Container Repair Bills: What They Are and How to Avoid Them in 2021

In 2020, a client was unexpectedly hit with a bill for nearly $500 to repair and remove dunnage from a container, with the shipping line alleging this involved 12 hours of work.

This is despite that there was no damage done to the container that would require repair – and the dunnage that needed to be removed was minimal.

Sound familiar?

Container repair bills can be a nasty shock for many importers and exporters. But there are practical ways to avoid them. Below, we’ve put together a brief guide on what container repair bills are and how you can avoid them in the new year.

What are container repair bills?

Container maintenance is an inherently important part of the shipping process to ensure the uninterrupted and efficient flow of goods across the world.

Container damage, however, is going to happen – and can happen at any stage from loading goods to unloading goods. When damage occurs the cost of repairing the equipment damaged will often be passed on to the consignee of the imported cargo.

In this instance, the customer will be issued a container repair bill.

Container repair

You may not be responsible for paying the bill

If you are issued with a container repair bill, think very carefully if you are responsible for paying it.

This is because there are many parties involved in the supply chain, and many instances where damage could have occurred including:

  • When crew members at the origin warehouse load your cargo;
  • When the truck driver picks up your container and transports it to your premises;
  • When the drayage company brings the container to the terminal; and/or
  • Crew members on the ship, at the overseas origin container terminal, the transhipment port or at the Australian terminal handling the container.

How do I avoid being charged for damaged containers?

Sometimes, there’s no way to avoid paying for the repair if you genuinely damaged the container. However, if you have insurance, this may be covered and is worth discussing with your insurance provider or freight forwarder.

In addition, there are some practical ways you can avoid being charged altogether.

When you’re receiving your cargo on arrival into Australia, containers will often be dropped on the ground at your premises for container unpack. This is true for most clients that import full container loads.

The trucking company can either wait for this unpack to be completed or return at a later date (within the free time allocated for the container return) to collect the container. This means that most importers choose to unpack their own cargo on arrival.

How you leave the container for collection is just as important as how you receive it

We strongly advise importers as follows:

  • You must ensure your container is cleared of all dunnage and packing material once unpacked.
  • You must ensure no damage is done to the container with a forklift or equipment used to unpack the container.
  • You must ensure no debris is left in the container and, generally, if you received this empty container for export you would be happy with it.

What happens if I return my container in an unsatisfactory condition?

  • The shipping line will assess the container and charge you to rectify any cleaning or damage.
  • Shipping lines often charge a great deal for this service which is completely avoidable.
  • In the event that damage does happen, you will need to take photos and report this to your freight forwarder.
Damaged container in container yard

How can you avoid a dispute?

Photos, Photos, Photos!

The best way to avoid a dispute over additional charges for the container clean and/or repair is to take photos of the container:

  • Once you’ve received the container (especially if you notice any damage); and
  • Once your goods have been unpacked and ready for container de-hire.

Ensure that the container number is in your photos (see our guide on shipping container markings for more information on what this is).

By presenting solid evidence to the shipping line, you will be able to quickly resolve any dispute. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the photos will become critical.

Questions about container repair bills?

Our team here at International Cargo Express has an experienced team who have helped clients navigate their way through container repair bills.

We can help you and the shipper come to an agreement as to how to best address the costs of repairing the container, even if this means challenging the bill.

If you’ve been hit with one of these unexpected bills, or if you’d like any advice on how to avoid them in 2021, please don’t hesitate to give your freight specialists a call today.

Bonus Resource

A complete guide with everything you need to know about shipping containers:

  • All shipping container types with dimensions  
  • 3D models showing how each container looks like
  • Summary of suitable cargo for each container
  • Frequently asked questions about shipping containers
 The complete Shipping container guide with dimentions

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