Have you ever received a freight invoice that seems inflated? Freight audits are an essential step in ensuring you’re paying only for the shipping services you actually used. But hidden among standard charges can lurk demurrage and detention fees, which often are complex and prone to errors. Understanding these fees and the best ways to audit them can be the key to unlocking significant cost savings.

Demystifying demurrage and detention

Demurrage and detention fees might sound interchangeable, but they target different stages of your shipment’s journey. Demurrage applies specifically to full containers lingering too long inside a port terminal after they’ve been discharged from the ship. Think of it as a storage fee to prevent congestion and enable swift cargo movement.

Detention kicks in when the empty container you received for unpacking takes longer than allowed to be returned to the designated depot. It incentivizes efficient loading/unloading processes to keep containers circulating.

Shipping lines rely on a constant flow of containers to maintain efficiency. Demurrage and detention fees discourage excessive holding times to guarantee containers are promptly returned for reloading and further shipments. This keeps the entire supply chain moving smoothly and reduces congestion at ports and terminals.

Auditing demurrage and detention charges

Freight invoices can be full of details, but a keen eye can spot discrepancies in demurrage and detention charges. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Free time allowance: Every carrier offers a grace period (free time) for both demurrage and detention before fees kick in. Scrutinize the invoice to verify the free time aligns with your service agreement.
  • Daily rates: Demurrage and detention fees are typically charged per day and per container. Confirm the daily rates on the invoice match your negotiated terms.
  • Start/end dates: These all-important dates determine the total chargeable period. Double-check these dates against your documentation to identify errors or inconsistencies.

Unforeseen circumstances can sometimes lead to disputes. If you suspect a delay was outside your control (e.g., carrier delays or customs issues), be prepared to present documentation to support your case.

Strategies for minimizing demurrage and detention costs

Planning is imperative for reducing demurrage and detention headaches. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Clearly communicate your cargo volume and estimated loading/unloading times to the carrier upfront. This helps them allocate the right equipment and avoid delays.
  • Streamline your loading and unloading processes so containers are handled swiftly. Invest in appropriate equipment and manpower to expedite the process.
  • Consistent communication with the carrier throughout the shipping process keeps everyone informed and allows for proactive adjustments if unexpected delays arise.

Remember, setbacks happen. While it’s always wise to avoid demurrage and detention fees, sometimes they simply can’t be mitigated. Use these situations as learning opportunities for the future and seek to understand the variables that led to them.

A lesson in planning and coordination

Although intended to keep the supply chain flowing, demurrage and detention fees can become a significant cost burden if left unchecked. By incorporating a thorough understanding of these charges into your freight invoice audit process and implementing proactive strategies, you can ensure you’re paying only for the shipping services you actually utilized.

Do you have the visibility you need into demurrage and detention fees? If not, turn to nVision Global for an in-depth understanding of how these fees are impacting your freight invoices. Learn more at corporate.nvisionglobal.com.