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Empty container redelivery gone wrong..??

I had a question from a reader about empty container redelivery (after import unpack) where he says :

We recently imported some containers to an ICD in India. The containers arrived at Nhava Sheva Port, Mumbai and were scheduled to be carried to a dry port (inland container depot) Pune via Rail.

On the B/L, it was mentioned that Place of Final delivery was Pune. Doesn’t this mean that the empty containers can be dropped off at Pune?

On arrival of the containers, the local office of the shipping line in Mumbai issued a D/O which mentioned that the containers will be delivered at Pune by them but the image for reader questionempty containers cannot be left there and the buyer will have to return the empty containers at Nhava Sheva.

This obviously led to us incurring additional charges.

Which one is correct, the B/L or the D/O? Please let me know.

image for what do you think

What do you think..??

  1. Is the client justified in expecting that the line should allow the empties to be left in Pune or
  2. Should the line take the empties back to Nhava Sheva at their expense or
  3. Should the client take it back to Nhava Sheva at their expense..??


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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. Dear Sir,

    my question is, one of my clients requested a food grade container and the container yard has been released a damage container there for they have returned it ( our client have hired a third party container inspection-er on containers its their practice) so container return fee and container lift on, lift off chargers and detention chargers occurred and client is refusing to pay it and shipping line is refusing to wave it of as well we have been baring it we are trying to find solution on this, greatly appreciate if you could tell us what we should do under this kind of situations?

    • Hello Peter, there is a dual responsibility here.. Let me first mention in the case of a normal container.. First responsibility is of the depot, who acts on behalf of the shipping line.. The depot should release a good, clean, sound and cargo worthy container.. This is the standard.. The second responsibility should be that of the transporter who should check the container before leaving the depot.. However, if the container does not have any obvious external damages then the transporter will not see it and he is not capable of judging the condition of a container and therefore his liability here maybe limited..

      However, in your case, if the customer requested a food grade container, it is customary for a depot to upgrade a container to food grade container (at the cost to the shipper) and keep that box aside for that specific customer, for that specific business..

      So if the container released was a damaged container, you have every right to claim this from the shipping line.. However, you have not mentioned what type of damage etc so that might be questioned by the shipping line..

  2. Dear Reader,
    I agree with Hariesh :
    “It is generally understood and accepted that if a shipping line shows a Place of Delivery on the bill of lading, they will also accept the empty containers back at that place and if they have any specific requirement as to where the empty container must be redelivered, they should make it clear at the time of acceptance of booking.”

    as long as the term of contract not DDP (delivery duty paid, incoterms 2010), Consignee must arrange the transportation of his ctnr from CY (port of loading) to his place. Normally consignee will contact his FF to take care this matter. Usually the cost of this transportation is including to return back the empty ctnr to the Depo. The Empty ctnr Depo usually close to the port of loading.

    thank you

  3. Its simple, why all people are confused in this small issue. Its the duty of Importer to ask priory about that where he has to send the container after unloading, its the matter which must be priory discuss with CHA or Fright Forwarders.

    In general case: The Importer has to provide container back to shipping line after unloading at designated place.

    From: Kishan Barai
    Twitter: @baraioverseas

  4. Based on the responses that I’ve seen below, following is my opinion:

    1. Somebody has brought up the topic of “Liner Haulage vs Merchant Haulage”. We opted for Liner haulage, as we didn’t want to get into the business of arranging for transportation ourselves from Nhava Sheva to Pune.

    2. Somebody has said that the empty containers can be left at a yard nearby the dry port or to choose a shipping line that accepts empty containers at the dry port. In this case, the shipping line indeed had its own container yard in Pune. Later, we came to know that they had way too many empty containers lying at the Pune yard and were short of containers at Nhava Sheva for export consignments. Hence, they demanded from us to re-position our share of empty containers at Nhava Sheva, which cost us extra. This was pure malpractice by the shipping line

    3. Somebody has said that “Consignee has to return the empty container to depot nominated by liner”. I don’t think this is valid. If I import containers at Nhava Sheva port and the shipping line says to drop the containers in Mundra port, I doubt any shipper would agree to do business with such a line. A shipping line just cannot nominate any location of their choice where the empty containers can be dropped, their nominations of yards have to be reasonable.

