Monday, February 2, 2009

Carriers Assess Cleaning Container Charges

(CIFFA e-Bulletin)

Recently CIFFA was advised that an ocean carrier terminal assessed container cleaning charges to a trucker on an empty import container. The fee for the cleaning in this instance amounted to $450.00. Evidence as to what prompted the cleaning requirement was pictures that showed little indication of anything to be removed from the container, however as the cleaning requirement was only identified upon the container being made available to another trucker for an export move (kudos to that trucker for exercising his due diligence in inspecting the box prior to accepting it) the additional terminal costs added to the cleaning cost significantly.

There is no question that it is a requirement that importers ensure that containers are clean upon return to the ocean carrier and in reality they are ultimately liable for any expenses assessed for cleaning the container should they fail to do so. Truckers are being held ransom for these charges even though they really have no legal tie between themselves and the contract of carriage representing the transportation between the carrier and the customer. They do however, as a result of the interchange agreements signed by them with the marine carrier, assume this responsibility, some apparently unknowingly.

What should be of greater concern is the fact that no container should be accepted by the terminal or receiving depot, unclean. In fact these containers should be refused by the terminal and the trucker instructed to return them to the importer for cleaning. One obvious reason for this would be if in fact the goods that had been contained in the container were in any way dangerous and were part of the problem, (leakage, spill etc.). The empty container would have or should have had any DG labels/placards removed so there would be no indication as to the nature of the goods that had been contained therein. We understand however that the delays this was creating influenced the decision to no longer perform this function upon return of the empty.