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Difference between ICD, On Dock CY and Off Dock CY

ICD, On Dock CY and Off Dock CY are some terms you might have heard during the course of your day to day work.. Here is an explanation of the difference between them..

1) Inland Container Depot, abbreviated to ICD is a dry port based in the hinterland of a country (inland area of a country away from the coast or major rivers) and is equipped to handle full and empty containers..

Containers are moved from the ship to the ICD and vice versa using rail and road networks.. An ICD is recognised by customs and port authorities as an extension of the sea port and customs officials are present in many ICDs..

Customers who are based in the hinterland receive cargoes at ICDs just like the customers based in coastal areas receive cargoes at the seaport.. Customers at ICDs undergo similar customs processes, inspections etc like the coastal areas before receiving delivery of the container.. 

A typical container movement flow to an ICD is as below..

Difference between ICD, On Dock CY and Off Dock CY


2) On Dock CY refers to a Container Yard that is situated within the port area.. Containers are off loaded from the ship and moved to the On Dock CY using straddle carriers or trucks and stored there till the receiver takes delivery of the cargo..

A typical container movement flow to an On Dock CY is as below..

Difference between ICD, On Dock CY and Off Dock CY


Owing to the geographical location however, storage costs are generally high at an On Dock CY and therefore in some ports the full and empty containers cannot be stored at the On Dock CY without incurring exorbitant storage charges.. To avoid such high costs the shipping line will move the containers (on receiver’s account and risk for full containers) to a nominated Off Dock CY (ODCY) from where the receivers can take delivery..


3) Off Dock CY refers to a CY that is situated outside of the port premises but not necessarily inland and this is the slight difference between ICD and Off Dock CY.. An ICD maybe termed as an Off Dock CY, but not all Off Dock CYs are ICDs.. An off dock CY is closer to the port than an ICD..

An Off Dock CY can be considered as an extension of the port subject to customs supervision and control and to be treated like a container terminal inside the port in all aspects and subject to whatever additional requirements, rules and conditions which may be imposed by the Customs authorities of the country..

Traditionally, an Off Dock CY handles only Full Container Load (FCL) and a similar facility handling Less than Container Load (LCL) is termed as Container Freight Station (CFS)..

A typical container movement flow to an Off Dock CY is as below..


Difference between ICD, On Dock CY and Off Dock CY


An Off Dock CY and/or ICD is different from an On Dock CY mainly in terms of the geographical location, size of operation and type of handling equipment used, but all may be functionally similar..


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. In Nigeria, the On Dock container yard is referred to as container yard while the off dock container yard is referred to as off dock terminal and or bonded terminal.
    inland container yard is inland container terminal.

  2. I really appreciate the teachings in this blog, Personally as a maritime resource person I gain a lot and enjoy the subject. Keep on keeping on

  3. Thanks for reminding me of the difference Hariesh.
    it’s always useful in discussions with Port Authorities, Shipping Agents/Forwarders/Truckers and the ultimate client.

    Sven Valentin

  4. Hariesh, I think you should have explained which countries this article is based on. I suspect many countries will look at the matter differently. Whether the CY is located in the wharf vicinity but away from the water’s edge, whether it is next door and separated by a chainlink fence from the wharf area, five kilometres or five hundred kilometres away makes no difference in modern procedures. The wharf area immediately near the water where the cranes operate is one thing, where the containers come from or go to (by straddler/truck/rail) is another distinct area. All of them come under customs control and in the case of imports have not yet crossed the import border until import clearance is completed. In modern countries this is all on-line, with a small percentage of cargo physically inspected either on a random selection or based on certain criteria including intelligence gathering. Maybe some more backward countries still have customs people examining every piece of cargo but I suspect even they will be computerising their systems to avoid the endemic bribery and security issues.

    • Hi Bob, it is a bit difficult to explain by country as many countries have their own definitions.. But by and large, the majority of the countries around the world operate as I have described above..

  5. The difference between ICD and Off-dock very clearly explained. Thanks to you for your brilliant and much appreciated endeavour of making practical knowledge and know-how regarding shipping so accessible and most important clarifying so many of the confusions many professionals may have in their day-to-day operations

  6. Dear Team,

    Thanks for the above information, I like your articles which you keep sharing on email. You krek us enlightening about all the new old details.

