Container rollover is a serious problem in the container logistics industry. And the extra surcharges that come with a rolled container can leave a large dent in your company’s budget. To avoid these charges and to get an insight into how you can evade cargo rollovers read this blog and let Container xChange help you curb extra costs.

Let’s set a scenario for you: Your container carrying your client’s cargo has been sent to the port terminal (at Port of Los Angeles, notoriously known for having heavy port congestion) and is waiting to be picked up by a vessel. A day goes by, then another day comes and goes, then another, and your container is still not picked up. It looks like the ship your unit was supposed to be loaded on has skipped the port altogether. This is due to major port congestion causing vessel delays. You’ve now exceeded your agreed upon-free days. It’s official, your container is rolled, and you need to inform your client about the delay and disappoint them. And then there’s the dreaded demurrage charges and other port surcharges piling up for your rolled container, leaving you with an even bigger bill than the worth of the container itself.

This is not a situation you want to find yourself in! And you won’t have to. Read on to find out how you can avoid having a container rolled. You can also get to know how Container xChange can help you save big bucks on surcharges in case your container is rolled.

What is container rollover?

A rollover isn’t what it sounds like – your container hasn’t rolled over and fallen off the ship! As seen in the scenario above, a container is considered rolled over when it never made it onto the ship it was meant to sail on.

There are various reasons for a container getting rolled, such as late gate-in (trucker delivers the laden container to the port terminal), incorrect or missing documentation, vessel overbooking, customs delays, port congestion, vessel omissions, and vessel weight issues.

When this happens, your rolled container is loaded onto the next sailing vessel or an alternative sailing vessel, which can cause delays for all related stakeholders.

container rollover

What are the root causes of container rollover?

The root causes of cargo rollover are as follows:

1. Overbooking of cargo that requires offloading containers.
2. Cargo weight exceeding the maximum set limit for the vessel.
3. Payment delays between the shipper and consignee.
4. Port Omission and blank sailing– A vessel skipping a particular port where the container was to be loaded is called blank sailing. This happens when a port is congested or cargo handling and clearance are exceptionally slow. In contrast, port omission takes place when vessels are full or don’t have enough containers to pick up. In this case, they may omit a particular port.
5. Late gate-in and delays in laden container pickup. Or in some cases no availability of truckers.
6. Goods not being ready in time to be loaded onto the container.
7. Incorrect documentation.
8. Custom clearance disputes over the legality of import/export goods.
9. Missed cut-off days. This is the exact cut-off time and date formalized upon the issuance of the container’s release order before the estimated time of departure (ETD) of the vessel.
10. Containers that require trans-shipment. Such containers are loaded onto different vessels at several trans-shipment ports, so they face a higher possibility of missing a connecting vessel.
11. Mechanical problems with a vessel.

What happens when a container rollover takes place?

If your cargo gets rolled because of a carrier issue, then the carrier will automatically reschedule your shipment and place it onto its next-departing vessel. Any extra charges involved will be covered by the carrier. So, if your cargo is rolled say due to overbooking, the carriers will inform the booking party. The booking party will then receive an updated booking confirmation with new details. The new sailing details (which are typically a week later) will be then relayed to you from the carrier.

Now if your cargo gets rolled due to missing paperwork, missed cut-off, or customs inspection issues, you will be charged for the rollover.

Note: All rollover charges often cost more than the ocean freight price itself.

In this case, the first thing you should do when you hear your cargo has been rolled is to find out the reason why. You should have a contingency plan in place for a rollover always. Then you must inform your supply chain partners, and your client, update your accounts, edit spreadsheets, and everything else required to rectify what went wrong on your end. There’s going to be a ton of accounting to do!

Lastly, you need to ensure you resolve the problem as quickly as possible before the next sail date to reduce further delays.

There are also two other options you can take if your cargo gets rolled:

  • Select an alternative route to ship your rolled container to the destination.
  • Change to another carrier- This usually requires permission from local customs and incurs additional fees from port and warehouse operators.

How does cargo rollover impact your shipment?

Cargo rollover impacts your shipment in one major way i.e., delays. This leads to heavy surcharges. But you’re safe from these payments if it’s a carrier-related issue. But if the problem is at your end, then there are many costs to bear for sending out your shipment again. Let’s explore these costs below.

Costs related to a cargo rollover

Taking the scenario at the beginning of the blog, your box is waiting at the port for the ship to arrive.

