Container Depot and its role in Shipping Industry

Most of the time people get perplexed with the terms like Container Depot, Container Port, and Container Terminals. In this blog, we will solely talk about ‘Container Depot and its role in shipping industry.

With the advancement in the commerce sector and ever-emerging opportunities, today the shipping industry amounts to nearly 90% of the total global trade. With a tremendously magnificent amount of revenue being generated by shipping goods, the transportation of products can’t be often conducted ineptly in loose condition. Thus, shipping containers are of great value to the sellers and buyers for efficient and safe transit of commodities. But most companies face the issue of inadequate space for storing an entire container consignment and are only able to collect the goods within it.

Thus, the next question that pesters the traders is where to store the containers once they’re emptied after being unloaded until the next assignment.

This is where the shipping container depot service comes into play.

It is of major significance for the smooth functioning of haulage of a whopping amount of cargo on a daily basis. For example, the port of Hamburg or the container depot of Hamburg is one of the major container depots in Germany that handles about 120 TEU of cargo/day. So, what would happen to the vast number of containers involved after being unloaded?

What is meant by Container Depot Service?

There are a few common queries related to container depots that trouble people interested in container trade especially the fledglings in this stream of business. For instance, what does it mean by container depots, terminals, and yards? Is there any marked difference between them? If yes, what is that? Is there any difference between Inland Container Depots (ICD) and Container Freight Stations (CFS) or are they the same?

Let’s not waste much time in pondering over these nearly identical yet perplexing shipping terminologies and delve into the concept to make it an easy ride in the world of the shipping business.

A container depot is generally a central facility where the freight sent and received by multiple trading companies are consolidated or stripped into or from a single shipment depending upon the point of packing or at the point of delivery.

Whereas a container terminal is a location where the multimodal transport changes the mode of transport –for instance, a shipment hauled by train may be made to travel further by rail.

And a shipment yard is specifically referred to as a place where simply the empty containers are being relocated after deconsolidation of goods and are stored until the next consignment.

So, now we can say that a container depot or yard is a place generally located in the terminal or port or in the surrounding area where the containers are sent back and stored once they are unloaded. An important but common misconception among people is that shipping container depots also act as storage facility centers for fully- loaded containers whereas they are only functional for storing containers after complete unloading of goods until the next reloading process commences. Once containers have been unloaded, they are taken back to the depot, where they are registered by company officials. Also, depot allows the temporary storage to all container types like reefer, side doors, open top, flat rack, etc. There is no restriction to any specific type of container.

Inland Container Depot (ICD) versus Container Freight Station (CFS)

The term ICD (Inland Container Depot) is used for container depots in the Indian context in the shipping industry.

Well, the people in this line of business do not find any major distinction between an ICD and a CFS as both of them primarily function as consolidation points for containerization of break-bulk cargo and vice-versa. But CFS is mostly located close to the port of entry and mostly deals with the LCL cargos. Whereas ICD is usually located in the hinterlands away from the ports they are associated with. They generally deal with FCL cargos. Both of them help in decongesting the ports as they can be connected to rail or road transport.

Container Depot Functions

The primary purpose that a shipping container depot serves is the consolidation or deconsolidation of goods and commodities. The cargo is brought by the shippers to the depot to be packed and shipped, and loaded containers that have reached the port of destination are unpacked and distributed to the receivers.

  • They also play a vital role for cargo owners and freight forwarders in helping them with customs clearance.
  • Depots also assist with administrative and documentation procedures.
  • Depots also manage receipt and dispatch/delivery of cargo.
  • Once they are approved by the customs clearance, they are lifted by cranes to be assessed as damaged or operational. If in case they are categorized as damaged, they are sent to the maintenance facility by the managing authorities at the container depot for repair, cleaning, and storage.
  • The operational containers are reused later and currently are stacked over some other place.
  • They also assist in haulage services or transit operations by rail/road to and from serving ports.
  • They also sometimes offer temporary storage services.
  • At few depots, they are designed such as to specifically handle the out of gauge (OOG) goods that do not accurately fit in the containers with standard dimensions.
  • Most container depots have large boundaries with tight security surveilling them all day. This helps authorities in keeping in check the incidence of smuggling and other crimes.

Ownership of Container Depots

The ownership of a container depot ranges from being owned by the state, private to private-public. In American and European countries, container depots are owned by port operators, railway lines, and shipping lines whereas, in the Asian nations, most of the shipping container depots are state-owned. However, in East- Africa most of them are being owned by private companies although public-private partnerships are encouraged.


Container depots can unquestionably be considered as an ideal case study of logistics and operations management. They assist in overcoming important obstacles such as bottlenecks and insufficiency of space.

They also help in efficiently and effectively managing time by reducing the turnaround time at the port. They also help in boosting the revenue of the ports in the vicinity by offering a centralized facility for the collection, storage, and maintenance of containers that are not currently in use. Besides, they also help substantiate ports as state-of-the-art and user-friendly facilities as they are a crucial part of the global supply chain. The bottom line is that shipping container depots create a provisional storing facility that combines several essential yet beneficial services in a single place.

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