Overview of port dues in shipping

Port dues in shipping refer to the charges imposed by the port authorities on vessel operators for using port facilities and services. Maritime shipping is a significant mode of international transportation of goods. Ports play a vital role in the global supply chain, and the revenue generated through port dues supports the maintenance and improvement of port infrastructure, ensuring safe and efficient maritime operations. Shipping ports are equipping themselves with technology and trying to expand their services, which require investment. Since shippers and vessel operators utilize the services, ports compensate for their maintenance, repairs, and operational resources by charging their services. Let us learn more about port dues in shipping. 

What are port dues in shipping? 

Numerous ships enter and exit ports daily to load or unload goods or passengers. Every ship is given a scheduled period to berth, unload, and load goods or passengers at any port. The time of vessels entering the port is noted along with its time of departure. The port authorities levy charges on vessels for their stay at the port. These port charges are known as port dues. In maritime shipping, port dues are defined as the rate charged on vessels for using the facilities and services a port provides. These charges are levied to cover the costs of maintaining and operating the port and offering resources while the vessel is on the port premises. Port dues are collected to upgrade and improve the infrastructure and resources in a port.  

It is a common part of the overall expenses incurred by ship owners and operators during port calls. Port fees differ from one port authority to another, so it’s important for shipowners, operators, and agents to be aware of the port dues applicable at each port of call to accurately estimate the total costs associated with a visit.  

Reasons for port dues in shipping 

Port dues in shipping are charged for various reasons. Let us learn more about the causes of port dues in maritime. 

  1. Maintenance of infrastructure– Shipping ports provide immense facilities for loading and unloading goods, berthing vessels, and temporarily storing containers. The upkeep and maintenance of port infrastructure is essential to offer high-quality services to shippers. Port facilities, including docks, berths, quays, and navigational channels, are used by vessels docking at ports. A port helps ensure that these facilities remain in good condition and are upgraded with technology in maritime to safely and efficiently handle vessels. 
  2. Operational charges—Different port facilities hire numerous workers and personnel to work in administrative and authorial posts. The money collected through port dues helps cover the day-to-day operational costs needed for the undisrupted running of a shipping port. 
  3. Channel maintenance—The waterways and anchorage require channel dredging to maintain navigable depths. Any algae or weeds need to be removed to ensure port safety for the workers and the vessels. Dredging also helps clear the berth of unwanted growth. 
  4. Safety and security—Shipping ports are equipped with security personnel, surveillance systems, and other security-related infrastructure to ensure the safety of vessels, goods, and people. The International Maritime Organization assists port authorities in investing in safety and security measures by equipping ports with maritime resources and providing emergency training. Proper lighting and energy backup at ports also contribute to port charges in shipping. 

Calculation of port dues 

Shipping ports need to compensate for all the above-listed services to provide high-quality shipping services, safety and security, avoid shortage of resources, and facilitate seamless shipping throughout. Vessel owners are charged with port dues for their stay at the port. The charges levied as port dues vary from port to port. It depends on the ports’ tariff structure, which differs based on the charges established by each port authority. Major ports have higher dues than minor ports due to the level of services provided by the port. Shipowners, ocean carriers, and freight forwarders need to be aware of the tariff schedule provided by each port authority to calculate port dues. Shipping ports also offer several discounts to minimize port dues for vessel owners.  

The port dues depend on – 

  • Gross tonnage of the vessel. 
  • Type of cargo. 
  • Duration of stay at the port. 
  • Purpose of call 

The purpose of the call can differ from cargo loading and unloading, shipyard repairs, refilling supplies, and offshore support. Based on the purpose of the call, the maritime resources needed by the vessel differ. 

Differences between cargo dues, tonnage due, and port dues 

The shipping ports charge the vessel or 3PL service provider for any charges associated with using port services, resources and infrastructure. Cargo, tonnage, and port dues are essential charges paid to the port authorities. But let us learn the fundamental difference between them. 

  1. Cargo dues – They are also known as wharfage charges in shipping. It is levied on the shipper, consignee or carrier for using the port facilities to move goods. This depends on the quantity of cargo loaded and unloaded, including maritime resources such as equipment, workers, and machines. Failure to pay the cargo dues causes port authorities to hold back on the shipment’s bill of lading
  2. Tonnage dues – They are calculated based on the weight of the ship, primarily its gross or net tonnage. The tonnage dues are meant to be paid by the vessel operator and are used by the port authorities to maintain and upgrade buoys and lines in shipping and assist in the proper berthing of ships. 
  3. Port dues – Unlike cargo dues or tonnage dues, which specifically charge vessel operators for the weight of cargo or ships, port dues reflect a broader category of charges that vessels pay for using port facilities and services. They include various charges, including the tonnage due and cargo due. In short, every facility, service, or resource used at a particular port is counted in its port charges. 

How to avoid port dues in shipping? 

Port dues are mandatory charges incurred by vessel operators for using the maritime facilities and services of shipping ports. These charges cannot be avoided entirely, but they can be minimized. Let’s learn more about how to minimize port dues when shipping. 

  1. Using shipper-owned containers – After completing a trip, the container is temporarily kept for empty container repositioning or loading at the port facilities. SOC (shipper-owned container) allows shippers and vessel owners to avoid port charges that involve prolonged use of port services and resources. 
  2. Avoid transshipment – When making international shipments, shippers, shipping carriers, and freight forwarders must book vessel spaces that do not involve multiple port calls. The more ports a vessel berths on, the higher the port due. 
  3. Utilize ports with lower charges – If transshipment is necessary, shippers and carriers must strategically choose the ports with the lowest port charges based on their tariff structures. Since ports have different charges, careful selection can help reduce overall port-related expenses. 
  4. Choose off-port storage – Container storage within port facilities can increase port dues. It is better to go to inland container depots.  
  5. Avoid port congestion – Choose ports with better port management systems to avoid port congestion, leading to higher port dues since vessels must prolong their stay at the port. 

These are a few ways to minimize port dues in shipping and transporting goods internationally cost-effectively and safely.

LOTUS Containers excels in the shipping container market by partnering with 300+ container depots. You can lease and buy shipping containers anywhere in the world. We offer SOCs to suit your shipping requirements.

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