplify budgeting. Late fees are not a concern when you own the container.

Understanding Free Time

Free time, or standard free time, is the interval granted by a carrier during which demurrage and/or detention activities are exempt from charges.

Demurrage and Detention Charges in Shipping

The journey of a container doesn’t conclude upon arrival at its destination. As the customer, you must return it to an agreed location, such as the port or a container terminal, for reuse. To maintain a continuous global movement of millions of containers, carriers must keep equipment available.

Charges for demurrage and detention are imposed if the container exceeds the free time offered by carriers. For example, if a full container waits too long to be picked up and gated out, or if an empty container is not returned to the port promptly.

Free time varies between ports and carriers, so it’s prudent to monitor this when booking shipments!

Key Takeaways on Container Detention & Demurrage

  • Free time dictates the duration a supplier can use the container without charge; exceeding this incurs fees.
  • Demurrage and detention are distinct yet connected in your cargo’s journey.
  • Demurrage fees relate to the container’s time inside a terminal, discouraging prolonged storage at the port.
  • Detention pertains to the container’s time outside the port. Fees are applied if the container is not returned to the carrier within the allotted free time.

Freightender is a cloud-based logistics technology provider that delivers savings, process efficiency and more business opportunities to shippers, forwarders and logistics service providers via innovative and easy-to-use applications. We work with over 100 shipper and forwarder customers and over a 1000 carrier customers. Freightender are incorporated in Spain and are active since 2016 and privately owned. We are rapidly growing company yet focused at sustainability, stability and customer trust. We want to make enterprise-grade applications available to anyone and ease of use is crucial to that ambition.

Thank you for reading: What is the difference between detention and demurrage?

Pieter Kinds

Pieter Kinds

CEO Freightender.com

Freightender is the standard in freight tendering. It makes the tender process lean, smarter and much faster. 
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