Storage charge: While waiting on the terminal, container storage charges start to add up. The storage period starts when your container enters the storage facility and ends when it’s taken out of the space. These charges cover the usage of space occupied by the container inside the terminal grounds, warehouse, or container yard. Storage charge is collected for full containers that haven’t been cleared for import. As well as for full containers that are waiting to be shipped. So, if your container is rolled you can expect surcharges here.

Terminal handling charge: Let’s not forget the terminal authorities who collect terminal handling charges or fees at different ports for the services they provide. These services can range from equipment handling, positioning, and storing. Here again, the charges go up if your container is sitting idly at the terminal for longer than required.

Port congestion surcharge: Then comes port congestion surcharges, which apply to your case. Unexpected delays call for additional shipping costs and surcharges for all stakeholders, including delay costs and Demurrage and Detention (D&D) depending on the situation.

Speaking of exuberant D&D charges, the more free days you cross the higher the price.

Rescheduling cost: Lastly comes the cost of rescheduling for another vessel to ship your container full of cargo.

port congestion container rollover

6 effective solutions to avoid container rollover

Before you panic, we have some suggestions for you to ensure your cargo doesn’t get rolled. Here’s what you can keep in mind.

Demand forecasting

This includes planning the flow and time of cargo movement and ensuring that all documents are accurate and in place. Demand forecasting will allow your business to chalk out a good plan for better cargo movements from origin to destination ports while pre-empting possible delays, and skirting bottlenecks.

Avoid congested ports and capacity-constrained routes

The scenario at the beginning of the blog could have been avoided had you opted for less congested ports with available capacity, earlier on in the planning process. For example, instead of the Port of Los Angeles which has heavy congestion, you could have chosen East Coast ports such as Newark and Charleston which are less heavily congested.

You could also play around with the idea of choosing alternative routes to sidestep tailbacks. Keeping a track of industry news to see which routes might be blocked say due to vessel grounding would help you choose alternative routes.

Checking cargo weight and documentation

One of the causes of a cargo rollover is the exceeding of the weight limit as mentioned in the causes section above. This is why it’s important for you to always check the weight of your cargo to see if it’s on par with the weight limit of your vessel.
Another cause was incorrect documentation hence, always double-check that you have the right documentation for your container to get on board the ship.

 Real-time tracking

This can help you get quick and real-time alerts on potential rollovers (e.g., by knowing that the vessel has departed but the container has not been loaded) and make alternative arrangements (act faster).

Keeping yourself up-to-date on latest industry developments

These include peak season timings which increase rollovers due to higher demands. Also, labor issues such as the worker’s strike in the UK and global disruptors such as the Russia- Ukraine war and the Turkey earthquake result in the slowing of operations and the rollover of cargo.

So keeping track of the events in the global supply chain can help you eradicate cargo rollovers to a great extent.

You can find more news on recent developments in the industry in our report: Where are all the Containers. Download your free copy right here.

Avoid Trans-shipments

Trans-shipments typically have a higher rollover rate than direct sailings. Therefore, always use carriers that offer direct sailing options.

Opt for advanced bookings

Getting your bookings done in advance will increase the chances of getting space on a vessel and decrease the risk of containers getting rolled over.

Other ways you can avoid a container rollover is through effective communication and split shipping (when a single order containing multiple products is sent in separate shipments).

How can Container xChange help you avoid container rollover?

Container xChange can help you avoid a container rollover through the many benefits of the platform. It can also help you cut rollover costs in case your container is rolled. Let’s take you through how we can help.

Seamless slot bookings and shipping schedules

With us you’ll get:

  • Instant slot price quotes. There will be multiple comparable slot prices to choose from. And a 24-hour booking confirmation. You’ll also be able to look at schedules that suit your needs to choose the most appropriate carrier and the ideal time to ship your items.
  • Plus, you’ll have a single dashboard for booking vessel slots and checking out shipping schedules.
  • All this is possible with our Ocean Freight Marketplace. Here you can also get reasonable freight shipping rates thanks to complete price transparency for shipping slots and containers with zero hidden fees.

Note: We have a live BETA version for this feature and it is available in limited regions for now.

Easy access to virtual documentation

You can store and access all your documents under one platform digitally at any time from anywhere. This will help you access everything at your fingertips during customs inspections to expedite the process.

Want to know more about how Container xChange can prevent your container from getting rolled through digital innovations? Read our blog on the best freight forwarding management software we provide.

