shipping order

What Is a Shipping Order (SO)?

After having placed a booking with a carrier, they will inform the shipper and freight forwarder of the shipment details and provide the information where to pick up the empty container. One important document that contains this information is the Shipping Order. 

A Shipping Order (SO) is a document that is issued by the shipping line which confirms that the equipment and the space on the vessel are available. It also provides information on the container pickup and delivery locations, as well as all of the submission deadlines. 

In certain countries a shipping order is also referred to as a Container Release Order (CRO) or Authority to Withdraw (ATW). Occasionally, the shipping order is also combined with or attached to the carrier’s booking confirmation

In this article, we will take a closer look at what information can be found on shipping orders, how they are issued and also provide an example for easier reference.

What Information Is Found on a Shipping Order?

There is no universal or standard template that carriers adopt for shipping orders. Each shipping line will have their own template and naming convention. 

However, there is certain information such as shipment and container details, as well as document and VGM cut-off times that can be found on this document. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Shipper Details 

The full name and address of the shipper, who is typically the cargo owner or booking party. These details will also be reflected on the Bill of Lading. 

2. Forwarder Details

The full name and address of the freight forwarder, if applicable. If shipping lines work directly with shippers, this field is left blank and the SO will be released to the shipper and their appointed agents/vendors. 

3. Cargo & Commodity Type

The shipping order will also contain information on the commodity of the export shipment. 

4. B/L Number

This number refers to the assigned unique Bill of Lading number of the carrier for the shipment. This is also used for shipment tracking and will be released on the Bill of Lading that will be issued after the cargo is shipped on board.

5. Place of Receipt

The place where the empty container will be received. For example, if a shipment is landlocked, the place of receipt can be an inland container depot (ICD) or a container yard. 

6. Port of Loading

The port where the container will be loaded on the vessel. The port of loading (POL) is also referred to as the origin port. 

7. Port of Discharge

The port where the cargo will be discharged from the vessel. The port of discharge (POD) is also known as the destination port. 

8. Place of Delivery

The place where the carrier is assigned to deliver the goods. This is the final delivery location and is only indicated if carrier haulage was arranged. 

9. Transshipment Port

The port where containers may be transferred from the feeder vessel to the mother vessel. Not every shipment is transshipped, as there are also direct shipping routes. 

10. Vessel Name & Voyage Number

The name of the vessel and the voyage number are also indicated on the shipping order. 

11. Equipment Type

The type of container that is required for this shipment. It can be any of the following: general-purpose, high cube, open-top, flat rack, or reefer containers. This information is important so that the appointed haulier can pick up the correct containers.

12. Empty Pickup Location

The place where the empty container will be picked up. This is typically a container yard or container depot. Appointed hauliers will pick up the empty containers from this location. 

13. Full Return Location

The port and terminal where the laden container needs to be returned to. This happens once the containers are stuffed and ready to be gated in.

14. Document Cut-Off

The date and time the shipping instructions need to be sent to the carrier. Any delay may incur a late fee or cause a container to be shut out. 

15. VGM Cut-Off

This cutoff refers to the date and time the verified gross mass (VGM) details need to be sent to the carrier. VGM values are mandatory according to SOLAS regulations since 2014.

16. CY Cut-Off

The CY cut-off is the latest date and time the shipping line is able to accept the laden container. The haulier is required to gate in the laden container to the port, in order for it to be loaded onto the vessel. 

Example of a Shipping Order (SO) From a Carrier

To help you better understand what a shipping order from a carrier looks like, we’ve included an example which you can find below. Please take note that each carrier may have their own template which contains the most relevant shipment, container and cut-off information.

Shipper DetailsSteelstar Solutions Inc.
2780 North Brook Avenue Rialto, CA
Forwarder DetailsWayfarer Logistics LLC.
811 Wilshire Road 1700
BL NumberOOLU98725990
Service Contract NumberSCN109345
Vessel Name & Voyage NumberOOCL California v. 138E
Place of ReceiptPort of Los Angeles
Port of LoadingPort of Los Angeles
Port of DischargeShanghai
Place of DeliveryShanghai
Equipment Quantity & Type2×40’ HC / assorted fitness equipment 
Empty Pickup LocationGrand Harbor Container Yard
700 East 5th Street, Los Angeles CA 90018
Full Return LocationLos Angeles Port
425 S. Palos Verdes St. San Pedro, CA 90731
Document Cut-OffNovember 19, 2021 1300 hrs
VGM Cut-OffNovember 20, 2021 1900 hrs
CY Cut-OffNovember 20, 2021 1900 hrs

Who Issues a Shipping Order?

The party who issues a shipping order is the shipping line, as they operate the vessel and own the shipping containers. Shipping orders are released either directly to the shipper or to an appointed freight forwarder. 

If a shipper engages with a shipping line for a booking directly, the SO is released to them. However, if the shipper engages a freight forwarder who handles their documentation on their behalf, the shipping line is instructed to release the shipping order to the freight forwarder instead. 

The freight forwarder will then liaise with the shipper’s appointed trucker or use their own fleet to pick up the empty container according to the information on the SO. 

When Do Carriers Release a Shipping Order?

Carriers will release the shipping order to the shipper or its appointed freight forwarder once they have confirmed the equipment and space availability. This means that their equipment is available at one of their container depots and that the vessel has space for the booked shipment. 

Shipping Order vs Booking Confirmation

While a booking confirmation and a shipping order contain overlapping information, shipping orders contain more details about the empty container collection and important cut-off times. 

It’s not uncommon for carriers to sometimes merge both documents into one, depending on the location and the carrier. Oftentimes, the booking confirmation is also released together with the shipping order. 

In that case, the booking confirmation will contain more of the shipment and booking details, whereas the shipping order will contain more of the container, depot and cut-off information.