    My question still remains unanswered, as I was looking for a technical answer (i.e. clauses) on the basis of which a shipping line could be taken to task. Is there any clause on the B/L that would disallow a shipping line to do what they did?

    • Hi Rahul, here is the catch, while some of the shipping lines have clauses as below, it doesn’t clearly state the conditions when carrier is undertaking the movement till the place of delivery and what should happen to the containers after that.. As you can see, the responsibility is that of the merchant (which is you/your consignee)..

      “15.4 If Containers supplied by or on behalf of the Carrier are unpacked by or for the Merchant, the Merchant is responsible for returning the empty Containers, with interiors clean, odour free and in the same condition as received, to the point or place designated by the Carrier, within the time prescribed. Should a Container not be returned in the condition required and/or within the time prescribed in the Tariff, the Merchant shall be liable for any detention, loss or expense incurred as a result thereof.”

      Commercially however, it might work differently and the shipping line generally should advise the client that the empty needs to be returned to XYZ location and if the client didn’t accept it, the booking shouldn’t have taken place.. I very much doubt whether you would find any legal recourse against the shipping line..

      Anyone else has any other views..??

    • Hello Rahul, for the answer, one would have to go back to the start of the contract which is when the person who arranged the shipment negotiated with the shipping line and came to an agreement of how much the shipment would cost and where the contract would begin and where it would end..

      In your case, your final delivery is Pune and the shipping line did move it to Pune.. As far as I understand, at no time prior to issuance of DO did they tell you about the empty return issue..

      Generally on shipments to ICDs in India, the empty containers are left at the ICD unless lines have containers at that ICD and in that case, they might ask for the empties to be redelivered to the POD, but all this would have been and should have been discussed at the time of establishment of the contract with the shipping line..

      Therefore I suggest the best option would be for the actual person/company that negotiated the business with the shipping line to revisit that negotiation and see if at any stage, this empty repo back to POD was discussed..

      It is generally understood and accepted that if a shipping line shows a Place of Delivery on the bill of lading, they will also accept the empty containers back at that place and if they have any specific requirement as to where the empty container must be redelivered, they should make it clear at the time of acceptance of booking..

      Trust this answers your question..

  5. Yes.. Consignee has to return the empty container to depot nominated by liner. That is where detention will come in picture.

  6. Hi,
    Myself Sujay Ingale, as per my opinion the empty container should be returned in Pune as taking it back to Nhava Sheva will incur additional charges for importer. In this case, it seems supplier has chosen wrong shipping line or wrong haulage term. Either they have chosen line who does not have CFS in pune ICD or nearby or they have selected “Merchant haulage” instead of “Line Haulage” while negotiating the Freight. So, next timke insist supplier to us shipping line who accepts Empty return in Pune or nearby location only.

  7. According to me, the shipping line must honor what’s written on the B/L. Imagine this…let’s say that our import delivery had been at a dry port, which is located at the center of the country (i.e. India), then would it mean that we would have to drop the empty containers all the way at the port instead of the dry port?!

    I don’t think so.

  8. This is the liability of the carrier, since the carrier have come into contract with shipper/consignee (who ever initiated) to have the cargo delivered to Pune, as such they have to pick the container from Pune, they cannot demand the consignee to return same to Nhava Sheva, this additional cost is taken into account when they offer the Freight Charges to the door point..


    • Line should inform the customer prior accepting the cargo that empty return must be at the place required by the line and if the same cannot be accepted by the customer then the line must build in the repo out cost along with the ocean freight


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