There is nothing typical about a container arriving from overseas.
Once a customer’s packaging order has been completed, packaged and transported to the nearest seaport, what happens and what could possibly go wrong?
The plant will issue an invoice for the container load of goods which includes “SHIPPING ADVICE.” This is nothing more than a notice sent to us regarding when a shipment is “dispatched” from the plant. This is the plants most up to date and last bit of information they can provide with any certainty. From this exporting location, the shipping container containing a customers packaging order is handed over to our agents, and is no longer in control or impacted by the plant overseas.
The agents see to it that the container is actually picked up from the plant, brought to port and usually loaded onto a steamship line right away.
This is where it can and often does get interesting.
While our container is at the port waiting to be loaded onto the ship, it can be bumped to another vessel… up to a week later. The simple reason… Shipping carriers can and often do overbook capacity just like airlines. They want to fill those ships up. Understandably, wanting to do smart business, they want to fill them up with the most profitable containers they can… So, while our container is in line to be loaded, some other company paying more can take our container’s place. Yes, priority is given to the more massive shipper.
(Our container agreement states merely that the steamship line has 28-35 days on the water or 45 days door to door. This is fairly standard.)
This is where it can and often does get “interesting,” and all bets are off the table. Our container is loaded onto the cargo freighter. The ship then heads out onto the seas… Then, possibly a variety of obstacles can occur:
- The freighter breaks down
- It gets delayed at another port before it’s final destination port.
- It gets held up for inspection. Receiving that container in the agreed upon time is literally out the window
Let’s assume the ship has perfect weather and seas. All seaports before the final harbor are running smooth, and the ship hits the port of Charleston, and our container is unloaded. It is cleared for release. At this point, the “perfect container” can be sent for X-ray inspection, or it can be submitted for full-blown inspection before being released for dispatching.
An X-Ray exam can add hours, or even a day or two depending on the volume of containers to be looked at? A full-blown unload inspection can last weeks.
Let’s assume all goes well. Our container is unloaded, and it’s immediately cleared for release for dispatch. This is the last leg of our container’s journey.
That container now has 1 week to be delivered, unloaded and returned back to port. Our hope at this time is that the carrier’s driver is able to get into the port right away, get our container, and speedily hustle it to Greenville.
On rare occurrences that can and does happen. Most carriers profit very little when transporting containers and so it becomes a volume proposition for them. Simply said, they over-committed with brokers. Carriers promise to pick up 10 and then actually end up handling 8. Why? Because drivers run into traffic, have breakdowns, get stopped at weigh stations, etc… They shoot for 10 and want to handle 10, but real-world situations occur, and they are not able to cover all that they had hoped for, but 8.
So, when looking at the paperwork from overseas, keep some of the above in mind and be aware that containers moving halfway around the world have a lot of factors that impact them. A little flexibility, like most things in life, is vital.