What Happens When Cargo Is Abandoned by Consignee?5 min read


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Abandoned cargo is one of the most disturbing issues in international freight shipping. Cargo could be abandoned or unclaimed for numerous reasons, ranging from the importer or owner being unable to pay import duties to not having the correct permit. Eurosender informs about the main causes of a cargo abandoning and what happens when containers are abandoned by the consignee.

What are the reasons for cargo to be abandoned?

There are could be multiples reasons for a cargo to be abandoned. The most common are:

  • The cargo is not cleared by an importer.
  • The receiver doesn’t have an import permit or licences.
  • Importer can’t pay the import duties and demurrage charges.
  • Buyer is not satisfied with the quality of goods.
  • The shipping was delayed and the consignee doesn’t need it anymore.
  • The shipment is damaged.
  • The disputes between shippers and consignees.

In most cases, the shipper is liable for the abandoned cargo. If the cargo is not cleared by the importer and the Bill of Entry is not filled out, the cargo is considered abandoned. Bill of Entry is the customs document to be filed for import clearance. From the moment a cargo arrives at the port of discharge, you have limited time to fill the import documents.

Keep in mind that it is the importer’s responsibility to track the shipment for proper delivery without delays. In case the consignee fails to complete necessary import clearance procedures and formalities on time, the cargo is automatically declared as uncleared or abandoned.

Sometimes, the cargo is rejected by the consignee due to the low quality of goods that are being transported. In order to avoid the rejection of cargos by customers, you need to discuss all the client’s requirements and provide high-quality products.

Keep in mind that if goods are rejected after customs clearance of the imports, the cargo holding is already in the buyer’s custody.

What are the reasons for cargo delays?

Shipping goods may sometimes take more time than it was planned due to the variety of reasons.

  • The most common is the weather as it influences almost all means of transport. Extremely bad weather conditions may require additional time and costs. It may shift the delivery time for 1-2 weeks in some cases.
  • Also, some tech malfunctions of the vehicle or vessel usually influence the delivery. However, the delay in such cases is not long.
  • The problems at customs. The identification of violations may lead to the apprehension of containers that may affect the time of delivery of your cargo. So, make sure that you have all the documents in order.
  • Shipping during some of the busiest periods of the year may also end with cargo delays. Try to avoid peak seasons and delivery during big holidays if you don’t want to take the risk. Sometimes, the cargos are abandoned because of too long transit period. If it is crucial for the consignee to receive the goods on time, a delay in the delivery could be a reason for declining the shipment.

What are the demurrage charges to the shipment?

If you ship containers internationally by a vessel, additional charges may apply. Paying extra costs may encourage the buyer to abandon the cargo. When your cargo arrives at a terminal, it can stay there for free during the exact period. After the expiration of this time, the cargo must be moved out.

If the vessel is held up at the terminal or port after the free time has expired, you have to pay demurrage charges. Usually, the demurrage fee increases the cargo is kept longer at the terminal.

Sometimes, the dispute between a shipper and shipping line or freight forwarder lasts so long, and the demurrage charge is so high, that is easier to abandon a cargo than to pay the fees.

What will happen with the content of the abandoned cargo?

Abandoned containers may become a burden to the shipping line or freight forwarder. Any container that is not moving leads to a loss of money for one of the parties involved in the process. This is the reason why the shipping lines cannot afford holding containers in the storage for a long time.

In such cases, the shipping company will try to get rid of the cargo and avoid additional expenses. Thus, the companies hold abandoned cargo auctions.

When the cargo is abandoned, the shipping company has a right to:

  • Unpack the cargo from containers
  • Place the cargo into a bonded store
  • Sell the cargo
  • Offset all costs incurred from the proceeds of the sale
  • Take legal action to recover the difference between the sale price and costs incurred

If the sale price does not cover the costs incurred by the shipping company, then there is a provision in international law for action to be taken against the shipper.

In cases of containers abandoning, the freight forwarders most likely will decide to dispose of the content through an auction. Shipping line may sell the cargo by public or private auction. Customs allows the general public to view the goods and vehicles in advance and, it also announces the abandoned cargo auctions date in the print and broadcasting media.

The list of the goods and vehicles to be sold by the department is also available in different Customs Centers but it all depends on the country. Usually, customs are not giving any guarantee on the condition, quality or quantity of the goods sold at the abandoned cargo auctions.

Is it possible to book container shipping with Eurosender?

Eurosender is a digital platform that offers logistics services for Individuals, start-ups, as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Currently, we are working on the solution to provide you with a container shipping service.

With Eurosender you can book standard shipping, freight service, pallet delivery, relocations and removals, dedicated van delivery, same-day courier service and storage of shipped items. You can find more information about our services on our website sections or read our blog to get more additional information.

Don’t hesitate to contact Eurosender logistics experts. They are ready to answer all your questions and help you to book a delivery!

Last modified: January 29, 2020

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