Demurrage vs Detention

There are many shipping terms that even people within the shipping industry have had trouble with at one time or another. “Is this demurrage or detention?” seems to be high on the list of terms that are confused. Many times these terms are used interchangeably by people who are not sure of the actual difference. While both are related to storage, they both represent two different areas of shipping charges. In easy terms, demurrage is when a shipping container is unloaded from the ship and not picked up right away. If the free time is seven days and the container is still being stored at the port, the shipping line will charge additional demurrage. It could also be stored rail terminal, feeder terminal, inland depot or container yard depending on the line used. Detention on the other hand, is after the container has been picked up at the port and delivered, but the empty container has been detained and not returned within the allowed free time. This can be split into two types of deliveries. The first would be a “live unload” where the container is delivered, unloaded and then sent back to the port by a private trucking company. The other is a “drop and pick” which would be the container line’s trucking company dropping off the container to be unloaded and then picked up at a later time. Either way the amount of free time is agreed upon before the actual unloading takes place and just as with demurrage, anything past free time is chargeable time.