Freight News, Sea

Time to look again at container free time, says FIATA

[ February 28, 2023   //   ]

FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations) has called on shipping lines to restore free time periods for containers to pre-pandemic levels. It describes the earlier decision to reduce free time during the recent shipping disruption as one-sided and says that conditions have now changed.

FIATA does acknowledge that traders do need to be dissuaded from holding on to containers for longer than necessary but also notes that shipping lines  are obliged to provide a reasonable free period to allow for loading and delivery, pick-up, unloading and return of the empty container.

During the last few years, free time periods for containers have been reduced and tariffs for demurrage and detention have increased considerably, says FIATA. Shipping lines justified shorter free time on the grounds that they would help ease congestion. However, says FIATA this forced shippers to make considerable efforts to meet free time windows, leading to landside congestion, and above all, traffic jams around major ports and terminals. However, shippers have been charged detention and demurrage fees even in situations where they had no control over the container turnaround time, due to congestion at ports.

With reduced volumes now being shipped, the strain on supply chain bottlenecks has reduced, congestion has since eased substantially and containers that were stuck in congestion are now coming back into circulation. Industry feedback suggests that older equipment being kept in service while production of new containers at record levels means that the available container fleet now outweighs demand.