New shock for importers as shipping lines cut checkout free time, despite shortage of carriers

Shipping carriers are increasing pressure on beleaguered shippers by reducing import container free time at northern European ports.

Millions of dollars in additional detention and demurrage (D&D) charges at the busiest box hubs will go straight to the balance sheets of carriers that currently enjoy $1 billion in profits on a quarterly basis.

Importers are already facing heavily congested inland operations and a shortage of container transport across the range of Le Havre-Hamburg hub ports, and now carriers are reducing the number of days containers can be stored before imposing expensive D&D costs.

In addition, changes in import free time are imposed without notice by some carriers.

For example, several UK shippers this morning received a notification from Evergreen telling them that with immediate effect Southampton import free time would be cut from seven days to five.

“What a great start to the week,” said an NVOCC contact. “Haven’t they heard that you shouldn’t hit a man when he’s down?”

A LinkedIn contact commented: “If we did this as a freight forwarder, we would be out of business. We tried to get a release [of our cargo] from them for more than a week so that we can take merchant transport.

The contact also said it was “impossible to get in touch with the shipping companies by phone” and the automated email response was basically advising “do not try to sue” otherwise they will send your request to the bottom from the list.

He said the carrier, Evergreen, was about to deliver the box and “the critical moment came the day before delivery. [when] we managed to reach someone who said it was “the next thing to do”.

However, he said, after that they couldn’t contact the carrier and “the delivery failed.” There was a “100% lost trip from the carrier and then they had the nerve to charge for storage when we were able to rebook,” he said.

The transport situation in the UK is more serious than elsewhere in Northern Europe, given the shortage of around 100,000 HGV drivers, and shippers have asked their carriers for help in easing time off import – certainly not to tighten it. .

“You’d like to think they would actually look to help and increase the free time to 10 days,” said a freight forwarder commenting on Evergreen’s review.

“In defense they (Evergreen) are neither better nor worse than the others,” he added.

He added that “people would remember” these carrier actions, a comment heard repeatedly by The Loadstar over the past few months.

Nevertheless, carriers say they are tightening free time at ports to incentivize importers to take delivery of goods quickly and thereby improve supply chain reliability by returning empty equipment to Asia sooner.

However, a fictitious survey of The Loadstar this morning confirmed that there is no improvement in the transport crisis, which has had a serious impact on the availability of container pick-ups from increasingly saturated UK container hubs.

In fact, two weeks appears to be the most optimistic for booking transport from Felixstowe or Southampton, with a few respondents saying three weeks was now the average.