    I just have little bit of confusion about above mentioned information between off dock CY and in ICD.

    As per the picturization of the in ICD and in off dock CY I can only understand that, Container moves from Port to ICD via rail and in Off dock CY it moves by road. but that is not the whole difference I guess also the description mentioned for off dock CY is not giving clear difference between ICD and ODCY.

    • Hi Amit, I think the difference is clear here “Off Dock CY refers to a CY that is situated outside of the port premises but not necessarily inland and this is the slight difference between ICD and Off Dock CY.. An ICD maybe termed as an Off Dock CY, but not all Off Dock CYs are ICDs..”

  7. Dear Mr Hariesh

    i am a little confuse about off dock that i understand the line withdraw the ctr from container yard to avoid the high storage fees
    but where this place to storage the cntr ? maybe the warehouse related to line or ICD , also cfs related to Freight forwarder co. is the line work in lcl shipment to have CFS ?



    • Hello Hassan, off dock cy is a customs bonded depot that stores full containers before it is cleared by the customer.. This is usually a private depot contracted by the shipping line to store their containers and is outside of the port area but not very far..

  8. I think CY is cool because its container yard and what does matter is a better understanding of meaning. If you re in the logistics industry you understand better and easily.

  9. There is a correction to your explanation on ICD, Dock CY and off Dock CY. There is no such thing as off Dock CY, at least in India. What you are talking about as off Dock CY is CFS or Container Freight Station. The difference between a CFS and ICD is CFS is located closer to the port whereas ICD is in the hinterland, as correctly pointed out by you.
    Secondly, all containers have to go through Dock CY irrespective of their next destination. Receiver or Line has no choice on it. Containers on landing are kept in Dock CY and removed to CFS or ICD, usually after 2 or 3 days.

    I am a regular follower of your blog and so I took the liberty of making the above clarification.

    You are doing a great work. Keep it up. I have retired from Mumbai Port as Additional Head of Traffic Department and currently running a shipping logistics training institute. So if I can be of any help to you on portside matters please let me know anytime.

    With kind regards,

    • Hello Sowrirajan (thank you for your words of encouragement and I will take you up on your offer sometime), Suresh, Ramana and Rahul, in the strict sense of the word, CFS refers to Container Freight Station which is a warehouse where LCL goods belonging to various exporters or importers are consolidated (grouped) or deconsolidated (degrouped) before being exported or after being imported respectively..

      Customers will deliver cargo to the nominated CFS for packing in the case of exports or pick up cargo from the nominated CFS after unpacking in the case of imports..

      Off Dock/On Dock CY is mainly concerned with FCLs.. However, there are many terminologies used interchangeably in various countries and it is good to hear and learn from every perspective.. So it is possible that in some countries CFS may be covered within an Off Dock CY..

      Anyone from the rest of the world have a different opinion..??

    • Hello, thank you for this clarification, I was a bit surprised whilst reading your topic above. Indeed, as you correctly pointed, CFS refers for me, and according to the countries where I am involved in (China in this case), to a dedicated place where LCL goods are consolidated before sea freight, and Container Yard for FCL shipment.

      I was not aware of a “On-CY” and “Off-CY”, thank you for the information, and really convenient & pleasant blog.

  10. Good article Hariesh
    In Kenya, the off dock cy are called a CFS(container freight station). Containers are moved from the port to these privately owned specify CFS on the request of the consginee. If there is no nomination from the consginee then the shipping line allocates the CFS.

  11. In some countries Off Dock CY is also referred to as Container Freight Stations (CFS).

    CFSs is attached to a port and they are located in the near proximity of a port. Both import and export containers are customs cleared at CFS.

    Sometimes , CFS can also be linked to ICD as they (ICDs) are considered as ports (dry port), they way CFSs located in a port area are linked to a port.

    Import laden containers are moved to CFS immediatley after discharge from vessel at port . Carriers take the responsibility of movement of laden import containers from port to CFS.

    This practice is widely in use in India.

    Ramana Murthy

  12. So can we say that an On-dock container yards are nothing but CFS (container freight stations) as known in India and Off-dock container yards are ICDs?


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