Monday, July 15, 2024
shipping and freight resource services
HomeEducationSignificance of Stack Date and why it is important..

Significance of Stack Date and why it is important..

What is the significance of stack date and why is it important..??


Also known as Cut-off time, Vessel cut-off, Gate cut-off etc, the term STACK DATE has a massive significance in the loading of an export or empty container on board a ship and is a crucial element in the whole port operation..

For the sake of simplicity I will refer to it as stack date or stack period throughout this article..

Stack dates (stack opening and stack closing dates – also known as stack period) are set by the port or container terminal in conjunction with the vessel operator based on the ETA of the ship at a port..

Depending on the port, terminal and country, stack dates maybe nominated as Provisional initially (sometimes as early as 2 weeks prior to the ETA  (Expected Time of Arrival) of a ship)..

Once a steady ETA of the ship has been declared by the shipping line (this maybe possible when the ship is say 4 days away from the port), the stack date may then be nominated as Firm..

The stack period may normally be between 3-5 days again depending on the port, terminal and country.. There is no fixed rule on this..

An example of the stack period with both Provisional and Firm stacks is shown from Durban Container Terminal which also incorporates City Deep (Inland Port)..

significance of stack date

The stack period maybe announced by the shipping line or the customer may get this information from the ports system or notices..

Based on these stack dates, the shipper and/or his agent must make all efforts to bring their full export containers into port within the stack period..

If the shipping lines are loading any empty containers that also must be brought into the port within the stack period..

But why is a stack period required..??

Imagine the current mega ships that are capable of carrying more than 20,000+ TEUs..

Let us assume that at one port, the shipping line has 6,900 containers to be loaded on a ship..

Now imagine the line’s container stowage planner who needs to do the stowage planning and allocate stow positions for these 6,900 containers on board the ship.. (For further info on stowage planning, please read my previous article Container Stowage Planning and how it works)..

significance of stack dateAlso imagine the yard planner who needs to be in a position to feed these 6,900 containers to the ship in good time so the ship does not idle at the berth..

Now finally imagine what would happen to the yard planner and the ship if these 6,900 containers all arrive at different times at the port including while the ship is working..!!!!!

THERE WILL BE TOTAL CHAOS leading to short shipped boxes, ship delays, schedule not being met, container shut out and general mayhem..

The main reason that a stack period is implemented is so that there is enough time

  • for the transporters to bring the containers to be loaded on the into the port,
  • for the exporters and their agents to do the shipping documentation in time,
  • for the ship planners to plan the ship effectively,
  • for the yard planners to plan their feeding properly and ensure all containers are present

so that when the ship arrives, the loading operations may comment without undue delay..

Once again, depending on the port, terminal, shipping line, number of containers to be loaded etc, the stacks could close 2-3 days before the berthing of the ship or later, depending on the circumstances..

So what happens if the containers are not in the stack within the stack period..??

If the containers are not in stack within the stack period, the port may not allow the containers to be brought into the terminal for that particular ship..

The reason is that if there any extensions to the stack period it could interfere with the feeding of the containers to the ship and the loading plan which could result in ship delays..

Image for No EntryAlthough it is possible that the port authority may make an exception and allow later arrivals, if there are a lot of such containers, these extensions can cause delays to the working of the ship which in turn will affect the customer’s documentation and also affect other ships that are waiting for that berth at the port..

So it is in everyone’s interest that the stack dates are monitored and followed to ensure that the boxes reach the stacks in time and are loaded..

It is normal for ICDs (Inland Container Depots) to have their own stack period in order to cater for the boxes that need to be railed from the ICD to the sea port..

What is the practice in your port with regards to stack date and what is it called..?? Does it work as mentioned above..??


Article has been updated and republished..

Liked the content..??

Sign up below to receive the best and most reliable industry content for free from THE Definitive Online Resource for Shipping and Freight..




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 Morocco* we call it ( Sequence in French), we also refer it as Cut off date in our English Communication, it represents a set of Documents : VGM, Port Authority Notice at the Port Gate, Customs Authorities approval.

    This process is ending getting the Customs approval for loading.

    * in all Morrocan Ports except Tangier Med, which the terminal accept the Gate in of Full units only after the Customs Approval to load.

    • Hi Piero, generally for transhipment cargo the stack dates don’t apply as T/S containers come from within the port and not from outside and based on the schedule of the incoming vsl and outgoing vsl, the port planners do cater for the t/s boxes.. But a very good question, thanks.. 🙂

  2. In USA the extension of the receiving period is called late gate and you have to inform the weight of the container previously to help the planner to reserve the space in the stowage plan. Documentation in USA must be at least 24 hours ready before the sailing date therefore the cutoff for documentation can’t be changed as per Customs regulations.

    • Thank you for sharing this useful information Raul.. It always amazes me how varied the processes are across the various countries for similar activities.. This is also what makes our industry that much more interesting..

  3. “Cut off” may generally refer to any deadline such as Bill of Lading instruction Cut off, Customs Clearance Cut off etc.
    Stack Date is the same as “Gate In Cut-Off”

  4. The Importance of Manifest, When Should it be done,Where and what time should the Manefest be prepared and complete in any Shipping Lines.
    Please indicate the correect and standard time the manifest will be ready or complete.

  5. Hi There,

    What is the best way to find the stack dates of other ports around the world? I have tried going to the port authorities websites but just like our Transnet site’s home page I cant seem to find the information, only difference is that if I google “transnet Stack dates” I can easly find it but for the ports outside South Africa I am struggling to find this information. Was hoping you had some suggestions?

    Maybe silly question, Is the 3 day “stack dates” something that is used all around the world? as maybe I am looking for information that is not there?

    Thank you!

    • Hello Greg, it may not be called stack dates in all ports around the world.. Different ports may have different terms and also the stacking period.. As far as I know, there is no uniformity globally in this.. For most ports, rather than the port website, the terminal operators such as DP World, PSA may have this stack date info on their websites..

  6. Why do the rest of the world not use the word Stack Dates? We look rather silly throwing the word around when no one knows what we are refering to. Should it not be an international term?

    • Hi Chantal, the term stack date seems to be unique to South Africa, most of the other countries use the term Gates Open/Close.. South Africa is unique in many ways but so are other countries like the USA who use quite different terminologies compared to the rest of the shipping world and specifically compared to Asia.. Like Drayage, Trucking, Haulage, Cartage all of which mean the same thing, but used differently by different countries.. If you recall in the past, South Africa used to (a lot of people still do) refer to 20′ and 40′ containers as 6m and 12m..

    • Hi Meral, Why can or Why cant’..?? i am assuming you meant Why Cant.. It cant go directly to the vessel because the containers can be loaded only according to the stowage plan.. If your container is to be stowed at the bottom of the ship and is not there on time for the loading or if your container is to be stowed on deck and the work is going on inside the hatch and your truck is waiting, it could be some time before the container is offloaded from your truck to the ship.. Imagine if a lot of the customers come like this, there will be total chaos at the ships side.. Therefore it is required that the containers be offloaded at the yard first and the loading is followed based on the stowage plan..


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Sign up below to receive the best and most reliable industry content for free from THE Definitive Online Resource for Shipping and Freight..


FBX - Freight Indices