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What happens when your cargo gets rolled

icontainers_news_1a50488895.svgLogistics & Shipping
Updated on 29 Dec 2023
5 min read
Ocean FCL
Ocean LCL
Air Freight

What does it mean when your container gets rolled

As a shipper, it’s not entirely uncommon for your container to get rolled. When an ocean freight cargo is said to have been ‘rolled’, it means it has not been loaded onto the vessel it was meant to sail on. There are various reasons for a container getting rolled, including but not restricted to:

  • Overbooking
  • Vessel omissions (when a vessel skips the port)
  • Vessel weight issues
  • Mechanical issues
  • Customs problems
  • Missed cut-off days
  • Documentation problems
  • Pending title validation (for auto shipments)

This tends to happen more to shipments requiring a transshipment or with end destinations at lesser-known ports. This is because they’ll need to be loaded onto different vessels various times, which heightens their risk of getting rolled and missing a connecting vessel.

Although some of the above-mentioned reasons such as overbooking and vessel mechanical issues are beyond your control as a shipper, there are certain preventive measures you can and should take from your end to increase the chances of your shipment making the sail.

What happens when your cargo gets rolled

If your cargo is rolled because of a carrier issue, the carrier will automatically rescheduled your shipment and place it onto its next-departing vessel. Any extra charges involved will be covered by the carrier.

However, should your cargo get rolled due to missing paperwork or customs problems or failure to comply with certain requirements, you will be charged for the roll over. Note that roll overs often cost more than the ocean freight price itself.

In the unfortunate scenario that your cargo gets rolled, the carriers will inform the booking party. If it’s due to a carrier issue, the booking party will also receive an updated booking confirmation with new details. If you’ve booked through a freight forwarder, your freight forwarder will be the one to receive this information from the carriers and relay it to you.

What to do when your container gets rolled

It’s never any fun to hear that your container hasn’t made the vessel. Now, you’re rushing to inform your fellow supply chain partners, update your accounts, editing spreadsheets, and basically trying to clean up as much as possible and rectify what went wrong on your end, if any at all. Whether or not it was an error on your part, there are still tons of accounting for to do, not to mention the potential delays your supply chain now faces.

The first thing you should do upon hearing that your container has been rolled is to find out why. If it’s a problem such as overbooking or vessel omission, there’s pretty much nothing you can do besides wait for the next sail and sort out your supply chain. You may want to always have a contingency plan in place should this occur.

If it’s a problem with paperwork or missed cut-off or customs inspection, make sure to resolve the problem before the next sail date to reduce further delays. Speak to your freight forwarder who can better advise you.

How to prevent your cargo from getting rolled

There’s unfortunately no sure way to guarantee that your cargo will not get rolled. But there are several tricks you can do to lessen the likelihood and manage the chaos in the event it does happen.

  • Book your shipment as early as possible. That way, you have enough time to prepare all the documents required and make sure everything checks out for a seamless customs clearance.
  • Have a flexible sail date. This guarantees you have other options available that will ensure your cargo gets to destination on time and to prevent your supply chain flow from suffering too much.
  • Avoid peak seasons and major holidays where possible. Cargo tends to get rolled when there’s limited space on the vessel. That generally occurs during peak seasons between mid-August to mid-October and periods prior to China’s Chinese New Year (in January/February) and Golden Week (October).
  • Work with a reputable freight forwarder. A good and experienced freight forwarder will have better knowledge of the routes and/or ports that tend to cause more trouble and containers to be rolled and can advise you as such and help reroute your shipment if needed. Plus, an experienced freight forwarder may also have more negotiating power with carriers and may be able to get your container shipped if there’s an overbooking and your container is at risk of getting bumped off the list.
  • Split your Bill of Ladings. Carriers decide which containers to roll based on the Bill of Lading and not the physical container itself. So if you’re sending 10 containers on one single Bill of Lading, it’s all or nothing. The best roundabout would be to separate your shipments into various B/Ls so that there’s a chance that some cargo may still get through even if one gets rolled.
  • Avoid transshipments. Containers travelling on routes with transshipments run a much higher risk of getting rolled. First at the port of sail and then at the transshipment ports, however many and wherever there may be.

If you have a booking with iContainers that has been rolled, our operations team will get in touch with you as soon as we verify why it has happened and looked at all the available options in order to provide you with the best possible solution.

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iContainers is a digital freight forwarder based in Barcelona that assists thousands of companies and families around the globe in moving their merchandise internationally.

Our online freight quoting platform has the latest technology in the sector and simplifies ocean freight, quoting and managing your bookings from the same user area.

We are part of the Agility group, and we work side by side with Shipa Freight to fully cover the demands of our customers.

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