Accurate container monitoring and port communication

We have near real-time tracking of containers to help you pinpoint the exact location of your box. This feature has:

  • Easy-to-track ETAs, and an auto-alert system in the event of delays, discharges, rollovers, or lengthy wait times.
  • In terms of port communication, you’ll be able to retrieve data directly from the port in near-real time. As a result, delays will be non-existent because of total transparency and simple data access.
  • You can view details such as ETA, point of discharge, free days, and per diems with us.
  • We also directly confirm release references with the port, so you won’t need to send and receive emails back and forth to learn which containers are ready for pickup.

You can learn more about our tracking feature here.

Curbing D&D charges

With trans-shipments, blank sailings, and port congestions free days expire quickly and you’re charged D&D. A way to avoid this is by leasing SOC containers. These containers give your company more flexibility, control, and independence. Since these containers aren’t owned by carriers, you’re no longer obliged to pay D&D charges to them.

On Container xChange you can lease SOCs from 50,000+ boxes across 2,500 locations worldwide from 1,500+ vetted suppliers. You can lease the SOC for a one-way move and return them to your partner’s depot at the port of destination, to help with empty container repositioning too. You get to lease your SOC at negotiable, comparable, and competitive prices with zero hidden fees thanks to our full market price transparency.

All you have to do is type in your container type, and pick-up and drop-off location. You’ll get a list of vetted partners, who have containers waiting to be used. All this is at your fingertips.

So, whether you want to avoid a container rollover or be saved from paying expensive D&D charges in the case of a rollover, our platform is here to save the day. So click here to come aboard and let our expert team help you get to what you’re looking for.

Container rollover on the rise in 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic brought on new challenges for the industry that led to a rise in container rollover. But despite the pandemic slowly receding, the disruptions it left behind in its wake in the supply chain are still influencing rollovers in 2023. Not to mention other global disruptors such as labor strikes, wars, and natural disasters.

Hence the latter part of 2022 and the beginning of 2023 is still seeing excess inventory, continuing port disruption, blanked sailings, and port congestions leading to container rollovers.

Save money on container rollover surcharges with Container xChange

So to conclude rolled cargo is on the rise but the good news is that Container xChange has got you covered when it comes to container rollover.

Once your company becomes a member of our platform, you can lease a SOC at great deals thanks to our competitive, comparable rates. Once your order is confirmed, you can book slots for your boxes on vessels too. Our Ocean Freight Marketplace is your go-to solution for booking vessel slots for SOC containers. All you have to do is enter your route and get offers from various NVOCCs and carriers in one dashboard. Keep every document digitized under one platform with us and get near real-time tracking to know about delays and rollovers. We’ve got you covered in avoiding any rollovers.

But in case a rollover is inevitable as certain factors are out of your control, leasing a SOC guarantees you the right to evade all D&D charges.

With container rollover on the rise, take charge of your container logistics operations today by booking a demo on our platform to ease your workload and tension by letting us take care of your needs.

10 shipping terms every shipper, freight forwarder, and NVOCC should know

Pro tip: We have curated a glossary for you to always keep in mind important industry terms especially ones related to container rollover.

1.  DM – Demurrage- A fee that container lines charge when you haven’t picked up your imported containers in time.


2.  DT – Detention- A fee that you have to pay if you have picked up your imported containers but didn’t return them to the shipping line in time.


3.  Port Storage- The port provides a free period of storage. But if you don’t clear your goods and move your containers in time, the port can charge you for port storage.


4.  Last free day- The last day before demurrage and/or detention fees are charged. Varies between terminals and steamship lines, but typically is about 4-5 days.


5.  Relay- Transfer of containers from one vessel to another. An important term for trans-shipments.


6.  Throughput- The time it takes to move a container through a terminal.


7.  Turnaround time- The time between a ship’s arrival at a terminal and its departure.


8.  Waybill – A receipt of a contract by a shipping line for shippers to confirm the movement of cargo.


9.  Supply chain- The production and movement of goods from initialization to delivery.


10.  In bond- Any type of cargo handled by customs control where duty has not yet been paid.

Container rollover: Common FAQs

What is container rollover?

A rollover occurs whenever your container cannot be loaded onto the ship that you booked.

What is rolled cargo?

Rolled cargo is cargo that could not be loaded onto the vessel it was scheduled to sail on.

What is cargo shutout?

Shut-out goods refer to goods that are not carried on the intended vessel.