container gate in port

What Is a Container Gate In?

There are many types of container movements that occur when exporting a container. They need to be picked up, positioned and delivered. One of the most important movements is the container ‘gate in’.

A container gate in happens when the trucker delivers the laden container to the port terminal. This happens right after the container has been loaded by the shipper or exporter and the trucker has picked up the container. 

For less-than-container load (LCL) shipments, the suppliers deliver the cargo to the container freight station (CFS), where it is consolidated and delivered to the port terminal. 

In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at gating in containers to the port, when and how containers are gated in and why meeting the cut-off is important. 

When Is a Container Gated In?

The shipper, who is most often also the exporter, proceeds to load the cargo into a shipping container. After the container has been loaded, they will organize the container movement from the loading facility to the port through a haulage or trucking company. 

Subsequently, the trucker picks up the trailer with the laden container and delivers it to the port of loading. The delivery of the laden container into port is also called gating in or gate in. The shipper will need to organize the gate-in before a deadline, which is called a Container Yard Cut-Off (CY Cut-Off).

The shipping line and port operator determine a schedule for the vessel that covers activities from berthing to departure. They will then work out a cut-off time for laden containers to gate into port. This information is indicated to the shipper through a booking confirmation

Who Is Responsible For Gating In a Container?

The trucker is responsible to gate-in the laden container based on the details provided by the carrier. However, while the trucker is responsible for the delivery of the laden container to the port terminal, the shipper is ultimately liable for ensuring that this activity is completed. 

This is primarily because the trucker only acts on behalf of the exporter and the contract of carriage is between the exporter, consignee and ocean carrier. 

How Are Containers Gated In?

The containers are physically delivered to the port through a container terminal. There, a security officer checks all of the necessary documentation of the container and the shipment it’s assigned to. The documentation is presented by the truck driver. 

Then, an inspector will start the physical container inspection process, while the documents are being verified and the container is being weighed. After the inspection and documentation process are concluded, the container is delivered to a container yard inside the port.

What Happens After a Container is Gated In?

Once a container is gated in, it gets delivered to a container yard within the port area. In this container yard, port cranes will stack containers and eventually load them onto the vessel they are assigned to. 

The carrier and port operators have vessel planners who plan safe stowage of containers. This planning is being done to avoid container shifting and ensure safety initiatives are carried out, especially when the weight of each container is different, as this can affect vessel rolling during voyage. 

It’s important to note that containers should be gated in within the stipulated time frame, in order to avoid any delays in the vessel planning process.

Why Is it Important To Gate In a Container on Time?

A carrier will always indicate the port opening and closing for containers to gate in. While it’s important to gate-in containers on time, it’s equally important to understand why it’s necessary. There are several key factors that depend on containers gating into the port terminal. Let’s take a closer look at these factors.

Meeting the CY-Cut Off

The shipper needs to have the laden container delivered to port within the stipulated cut-off time. Failure to do so means that the containers may get rolled over to the next sailing date, which is typically a week later. This could potentially delay the overall shipping window and means that the consignee may receive the consignment later than agreed. 

Stopping Origin Detention

Shipping lines allow a specified free time for a container at the origin. Gating in a laden container at the port will stop the origin detention timer, which starts when the empty container is picked up from the carrier’s depot and ends upon successful gate-in at the port of loading.

Any excess days will amount to additional fees, which the shipper or consignee will have to absorb, depending on the incoterm. 

Locking in the Freight Rate

Most carriers offer rates with monthly validity, especially to SMEs or exporters/shippers with irregular volumes. This can cause problems when a container is gated in after the last day of the month. 

A carrier can argue that it now requires to charge the next month’s rates, as the previous month’s rates no longer apply and a new tariff is charged. However, this scenario may be industry and location specific and not necessarily apply to every situation. Moreover, most carriers indicate rates based on the date of vessel departure.