Understanding Container Shipping Costs

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Jun 28, 2024

Understanding Container Shipping Costs


If your business depends on importing products from overseas markets to keep its supply chain moving efficiently, understanding all costs associated with container shipping is crucial. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of drayage costs and shed light on its intricacies.

Components of Container Shipping Fees

When it comes to container shipping, there are different fees that could come into play. Generally, the base of drayage costs is around the linehaul charges associated with shipping the container. Then accessorial and fuel surcharges can be added.

Factors that Affect Drayage Shipping Rates Calculation

Determining drayage shipping linehaul rates requires considering various factors. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Distance from Port to Destination The distance your goods need to travel from the port to their destination affects the overall drayage cost. Longer distances mean higher charges, so it’s essential to calculate the mileage accurately.
  • Time of Delivery The timing of your delivery can impact drayage shipping rates. Urgent or time-sensitive shipments may incur additional costs due to expedited services, especially during peak demand periods.
  • Transportability of the Shipment The ease of transporting your goods can affect drayage rates. Factors like the size, fragility and shape of your shipment can impact the overall cost.
  • Type of Carrier and Packaging Choosing the right carrier and packaging can influence drayage rates. Different carriers have varying pricing structures, and proper packaging can optimize space utilization, reducing costs.
  • Shipment Weight and Special Handling – The weight of your shipment and the need for special handling can affect drayage rates. Heavy or oversized items may incur additional charges.
  • Timing of Shipment Handling – Efficient planning and coordination of shipment handling can impact drayage costs. Proper scheduling and communication can help avoid delays and additional charges.
  • Base Fee and Accessorial Charges – Calculating the base fee is an essential part of understanding drayage costs. Accessorial charges, as mentioned earlier, play a significant role, so it’s vital to consider their impact. Minimizing accessorial charges by optimizing processes and communication can help keep costs in check.

Considerations for the Entire Cost of Container Shipping

To fully grasp drayage shipping costs, it’s essential to consider the overall picture. Here are a few additional factors that determine how much you will pay for that drayage shipment:

  • Mileage and Time – Mileage and time affect fuel consumption, driver wages, and overall expenses. Understanding these factors helps you estimate costs accurately.
  • Fuel Surcharges – Fluctuating fuel prices influence drayage costs. Monitoring fuel surcharges allows you to anticipate potential cost changes and make informed decisions.
  • Terminal Charges – Terminal charges include fees related to loading, unloading and storage of your container at the port. Staying informed about these charges helps you plan your budget effectively.
  • Chassis Fees – Chassis fees cover the use of equipment that carries containers. Knowing the associated costs assists in managing drayage expenses.
  • Overweight Fees – Carrying overweight containers incurs additional fees due to the impact on road safety and infrastructure. Understanding these fees can help you avoid unnecessary penalties.
  • Tolls and Administrative Fees – Tolls and administrative fees associated with permits, paperwork and inspections add to the overall cost. Being aware of these charges allows for better financial planning.

Accessorial Charges

Beyond the main fees mentioned earlier, let’s highlight a few other charges that could impact your drayage costs:

  • Drop fees – These charges apply when time constraints require the container to be dropped off at a warehouse to be unloaded, and then retrieved by the dray carrier after the unloading is complete.
  • Pre-pull fees – These charges occur when a trucker picks up a container from the port but does not get it loaded or delivered the same day. The fee occurs because the carrier will have to store the container in their yard. Carriers sometimes provide this service to help the end customer avoid demurrage charges at the port.
  • Chassis rental fees– Chassis rental fees are assessed to provide over the road transportation for containers. Due to containers not having chassis fixed to them, truckers have to either supply their own chassis for rent them to move containers inland from the port or rail.
  • Chassis split fees – You may see these fees when a container is not located in the same place as the chassis that carries it. This can happen when the necessary chassis isn’t available at the container’s starting point, such as at a port or ramp. The fee covers the costs of picking up or returning the chassis to a different terminal than the container, as well as the labor and equipment costs associated with the process.
  • Weight-Based Fees – By knowing the weight of your shipment, you can determine the fees accordingly. Understanding weight-based fees requires precision in calculations, but it can be advantageous if you have a clear grasp of the weight of your goods.
  • Peak Surcharges – Peak surcharges may apply during busy periods, increased equipment demand or specific times of the year. These charges can influence the overall cost of a drayage move. Factors like seasonal fluctuations and supply chain disruptions can impact peak surcharge pricing. Being aware of them can help you anticipate and plan ahead.

Additional Misunderstood Fees

Lastly, let’s shed light on a couple of commonly misunderstood fees:

  • Detention Fees – Detention fees come into play when shippers or consignees retain containers outside the port beyond the allowed time limit. Understanding free time and waiting charges helps you anticipate and account for potential detention fees. The typical range of detention fees varies, so it’s important to be aware of these costs.
  • Demurrage Fees – Demurrage fees occur when containers exceed the allowed timeframe for storage at port facilities. After the container’s Last Free Day (LFD) in port, these fees begin and increase incrementally over time, underscoring the importance of time efficiency and proper logistics planning.

Read this blog for more detailed information about detention and demurrage fees.


When shipping a container, look through your invoice closely and make sure you understand all the costs. Some charges like detention and demurrage with accurate planning and visibility can easily be avoided. Some providers (like NTG) will review your invoices on your behalf to make sure everything is accurate and can provide recommendations.

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