Container Vessel Trade

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Cargoes whether carried in containers are all still the responsibility of the ship and hence it also needs documentation and legal formalities to follow. Though containerisation brought with its own terminology and law the general aspects covering carriage continue as seen from description of terms below:

Commercial Terms

LCL: Less than container load– in other words many shippers & many consignees more than one bill of lading & one destination

FCL: Full Container Load– In other words one shipper, one consignee and one B/Lading.

Mix Box/Trap Container– When more than one destination cargo is stuffed to completely load the container it is called mix box container. These containers are reworked destination wise into other containers at relay ports. Such types of containers are kept to the minimum in order to avoid unnecessary cost of reworking which is indeed very high.

Bills of lading

Bills of Lading are issued either as “Received for Shipment or Shipped on Board”. In both cases, the cargoes have to be checked first by Custom Authorities.

These Bills of Lading can now be issued in Hinterland and shipper can negotiate this Document through the banks nearest to his place.

Bills of Lading are issued in 3 originals, and the rest are Non-negotiable copies “Received for Shipment”. Bills of Lading can be issued on after the cargo is custom checked and loaded with the Container and sealed by Custom / Excise as the case may be ‘Shipped on Board’ bills of lading can be issued only after the vessel sails from the port.

Import or Export General Manifest

This is known as IGM or EGM. Every vessel has to submit this document to the Custom department prior arrival or sailing, as the case may be. In absence of this document the vessel can not berth or sail. This is usually done by the Ship’s Agents.

Letter of Credit

It is a very important condition of the Buyer / Seller’s contract. This is the document used to transact monies for the goods sold as per the condition of Contract, viz. – Specification of goods as per Inspection Certificates, Certificates of Origin, Delivery Period, Part or Full Shipments, Original Bill of Lading which is proof of Export etc. The Buyer opens the irrevocable; revolving Letter of Credit with his bank disclosed in the Contract, which is known as Opening Bank. The seller’s Bank is also disclosed in the contract and is called as Issuing Bank. The Seller has to submit necessary document as per Letter of Credit to the Issuing Bank. The documents are checked and opening bank is informed who advises to release of the monies if the transaction is as per the condition of Letter of Credit.

Letter of Credit is opened for a specific period. If the shipment is delayed, due to any reason the seller cannot negotiate documents unless Letter of Credit is extended for a further period by the Buyer. In other words, the seller will not get monies unless the Letter of Credit is extended.

Mate Receipt

This is a receipt of cargoes. The markings, weight number of packages or pieces, the description of goods and its condition are mentioned.

Ocean Bill of Lading

This is a proof of contract of transportation of goods across the ocean from the port of loading to the port of discharge and / or the place of delivery between the shipper and shipping line. It contains description and condition and contents of goods with proper marking size and weights also names of shipper and consignee, Port of loading and discharging the place of delivery, freight details etc. On the reverse side the Rules under which the goods are carried and the shipping Lines Liabilities etc are mentioned.

Common Container Carrier  

A container vessel, which hires out the slots to the different Main Line Operators, is known as MLO. They also hire slots to Non Vessel Owning Container cargo Carriers known as NVOCC. Such vessels carry their containers as common carriers and issue a B/Lading known as Service Bill of Lading.

Multimodal Transport Operators 

As mentioned in earlier pages the container travels in the hinterland. It is transported by different modes of transportation and hence different agencies are required. Trucks, Railways & shipping lines are involved for their part of the transportation. Instead of the shipper having to deal with too many agencies, one single agency is preferred with authority to deal with all intermediate agencies. This single agency is called Multimodal Transport Operator known as MTO. This agency takes responsibility to deliver the cargo to the destination in the same condition as at the time of receipt. It issues Multimodal transport Bill of Lading. This Bill lading is standardised and governed by internationally approved clauses, which take care of the interests of shippers & operators. The Govt. of India has amended the Indian Carriage of Goods by Shipping Act to accommodate Multimodal Transportation in an Act called the Multimodal transport of Goods Act 1993. The standard conditions governing Multimodal Transport Documents are issued in accordance with Multimodal Transportation of Goods Act 1993. These are printed at the back of MTO Bill of Lading.

Main line and Feeder Container Vessels

The bigger vessels due to their size and drafts are unable to call at smaller ports. Therefore these vessels call at certain deep drafted ports on their main sea trunk routes. They are called Main Line Vessels. The traffic between smaller ports & these deep drafted vessels are being served by smaller container vessels, which are known as Feeder Vessels.

Container flow management

Container flow management is one of the factors of the success of a shipping company when engaged in global trade.

This is principally because:

  1. The pattern of trade is such that the containers travel in loaded condition in one direction and have to come back empty.
  2. Sometimes too many ships are engaged in a trade due to urgent requirements and the inventory of empty containers get built up even when there is availability of export cargo but not to utilize the entire empties in that location,
  3. The delay in taking delivery of import cargo may also built up inventory as importers do not take timely delivery. This sometimes happens due to speculative markets conditions.
  4. Special containers viz. reefer, garment, flat rack or open top containers etc are required to be positioned at certain ports from the nearest location which increases the cost

The persons who are at the helm of this department have to be vigilant and cost conscience. They must learn the market conditions throughout the world. They must be fully conversant with the trade pattern. They must keep proper watch on the turn around of the containers from the locations. The normal turn around of the dry and the reefer containers in Indian ports are as follows: –

  1. Dry 20 ft. max 12-15 days
  2. Dry 40-ft max 16-17 days.
  3. Reefer 40’- max 3-4 days,
  4. Garment container 40’max 10 days.
  5. Flat racks 20 / 40’or open top containers20-40’ max 8-10 days.
  • These turnaround timings are costed. However different shipping companies have different turn around timings and costs as per their overall voyage costing of the vessel.
  • It may not always be possible to get containers rightly positioned at locations. In which case the shipping companies take containers on lease hire from leasing companies or their authorised agents. However the leasing of containers is to be kept at bare minimum. This is of course on the assumption that the ship owns the majority of the containers.
  • The hire of the lease container starts on the day it is hired and till it is released from hire. The terminology used is on hire and off hire. These containers are normally given on daily hire basis unless it is contracted otherwise i.e. for certain period or long term lease.
  • A survey is conducted at the time of on hire and off hire. Any damage to the container during the lease period is recovered from the lesser unless he has already repaired the same.
  • Whenever the container changes i.e. from the ship to shore or vice-versa or from shore to inland destinations and vice versa, an Equipment Interchange Receipt (EIR) is given wherein remarks are made about the condition of the container at the time of delivery.

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