What is Wharfage?

A wharf is a man-made, fixed structure where the vessels can dock for safe loading and unloading of cargo. Wharfage refers to the fee for using the wharf (also called quay) to store the incoming or outgoing freight.

Also known as cargo dues (CD) in some countries, wharfage is charged by the freight terminal or port authorities. It may include airports, railroad terminals, seaports, and trucking terminals. Wharfage charge applies to any shipper or carrier who uses wharf facilities for the movement of their freight.

Wharfage charges are applicable twice: at the port of origin (for outbound cargo) and at the destination port (for inbound cargo). These charges only include the use of the wharf and no other service charges for equipment or labor.

Do note that wharfage is charged only when the wharf is used at the said port/terminal.

For example, the vessel stops at Port A, B, C, and D. And it loaded the cargo at Port B and unloaded the cargo at Port D. So, wharfage will be charged only at Port B and Port D, not at Port A or Port C.

Busier ports have a higher wharfage charge. Due to this, some traders seek less-frequented ports for lesser fees.

I don’t see Wharfage Charges on the Bill

It’s possible that wharfage may not be listed separately on the invoice with other charges.

It is usually combined with the Terminal Handling Charges (THC). Sometimes, wharfage is also included in the basic freight rate — depending on the port or terminal operator.

Wharfage charges are non-negotiable as they are fixed by the port or terminal authorities.

However, do check whether the charges are billed correctly. You can visit the port’s website to view the published wharfage rates. A trader can also request the original bill from the agent if the rates are not available on the site.

Wharfage v/s Demurrage

Shippers often get confused between wharfage and demurrage charges.

When transporting freight, shippers need to return their containers within a stipulated time called ‘free days’. During this time, a shipper can keep the container for free (somewhere between 3-5 days) after it has been discharged from the vessel. If they fail to return it within the free days, the carrier charges late fees called demurrage and detention (D&D), calculated on a per-day basis.

So, D&D is the cost when the freight container is kept beyond stipulated free time. This is not dependent on the usage of wharf. These charges also differ between carriers, ports, and the type of container used.

Wharfage v/s Dockage

Dock refers to the water body for securing vessels. It is an enclosed area with fixed or moveable structures, called berths. Dockage is the fee charged to use the dock.

Wharf refers to the solid berthing structure on land for handling cargo. Likewise, wharfage is the fee charged to use the wharf.

Both of these fees are charged separately. Get an overview of the most common port charges here.

Terms related to Wharfage

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