Difference between Demurrage and Detention

Demurrage and detention are two words that often confuses people.. Is there a difference..??

In the context of containerised cargo, in generic terms,

  • Demurrage relates to cargo (while the cargo is in the container)
  • Detention relates to equipment (while the container is empty after unpacking or before packing)

  Image for demurrageLets see how it works..

Imports – A container is discharged off a ship on the 2nd July – Consignee approaches the shipping line to take delivery of the cargo around 12th July.. Working off a standard 7 free days from date of discharge, the line free days (different to port free days) expires on the 8th July.. So, the line will charge the consignee DEMURRAGE for 4 days from 9th to 12th July at the rate fixed by the line..

After the full container has been picked up by the client, for example if they take another 7 days to return the empty container, then it is known as DETENTION which again will be charged at the rate fixed by the line..

So basically before the full container is picked up, Demurrage is charged (after expiry of free days) and after the container has been picked up, till the time the empty is returned to the lines nominated depot, Detention is charged..

Image for detentionExports : In the case of exports, normally lines give about 5 free days within which the shipper has to pick up the empty, pack it and return it full to the port.. In case of delays more than 5 days, the line charges Detention (generally same tariff as import detention) for the days that the empty is kept with the client as empty or full..

Once the container is packed and say for example the shipper is unable to ship the same due to any reason, then the Demurrage will be charged at the rate fixed by the line till the full container is shipped out..

What I have mentioned above is the generic and most common form of use of these two terms.. There however is a difference in the usage of these terms by various shipping lines in various countries..

Some countries call it combined demurrage/detention in some countries, whereas in some countries it is shown separately.. In yet some other countries like Saudi Arabia and Japan, the term demurrage seems to be used to denote storage in the port/lines terminal..

Best option would be to check with the shipping line in your country how these terms are defined..

How are these terms handled and dealt in your country..?? Please do share for the benefit of all..


What did you think of the above article..?? Comment below..

86 comments on “Difference between Demurrage and Detention

  1. Ly says:

    Hi Hariesh

    Could you advise detention start calculate 01 day before cargo arrive port?

    1. Hello Ly, that depends on the shipping line and their tariff..

  2. roslan says:

    Nice blog and congrats to blog owner of having this kind of wonderful blog like this.
    since I am still new in this field, can anyone teach/share how the demurrage is calculated and relates with lay time. I have read/study but still confuse on when demurrage is actually incurred and to who/whom and how the compensation takes place or how they pay?
    If someone can deeply describe/discuss with some sample of timing also good for better understanding especially for newbie like.

    Later on, if still in doubt maybe i will keep giving some situation which require more clarification from the expert if ok.

    Thanks all 🙂

    ~ops, sorry also for my bad english language.

  3. Nice article. There is indeed a lot of misconception about detention and demurrage.

  4. Caljon says:

    Hi Hariesh
    First of all, thank you for sharing your insightful and invaluable know-how about shipping. It is my first time in shipping and from your website, I understood more than I tried when listening to people around me. So, thanks!
    I have a couple quick questions please. My freight agent has told me that they will have to charge me £80 because Customs had stopped my container and took it for an x-ray. When I asked for the proof of this, they stated that they cannot provide. So, must I take their words for it?
    Lastly, who ensures the freight agent had taken the due responsibility to fill in the necessary forms correctly, to avoid Customs holding back our containers and causing extra rent charges, etc. etc.!!!

    Many thanks.


    1. Hello Caljon, thank you for your kind words.. I am not sure which country you are based in.. But whichever country it is, in general if customs stops a container for inspection, they will send a notification to the shipping line saying that the container needs to be moved for customs inspection and the line cannot release till it is done.. So your freight agent should be able to provide you with this proof or you can also ask the shipping line.. It is the responsibility of your freight agent to ensure that all info is submitted properly.. If you feel that it has not been done so, then you can also speak to Customs to find out the reason for the stoppage..

  5. Raja Rastogi says:

    Hi, Hariesh,

    Your article was extremely useful, where it has clearly mentioned distinction between Demmurage & Detention.

  6. anis says:

    If is says combined demurrage/detention 14 days, does it means 14 days for demurrage, 14 days for detention (which start together after discharge), or it actually means 7 days demurrage + continue with 7 days detention?

    1. Hello Anis – 14 days combined dem/det means consignee has 14 days from the date of full pick up till the date of empty return and it is upto the client to choose whether it will be 10 days dem + 4 days det or 8/6, 6/8, 7/7 etc etc..

  7. Thanks for the post Hariesh, very informative. Just thought of pointing out for all the readers that the terms Demurrage and Damages for Detention may also have other meanings in other business areas such as in Bulk Chartering as you have rightly pointed out elsewhere.

