What is the significance of stack dates and why is it important..??
Stack dates as it is known in South Africa – (Cut Off times in lot of other ports) is quite an important item and period in the life of an export container, shipping line, exporter and port..
Stack dates are set by the port in conjunction with the vessel operator based on the ETA of the vessel at a port.. As the ETA (Expected Time of Arrival) of a ship is subject to change, the stack dates are nominated as Provisional and once a steady ETA of the vessel has been declared, then the stacks are nominated as Firm..
Based on the nomination of the stacks, the shipping line will advise their customers of the same who must then make all efforts to bring their export full containers into port within the stack dates provided..
One of the main reasons for the stack dates is so that all the containers planned to be loaded on a vessel are present at the port and ready for operations by the time the vessel berths.. The vessel planners who do the stowage planning will then have a full idea of what they should expect to be loaded on the vessel and where they must place them on board the vessel.. For further info on stowage planning, please read my previous article Container Stowage Planning and how it works..
If the containers are not in stack within the stack period, then usually the port does not allow any extensions as it would then disturb the stowage plan that has already been made and cause delays to the working of the vessel which in turn will affect the customers documentation and also other vessels that are waiting for that berth at the port.. Port does however allow late arrivals in rare cases..
So it is in everyone’s interest that the stack dates are monitored and followed to ensure that the boxes reach the stacks in time and are loaded.. In the case of Johannesburg rail containers, Johannesburg City Deep terminal follows their own stack dates as set by Transnet Freight Rail and currently the rail stacks open about 12-14 days before Durban stacks open which should give ample time for the rail boxes reach Durban..