How much does it cost to ship a container overseas? Get tips and advice on shipping container charges – and what you can do to reduce or avoid them.

Chances are that you just searched for ‘shipping container charges’ in your browser. Then you got hit with a ton of search results. Covering everything from freight rates, what it costs to buy a container to the latest industry news. And now, you’re here.

We know, it can be overwhelming.

As overwhelming as your Google page might feel right now, equally overwhelming can the shipping industry be. The jargon, regulations, culture, and the many surcharges.

But fear no more. We’re here to make your life a little easier. With this overview of the different shipping container charges, we’ll give you a rundown of the charges you’re most likely to run into. And if you want to learn more about the specific charges and how you can minimize or avoid them, we’ve gathered tips on that too. So, why don’t we just get started? Let’s go👇

The many types of shipping container charges

These are the shipping container charges we’ll go over:

  • Port charges
  • Demurrage and detention
  • Carrier and shipping lines charges
  • Terminal handling charges

Port charges

Port charges are just one type of charge you’ll face. And when we talk about port charges there are also many different fees here. So, let’s have a look at some of the most common ones. 

One port charge you won’t be able to get around is the Terminal handling charge – also known as THC. The Terminal handling charge is a fee you have to pay to get your container loaded on the ship and discharged again. That’s also why THC is charged at both the port of load and discharge. 

Goods dues are another surcharge you have to pay. It’s a fee that’s put on all goods loaded and unloaded from a ship.

On the other hand, a surcharge you can do something against is the container storage fee. At the ports, you have a certain number of free days, for you to get your container off the premises. Once you’ve surpassed those free days, and the container is still in the container yard or terminal grounds, you’ll have to pay for storage. Now you might be thinking ‘how exactly do I avoid that?

Planning plays a major factor. It’s important that you plan buffers, so you have extra time in case something happens. If you already have that in mind, you can use that when you negotiate the rates of surcharges with the container owners. Something you’ll do in advance. 

Another crucial aspect is having real-time information on your shipments. In case the container is delayed or ahead of time, you’ll be able to take action and re-negotiate fees, reach out to truckers, and so on.

Want to know more about other port charges? Find a list of the other port charges you may run into – and how to avoid them in this blog article

Demurrage and detention

Demurrage and detention also fit under the category of port charges. But demurrage and detention charges are some of those very pricey surcharges that can easily cost you more than the container is worth.

You have to worry about demurrage and detention when a carrier or shipping line’s container isn’t delivered back within the set free days. When that happens, demurrage and detention are usually calculated daily.

Demurrage charges always relate to the time a container is inside a terminal. Where detention, on the other hand, is a charge for extended use of the container until it’s returned empty to the shipping line.

Want to learn more about demurrage and detention? You can find all you need to know right here.

How to avoid demurrage and detention

Just as with the container storage fees, planning and tracking are important if you want to avoid demurrage and detention. Because these are surcharges you have to pay when something unexpected happens and you can’t move your containers as you thought. That can be trouble with customs, cargo being rolled, or even port congestion. In situations like those, it’s vital to be prepared. If you know, in advance, where your shipments are, the ETA and if something is off track you can go to the carrier or shipping line and renegotiate the level of the fees. 

But demurrage and detention are pretty much unavoidable if you use containers from carriers – also known as COC containers.

If you want to avoid demurrage and detention charges you should consider if SOC containers could be something for you instead. SOC containers are owned by shippers who want their empty containers moved without paying for the repositioning. That’s why the per diem fees are very low. And depending on the stretch, you might even get paid to move the container. 

On xChange, can you not only find SOC containers from trustworthy partners. You’ll also have all your shipments, in and out of xChange, automatically tracked. That way you always know where the containers are, if everything is going according to plans, and if you need to take action. Making planning, tracking, and transparency easy for you. Sounds convenient, right? Then click on the banner below and book a call with our team – they’ll show you how the platform can help you and your business. 

Avoid shipping container charges with xChange

Carrier and shipping lines charges

Next on the list, we have, what we call, carrier and shipping lines charges. These are charges imposed by the shipping lines and carriers. And this covers a broad range of surcharges. Let’s look at a few. 