  8. Ajitpal S Rana says:

    Dear Hariesh,
    Thanks for the explanation. However another basic clarification how does Detention/Demuurage apply in case of LCL shipment?
    Appreciate your inputs.

    1. Hi Ajit, I have responded to this question as a post http://shippingandfreightresource.com/demurrage-and-detention-for-lcl.. Trust this will help..

  9. Wubshet says:

    Dear Hariesh,
    I have got simple & clear explanation about Demurrage & detention from your note. Some times peoples & mixing demurrage with storage & detention with truck payment for not loading/unloading on agreed time. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. You are most welcome Wubshet, glad that this article could be of help..

  10. Zaidi Jamaluddin says:

    nice note. really useful for beginner. Malaysia they separate detention and demurrage.

    If u dont mind, I’ll use it as a reference for my junior.

  11. Thomas Moran says:

    Hariesh is correct and the Supplier isn’t wrong except when he said Hariesh was wrong – because he only knows what is true for his industry; some of these terms/terminologies are used differently by different folks in different businesses and, by the way, lawyers get it wrong in the contracts at times. Big distinction is between bulk carrier terms vs. container industry terms in the community reading this blog. But as an ex grain trader there is also detention on barges and rail cars if you do not unload them into your grain terminal fast enough. You pay demmurrage I think to the vessel owners if you do not load them fast enough but sometimes, by the way, it pays to slow load them because in 2-4 days the discount on the price of the grain in barges/rail cars arriving is that much cheaper than the price today – here is where a little knowledge by ship owners of the local market conditions pays. Container markets different obviously. “SUPPLIER” post could also note that detention can be charged by and paid to the container trucker if pick up facility takes too long to load him, etc. We also pay detention to truckers of domestic USA shipments if the shipper takes too long to load them, or the Receiver takes too long to unload them.

  12. Priya says:

    Must say this is a great platform for knowledge sharing, simple language, lucid illustrations…its a praise deserving effort! Keep at it!!!!..Priya

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words Priya, glad to be help.. 🙂

  13. TSN says:

    I have seen a contract saying: “Discharging; CQD basis, no demurrage/no detention”. How can a shipping line give “no demurrage, no detention” contract?

    1. Hi TSN, these terms you have seen “Discharging; CQD basis, no demurrage/no detention” are used in bulk shipments and is completely different from the demurrage/detention that is covered in this post which is mainly for containerised shipments..

      However, to answer your question, in bulk shipments, a charterer is required to advise the load/discharge rates (time it will take to load or discharge the cargo) to the ship owner based on which they will agree for a freight rate.. If the charterer doesn’t know the rate of load/discharge, but is confident that this activity will take place as normal, they would advise the load/discharge rate as Customary Quick Despatch (CQD).. CQD means that the load/discharge operation will be done as fast as can be possible under the prevailing circumstances..

      If the charterers fail to load or discharge as per the load/discharge rates they have given and allowed in the contract, the owner will hold them liable for “demurrage” @ a rate which is pre-agreed between the owners and the charterers..

      At the other end of the spectrum, if the charterers finish the load/discharge operations before the time frame indicated, then they can claim “despatch” from the owners @ a rate which is pre-agreed between the owners and the charterers since they were able to despatch the ship quicker than anticipated..

      In the case of CQD, there is no provision for demurrage or despatch and this could sometimes work to the detriment of the shipowner..

      Trust this assists..

    2. TSN says:

      Thanks, Hariesh, for your explanation. Does it mean that if I am a charterer, I should try to get CQD?

    3. You can, but it would depend on the agreement with the shipowner..

  14. Supplier says:

    I think last answer is very misguided. Both detention and demurrage start from discharge of containers.

    Detention is time allotment given by the SHIPPING LINE to the customer to return the empty container back to depot.

    Demurrage is time allotment given by the PORT OR TERMINAL to REMOVE empty container from their premises.

    The two are not related, rarely get paid to the same entity, and cover completely different situations.

    Example: Free time: Demurrage: 5 days / Detention 15 days. You must remove full container from the port storage within 5 days of discharge, but you have an additional 10 days before you have to return the empty back to the shipping line.

    1. Hello Supplier !! – as I have mentioned in my post, various countries have various ways of classifying and charging demurrage and detention.. Some lines offer combined demurrage/detention, some offer it separately..

      You mention “Demurrage is time allotment given by the PORT OR TERMINAL” which is not right.. Demurrage or Detention is time allotment given by the shipping line..

      Maybe you are mixing with storage.. Please read this article for the difference between the two – http://shippingandfreightresource.com/what-is-the-difference-between-storage-and-demurrage/..

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