It has been called many names – Equipment Control, Container Control, Logistics, Container Department – whatever you call it, it is one of the most dynamic departments’ within a shipping line’s (and by extension the ships agency’s) business and this department is close to my heart as this was my first real job in a liner shipping environment..
What does this department do..??
A container department looks after containers belonging to a shipping line or NVOCC operator..
It monitors the containers that enters and exits the country and ensures that they are properly tracked, monitored, maintained and utilised while in the country..
Containers come in various size and types including below most common size/types
- 20′ Dry, High Cube (some countries), Open Top, Flat rack, Reefer, Tank, Hard Top, Garment On Hanger
- 40′ Dry, High Cube, Open Top, Flat rack, Reefer, Hard Top
- 45′ Dry, Reefer
There are quite a lot of processes involved within the container department..
- The details of the container such as Container number, ISO Code, ACEP, CSC Plate, Tare weight etc have to be captured into the shipping line’s system (although these days many lines have their global systems and EDI transfers which negates the need to manually feed the container numbers into the system).. You can learn about the above and other markings on a container here..
- The current status of the containers (empty, full, damaged etc) have to be updated in the system and as and when the status of a container changes, the system has to be updated..
- Only if this is done the customer will be able to track the progress or status of their containers using the shipping lines online tracking system..
- These status changes/updates are received from the container depots, ports, ICD terminals either via EDI or email generally on a daily basis..
- Daily co-ordination with the empty container depots, issuing empty container releases for export packing, liaison with the port, rail authorities and transporters are part of the everyday life for someone in the container department..
- Maintenance & Repairs (M&R) of the containers has to be monitored and checked to ensure that the standards of the container is not compromised.. As mentioned in a previous article about the anatomy of a shipping container, a container is made up of various structural components that all work together to form a rigid rectangular structure and this structure has to be suitably maintained for maximum utilisation..
- In the case of special equipment such as reefers, the information relating to the performance during PTI, machinery etc has to be checked and verified carefully..
- On-hiring of containers when there is a demand situation and off-hiring of containers when there is a surplus situation.. Both on-hire and off-hire of course would depend on the equipment situation in a particular area at that particular time..
- Steering of empty containers from surplus areas to demand areas and vice versa..
- Monitor container seals..
- Monitor collection of demurrage/detention as the case maybe for import and exports.. You can read the difference between demurrage and detention here..
- Making sure that the equipment costs are kept to a bare minimum as this is one of the most cost sensitive departments and one that could make or break a container service..
Equipment cost accounts for more than 20% of the total operating cost for a shipping line and depending on the number of containers in circulation this cost can easily run into millions and needs to be tightly controlled..
This department is linked very closely with all the other departments within the organisation – imports, exports, accounts & sales and plays an active part in the commercial working of any shipping line or NVOCC..