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HomeFreight ContainerThe Container Department - a look at its existence and functions

The Container Department – a look at its existence and functions

It has been called many names – Equipment Control, Container Control, Logistics, Container Department – whatever you call it, it is one of the most dynamic departments within a shipping line or ship agency’s business..

This department is close to my heart as this was my first real job in a liner shipping environment my Alphabet blocks if you may..

image for container departmentWhat does this department do..??

A container department looks after containers belonging to a shipping line or NVOCC..

It monitors the containers that enters and exits the country and ensures that they are properly tracked, maintained and utilised while in the country..

Containers come in various size and types including below most common size/types

  • 20′ Dry, High Cube (some countries), Open Top, Flat rack, Reefer, Tank, Hard Top, Garment On Hanger
  • 40′ Dry, High Cube, Open Top, Flat rack, Reefer, Hard Top
  • 45′ Dry, Reefer

There are quite a lot of processes involved within the container department..

    1. The details of the container such as Container number, ISO Code, ACEP, CSC Plate, Tare weight etc have to be captured into the shipping line’s system (although these days many lines have their global systems and EDI transfers which negates the need to manually feed the container numbers into the system)..
    2. You can learn all about above and other markings on a container here..
    3. The current status of the containers (empty, full, damaged etc) have to be updated in the system and as and when the status of a container changes, the system has to be updated..
    4. Only once this is done, the customer will be able to track the progress or status of their containers using the shipping lines online tracking system..
    5. These status changes/updates are received from the container depots, ports, ICD terminals these days via EDI or email (in some countries/depots) generally on a daily basis..
    6. Daily co-ordination with empty container depots, issuing empty container releases for export packing, liaison with the port, rail authorities and transporters are part of the everyday life for someone in the container department..
    7. Maintenance & Repairs (M&R) of the containers has to be monitored and checked to ensure that the standards of the container is not compromised..
    8. As you may have read in the anatomy of a shipping container, a container is made up of various structural components that all work together to form a rigid rectangular structure and this structure has to be suitably maintained for maximum utilisation..
    9. In the case of special equipment such as reefers, the information relating to the performance during PTI, machinery etc has to be checked and verified carefully..
    10. The container department also takes care of on-hiring of containers when there is a demand situation and off-hiring of containers when there is a surplus situation.. Both on-hire and off-hire of course would depend on the equipment situation in a particular area at that particular time..
    11. Steering of empty containers from surplus areas to demand areas and vice versa..
    12. Monitor container seals..
    13. Monitor the collection of demurrage and detention as the case maybe for import and exports..
    14. Equipment cost accounts for more than 20% of the total operating cost for a shipping line and depending on the number of containers in circulation this cost can easily run into millions and needs to be tightly controlled..
    15. Making sure that the equipment costs are kept to a bare minimum as this is one of the most cost sensitive departments and one that could make or break a container service..

Image for containers

This department is linked very closely with all the other departments within the organisation – imports, exports, accounts & sales and plays an active part in the commercial working of any shipping line or NVOCC..

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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. Reading all the activities of the Container Department makes me think that this department will be see huge transformations with the coming of age of the smart container. Many of the processes will automated. I would be interested in talking with people who are at the operational level an a Container Department to better understand your work.
    Tim Baker


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