One is the Emergency bunker surcharge that carriers implement. This happens when there are dramatic increases in fuel prices. Making it more expensive to run the ship and move around the containers. A surcharge there isn’t anything you can do to prevent. 

It’s a similar case with the low sulphur fuel surcharge. This is also an extra fee you have to pay. It’s implemented because of increased fuel prices with low sulphur levels, making it more sustainable.

On the positive side, there are extra fees, imposed by shipping lines and carriers, that you can do your best to avoid. Let’s take, for instance, the peak season surcharge. Every year carriers impose a peak season surcharge – that’s usually twice a year around Chinese New Year and between June and October. If you want to avoid paying these fees, you’ve probably guessed what our tip will be… Planning ahead. 

Look at your data from previous years – do you have a recurring customer who wants shipments sent in the middle of peak season? Reach out to them, and explain the risks that come with peak season. It can be anything from rolled cargo to port congestion, chassis shortage, and skyrocketing demurrage and detention fees. So plan ahead, look at your previous years, and do your best to avoid shipping during peak season. If you can’t avoid it, you should consider longer transit times and avoid transshipments. At least that way, you reduce the risk of paying even more fees. Want to know why? Read all about it here.

Terminal handling charges are one type of fees you meet when talking about shipping container charges

Terminal handling charges

The fifth and last type of shipping container charge we’ll go over in this blog is the terminal handling charges.

This covers a long range of charges such as chassis usage charges, cartage charges, and port wharfage charges. All of which are linked to things happening in the terminals. 

For instance, the chassis usage charge is a fee you find at some U.S. ports. The carriers implement the fee for using their chassis. That to encourage shippers and truckers to come with their own chassis.

The above-mentioned terminal handling charges, are charges that you don’t have much choice other than to pay. So better save money on all the other charges, when you can😊

Minimize and avoid shipping container charges

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on these elusive shipping charges, let’s go over the basic tips to avoid them:

The all-consuming, overarching tip is for you to create transparency in your supply chain. I know – that sounds like an intangible concept that everyone talks about these days. But let’s make it more concrete. Why do you want transparency? Because with transparency you know what you’re paying for, the surcharges, where your container is if it’s on time and whether you need to take action. If you have transparency in your supply chain, you can move on to our second tip: Plan.

This one sounds simple, right? You already plan your shipments. However, if you want to avoid shipping container charges, thinking further ahead is important. Do you have shipments that usually happen during peak season? If so, consider if you can ship before or after – that way you save money on the pricy peak season surcharge. Is there a time where you often experience port congestion? If that’s the case, think of different ports to ship to or try to avoid that period.

But, as we all know, unexpected events tend to happen. And that’s where our third tip comes in: Tracking. Because when that happens, it’s crucial that you know, so you can take action. Whether that is booking a new slot on a vessel, calling the truck company, changing the pick-up time, or contacting your customers and letting them know the goods are delayed.

container tracking dasboard

How to get transparency, automated tracking, and easy planning?

Now that you’ve seen how transparency can help you avoid and minimize these shipping container charges, it’s time for you to answer one simple question:

What’s the first step you’re going to take?

If you want to follow the tips we’ve described above, you’ll probably want to use a tool that’ll help you save that hard-earned money – without costing you hours on end. Because it doesn’t have to.

With Container xChange, you’ll never have to manually trace your containers again. It’s all done for you with detailed track and trace reports. You’ll also get a notification if there’s a container event. That can be anything from a changed ETA to a container traveling in the wrong direction. This way, you always know where your containers are and when they’re expected to arrive. Giving you the chance to make changes in case your shipments are early or running late. You can also reach out to customers and keep them happy, as well as try and renegotiate shipping fees with the container owners – saving you money.

And next time you need a container?

Our public search helps you find SOC containers

You can find the boxes right here on xChange – both to lease and to buy. Sounds easy and convenient, right? That’s what we thought.

If you also think Container xChange sounds interesting for you, click on the banner below and learn why more than 600 shipping companies already use xChange to increase their efficiency and save money.

xChange can help you avoid shipping container charges. Book a call with our team and learn more