AISL, CTAP come to agreement on return of empty containers

Foreign shipping lines and truck operators have agreed on some steps to take to lessen the recurring problem of returning empty containers to depots, including adopting a policy to make zonal or regional the return of these empties.

This came out of the meeting between the Association of International Shipping Lines, Inc. (AISL) and the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) held on January 21.

Both parties agreed to the drafting of guidelines to address the long-standing issue of returning empties to off-dock container yards (CYs).

They also agreed to a policy that will declare returns as zonal or regional. For example, if the truck will be delivering goods within the CALABARZON area, the shipping line is mandated to designate a CY within or nearest that delivery area for the return of empty containers.

Difficulties in returning empties have been a growing concern for truckers, caused by several issues ranging from bad weather to trade imbalance and high utilization of container yards in Metro Manila.

These issues are causing a slowdown in the turnaround of trucks and lost business opportunities as well as creating a knock-on effect on the supply chain.

AISL during the dialogue said that because of the increasing volume of imports and the decreasing number of off-dock operators in Metro Manila, the difficulties in returning empties in Metro Manila are expected and could only worsen in the coming months.

But new off-dock depots have been opened outside NCR to accept empty container returns, it assured.

However, AISL emphasized that truckers should return empties only to the accredited depots of shipping lines.

Returning them to non-accredited outside depots “shall be considered by shipping lines as unreturned and will [be] subject [to] the same detention charges”, the association explained.

It was also agreed that the place of return must be indicated in the delivery order/container release order (DO/CRO) before the container is withdrawn from the terminal.

Additionally, the trucker must return the empty container within 72 hours from issuance of the DO/CRO by the shipping line, with the reckoning time subject to further review based on factors affecting the withdrawal of containers from the terminal.

Within the 72-hour period of the DO/CRO being issued, the shipping line should ensure that its designated depot in the DO/CRO has available space allocation and that the depot operator will accept the empty container.

If the empty container is returned after 72 hours, the trucker should revalidate the DO/CRO.

Furthermore, the waiting time of trucks before it can be serviced at the depot and other related items will be taken up by shipping lines in the guidelines to be prepared regarding the return of empty containers to off-dock depots.

Meanwhile, on CTAP’s request to extend the validity period of the pre-advice, AISL said the 48-hour validity period can’t be extended as this will affect the efficiency of terminal operations.

For its part, the truckers’ group suggested that AISL provide a list of the accredited off-dock depots that carrier members are using.

CTAP also said the Web DO/CRO of the shipping lines should interface with the system of the off-dock depots for real-time monitoring of available space by the shipping lines.

Each shipping line should also provide a 24/7 open communication line, especially in the return of empties.

Off-dock operators should likewise be involved in drafting the empty return guidelines.

At the same time, if the shipping line can’t immediately assign a CY, CTAP said it has the option to offer a depot that can provide safekeeping services.

This is to allow truckers to continue making other trips until such time that shipping lines can assign their designated depot. However, CTAP clarified that such safekeeping services will entail lift on/lift off, storage, control and other fees.

One such depot mentioned by CTAP is EMME Depot Hub Corp. in Bgy. Pulvorista, Binakayan, Kawit, Cavite. To inquire about the fees for safekeeping services, interested parties may contact EMME Depot at 0905-5218968 / 0930-4340587 or emmedhc@gmail.com.

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