Container depot and its role in international intermodal transport

This article describes several issues related to the functioning of a container depot, as well as the role it plays in the logistics chain.

Intermodal transport

It is nothing more than the transport of a unified load unit through at least 2 modes of transport. A necessary condition for such transport to be defined as intermodal is the use of e.g. containers.

Intermodal transport is possible, among others, thanks to the rapidly developing infrastructure of seaports and container depots.

Container depots play a key role in the flow of goods in the intermodal chain which reload/manipulate the load unit from one type of transport to another without the need to reload the goods themselves.

Container depot

It is a place where a cargo unit, e.g. a sea container, is reloaded from one type of transport to another means of transport in order to carry out further stages of transport. It is worth noting that the reloading of goods in land container depots is most often carried out between land means of transport, i.e. from train to road transport and from vehicles to yards and vice versa, or from vehicles to vehicles.

Container depots, apart from the reloading function, give the possibility of short-term and long-term storage of goods, including the use of certain customs procedures, e.g. bonded warehouse.

We can distinguish:

  • sea container depots located near seaports (or inland waterways-rivers), and
  • land terminals often located at the intersection of the most important railway and road junctions

In addition to the above-mentioned issues, we also observe the emergence of land container depots, which, despite the lack of a direct connection to railway lines or sea ports, play an important role primarily in reloading/transshipment and provide the possibility of storing goods.

In addition to the division into sea and land depots, there are also the so-called "shipowner depots", operating pursuant to an agreement between an owner of a depot and a shipowner (owner of ships and containers), fulfilling the role of storing containers of a given shipowner or several shipowners, as well as in which of technical service of loading units is carried out. For several years, we have been observing a large increase in the number of "shipowner despots" in Poland, which is reflected in the interest of global shipowners in providing more and more interesting connection networks between global destinations and Polish ports. Shipowners, through the operation of "shipowners depots", look for new customers for the destinations they offer and thus ensure the availability of equipment (containers) in a given country, optimising chain costs.

The most common services provided by container depots include, above all, the already-mentioned services of short- and long-term storage/storage of goods, including bonded warehouse, technical service of sea containers, moving containers from the front to the back of the frame or vice versa, as well as container weighing services related to entering into force of the SOLAS/VGM Convention.

Primarily, the work of depots consists in accepting orders for individual container movements related to picking up an empty, export or post-import container for further loading, storing an unloaded sea container for storage, repairing a unit, or providing storage/warehousing services.

Each shipowner specifies includes the list the costs of returning or collecting containers both from the seaport and container terminals/depots in its price lists. Large container terminals/depots accept specific types of containers on individual, separate terms. In addition, each movement of a device, i.e. an overhead crane or a crane or a special trolley designed to lift or deposit a container, is payable. There are also additional costs specified by a shipowner in the price list, such as: storage, detention and demurage.

Storage includes fees related to the storage of a container at the depot, calculated from the moment of depositing the container at the terminal until its collection, these costs are usually charged to the forwarder/carrier via the terminal or container depot. The shipowner sets the so-called "free days" within which the above-mentioned fees do not apply. Storage fees apply to both import and export relations.

Demurage is another additional fee, distinguished by the fact that it is collected directly by the shipowner, who precisely determines the time of "free days" falling on the unloading of the container from the ship until the goods are taken to the next means of transport. It also applies to both imports and exports and is commonly referred to as the charge for holding cargo.

Detention is the third type of additional fee, used both in import and export, consisting in collecting a fee by the shipowner for the time the goods/container stays outside the terminal/depot.

To sum up, the existence of land terminals/container depots has a significant impact on the development of intermodal transport. Ship owners, controlling the status of containers available at depots, can quickly and competitively ensure the implementation of transports practically overnight, while a carrier and forwarder significantly reduce the time and incurring additional costs, because they can collect or deposit sea containers at many available depots in the country / terminals without having to go to the sea port each time to deposit / pick up the container.

Independent container depot

ADECON company has an independent container depot in central Poland, near Kalisz, equipped with modern infrastructure (lighting, hardened yard, 24-hour security, a specialised container truck), where it provides reloading and handling services as well as storage and weighing of containers (20', 40', reefer containers with the possibility of connecting to electricity and tank containers).