When it comes to booking shipments via sea freight, several documents are exchanged between the shipper and the carrier, in order to request and confirm certain activities. One of these important documents is the booking confirmation. 

A booking confirmation in shipping is a document that is issued by the carrier or freight forwarder to the shipper, confirming a booking request. This document also acts as a confirmation of the shipment details that the shipper submitted, requested container type and quantity, as well as vessel space.

This article will guide you through the concept of bookings confirmations, who issues them, how long this process takes and what information can be found on them. We will also share an example for easier understanding. 

When are Booking Confirmations Issued?

Before a booking confirmation is issued by the carrier, the shipper and the consignee typically agree on a sailing date and the carrier choice. Once the carrier is selected based on the projected departure and arrival date, the shipper will place the booking with the ocean carrier.

The booking is placed either through an email, the carrier’s website or a transport management system (TMS). The placing of a booking with a carrier is also referred to as a proforma booking or booking request. 

In turn, the carrier or freight forwarder will issue a booking confirmation back to the shipper, acknowledging the request and confirming all of the relevant details that were inside the booking request. 

It goes without saying that the carrier would have to ensure that it can meet all the requirements, such as equipment and vessel space, before it issues a booking confirmation to the shipper.

What Information Is Found on a Booking Confirmation?

A booking confirmation contains all the relevant information about the shipment. This information is required by the carrier, in order to verify if they are able to meet all of the booking requirements. Below is a list of the information that is most commonly found in a booking confirmation.

1. Booking Reference Number

A reference number that is generated by the carrier at the time of booking. The booking reference number is unique and can always be traced back to a particular booking request.

2. Shipper Details 

The name, address and contact details of the exporter/shipper. The carrier releases the booking confirmation directly to the shipper and coordinates with them, if there is any additional information required.

3. Consignee Details

The name, address and contact details of the importer/consignee of the shipment. The carrier doesn’t get in touch with the consignee at this stage, but confirms these details.

4. Cargo & Commodity Type

General description of the cargo that is being exported. This is to ensure that the carrier supplies an appropriate container to the shipper. For example, dangerous goods, scrap metals, perishables or frozen foods items require different container types or grades. 

5. Cargo Weight 

The weight of the cargo being exported. For the carrier, this is important because issuing the booking confirmation means it can handle the tasks safely for the respective service type. Cargo weight also influences the placement of the container inside the vessel.

6. Equipment Quantity & Type

The quantity and type of container needed by the exporter. There are several container types that a shipper can request. The most common container types are standard or general purpose containers, open top, flat rack, reefer and NOR containers

7. Requested Sailing (ETD)

The intended departure date the vessel leaves the port of loading at the origin. This date follows the carrier’s sailing schedule. 

8. Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA)

The date when the cargo is estimated to arrive at the port of discharge at the destination.

9. CY Cutoff 

The container yard cutoff (or CY cutoff in short) is the latest date and time that the cargo can be accepted at the port for the requested vessel. This date is derived from an agreement between the ocean carrier and the terminal (port operator). 

10. Vessel Name & Voyage Number

The name of the vessel and the voyage number, on which the containers of the booking will be shipped on. The booking confirmation may also include the name and voyage number of the feeder vessel.

11. Port of Loading (POL)

The port of loading is the place where the cargo is being loaded. This is also the origin port. 

12. Port of Discharge (POD)

The port of discharge is the place where the cargo is unloaded. This is also the destination port. 

12. Transshipment Port

Certain shipments can also be routed via a transshipment port. This is the location where the cargo is being transshipped. 

14. Special Remarks

Special notes or instructions are remarked here, such as weight limitations, extension for cy cutoff, special container requests or special handling procedures. 

Example of a Booking Confirmation From a Carrier

Here’s an example of a carrier’s booking confirmation of a shipment from Los Angeles, United States to Melbourne, Australia.

Booking Reference NumberBHK51332862
Shipper DetailsMetro Sports LLC
Consignee DetailsSpartan Sports 
Cargo & Commodity TypeVarious sports equipment
Cargo Weight10,200 KG
Vessel Name & Voyage NumberOOCL California 114s 
Equipment Quantity & Type3 x 40’ General Purpose Container
Requested Sailing (ETD)September 1, 2021
Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) October 10, 2021
CY CutoffAugust 29, 2021 0700H
Port of LoadingLos Angeles, United States
Port of DischargeMelbourne, Australia
Transshipment PortShanghai, China
Special RemarksEmpty containers should have bamboo flooring 

How Long Do Carriers Take to Confirm Bookings?

Typically, a freight forwarder or carrier will be able to issue a booking confirmation in a matter of a few hours or within the same day the booking was requested. This is mostly the case if there is sufficient lead time given to the carrier. 

As the carrier is required to verify space and equipment availability, a booking confirmation may be returned later than intended if the booking was made closer to the vessel departure date. This is also the case in markets with equipment or space shortages.

Therefore, it’s always recommended to place bookings well in advance to avoid any potential delays. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, the carrier may also move the booking to the next sailing date.

What’s the Difference Between a Booking Confirmation and a Booking Request?

A booking request is also called a booking proforma. The booking request is submitted by the shipper to the carrier and is the step that precedes the bookings confirmation.

This means that the booking confirmation is an acknowledgement and confirmation from the carrier of the booking request that was submitted by the shipper.

What’s the Difference Between a Booking Confirmation and a Confirmed Bill of Lading?

A Bill of Lading is issued once the container is confirmed to have been laden on board the respective vessel. It’s a document of title and a contract of affreightment that binds the shipper and carrier to a set of terms and conditions.

A booking confirmation on the other hand is only an acknowledgement and confirmation of space and container allocation for an upcoming sailing.

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.