What Is a Container Release Order (CRO)?

What Is a Container Release Order (CRO)?

There are various types of documents that are responsible for moving containers between different locations. One of these documents is a Container Release Order. 

A Container Release Order (CRO) is a document issued by the carrier to the shipper that they or an appointed trucker may pick up the empty containers at the carrier’s nominated depot. The CRO document indicates important container collection information such as depot location, equipment quantity and type, among various others. 

Container release orders are an important document for the following reasons: 

  1. it ensures that the correct number of containers are released to the shipper or its appointed trucker.
  2. It allows the carrier to ensure that containers released are within the limits acceptable for the next voyage.
  3. It informs the trucker at which depot to collect the empty containers.

In certain countries, the container release order document is also referred to as an authority to withdraw. While both are named differently, they serve the same purpose. 

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at what information can be found on a container release order, when they are issued and we’ve also made sure to share a case study that will help you understand this document better. 

When Is a Container Release Order Issued?

In order to better understand the function of a container release order and when it’s issued, we’ll take a few steps back by explaining some of the earlier steps in the shipping process. 

Before a CRO is released by the shipping line, the shipper (who is also the exporter) checks the latest sailing schedule and proceeds to pick a suitable sailing date. 

Once this is completed, the shipper issues a booking request, also known as a proforma booking. In return the carrier validates vessel space and equipment availability, before issuing a booking confirmation to the shipper. 

Closer to the estimated time to departure, the shipping line will release the container release order to the shipper so that their appointed trucker knows where to pick the containers up and how many containers need to be collected. 

After the containers are loaded by the shipper, the trucker gates in the laden containers to the port before the CY cut-off. Finally, the vessel departs from the port of loading. 

What Information Is Found on a Container Release Order?

A container release order contains all of the important information that the shipper or its appointed trucker requires to pick up the empty containers at the carrier’s depot. 

It’s good practice on the side of the shipper to check if all details are in good order before releasing the same document to the nominated trucker. 

  • Booking Number – This is a unique number generated by the carrier to track the shipment from origin to destination. This also acts as the carrier’s reference number. 
  • Vessel / Voyage Number – The vessel of the carrier where the containers are transported on, as well as the voyage number.  
  • Estimated Time of Departure – The estimated date and time the vessel will leave the port of loading. 
  • Estimated Time of Arrival – The estimated date and time that the vessel is going to arrive at the port of discharge. 
  • Port of Loading – This is the port where the containers are loaded onto the vessel before departure. It’s also called the origin port.
  • Port of Discharge – This is the port where the containers are discharged or unloaded from the vessel after it has arrived. It’s also called the destination port. 
  • Equipment Type & Quantity – The type and quantity of containers that are going to be collected by the trucker. 
  • Commodity – The commodity that the shipper intends to load into the container. 
  • Closing Time – The latest date and time a laden container can be accepted at the port of origin. This is also called the CY-cut off.
  • Trucker / Haulier – The company name of the trucker that is appointed by the shipper to collect the empty containers. 
  • Carrier Remarks – Any additional remarks are listed here, such as free storage and charges if containers stay in the port while waiting for vessel loading. Also included is the earliest possible time a laden container can be gated in the port (also called port opening). 

Container Release Order vs Delivery Order

A Delivery Order (DO) and Container Release Order (CRO) are two different documents that often get confused with each other. The container release order is used for collecting the empty containers during the export process. 

On the other hand, a delivery order is used for the import process that releases the laden containers at the destination to the consignee. In essence, a CRO is used to collect empty containers from the depot, while a DO is used to collect laden containers from the port.

Case Study: Container Release Order

Let’s take a look at an example where an exporter from Vietnam called Vietnam Cafe Pho, plans to export coffee beans from the port of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to the port of Genoa, Italy. They require a single 20-foot container for this shipment. 

Since the Incoterm for this shipment is Delivered Duty Paid (DDP), the exporter is required to arrange the ocean freight. Vietnam Cafe Pho engages their shipping line and books a single 20-foot container. 

After the shipping line issues a booking confirmation, they also release a container release order (CRO), so that the shipper can have their empty containers picked up by their trucker.  

Vietnam Cafe Pho shares the CRO with their appointed trucker, who arranges the pickup of the empty container from the depot and delivers them for loading at the shippers facility. 

Shortly after, the containers are gated into the port and the vessel departs to Genoa, Italy. 

Container Release Order Template & Sample

To help you further understand how a container release order looks like, you’ll find a CRO template and sample below. 

Vessel / VoyageMaersk Shanghai / 59w
Estimated Time of DepartureApril 1, 2022
Estimated Time of ArrivalMay 15, 2022
Port of LoadingHo Chi Minh
Port of DischargeGenoa
Total Volume1 x 20 GP
Cargo Closing TimeMarch 30 2000H
CommodityCoffee Beans
Empty Container Depot LocationPort of Ho Chi Minh
HaulerHi8 Trucking / VH Trucking
Carrier Remarks5 days free storage. Laden acceptance 3 days before ETD.