7 tips for avoiding container rollovers—in 2023 and in the future

April 16, 2023
2 minutes
reading time

Container rollovers lead to a lot of hassle, unforeseen costs and sometimes even disappointed customers, especially now that the current rollover rate is at a historical high. Yet the industry is not going to change overnight. So, what can you do to get the upper hand and prevent your cargo from getting rolled? This article gives you 7 practical tips to help make sure your containers are loaded and shipped as planned. We'll also take a look at some trends affecting the current rollover rate, and how these are likely to play out in the future.

1. Book your container early

Global trade is subject to extreme peak periods which have been the main driver behind historial rollover rates in the past. During those periods, four to six weeks may pass between the time you book a slot until the time you receive the cargo. It is always best to book your slot at least 14 days before the cargo-ready date.

Booking your freight early means that you will need to have a clear view of your needs based on your current order volumes, predictions, turnover and upcoming sales and stock liquidation plans.

2. Pay a premium fee for guaranteed space

It’s not ideal, and it’s actually part of an undesirable trend, but many shippers are now choosing to pay extra for an insured or guaranteed space when they book a container for shipping. This adds to the already high price that you pay for freight shipping, but at least you can be sure your container doesn’t get rolled.

3. Choose a flexible departure date

A flexible departure date gives you more options, so you increase the chances that your cargo arrives on time. This is a good choice primarily for non-seasonal cargo.

4. Ship outside of peak seasons and holiday periods

If possible, avoid shipping during peak seasons and around major holidays. Rollovers are always at a high during these periods, when space on ships is booked to maximum capacity. Above all, try planning your shipments outside the peak period between mid-August and mid-October, and during the periods before Chinese New Year (in January and February) and the Golden Week (beginning of October).

5. Work with a reliable forwarder

An experienced, reputable forwarder knows which routes and ports are likely to run into problems with rollovers. They can advise you on which routes to avoid and help you choose the best alternatives. Plus, an experienced forwarder has more sway with shipping lines, so they can often negotiate to prevent your cargo from being rolled. At Shypple, our forwarders typically have over 25 years of experience in this industry, with the network to match.

6. Split your bill into multiple shipments

Shipping lines determine which containers to roll based on the freight bill rather than the physical container itself. So, if you ship ten containers all under one bill, it will be ‘all or nothing’ in case of a rollover. 

That’s why it is best to split your containers into multiple bills. This increases the chance that at least some of your cargo will be loaded as planned, even if some of your containers get rolled.

7. Consider other transport options

Sea freight is convenient, competitively priced, well organised and reliable. Yet it becomes less attractive when you constantly run into rollovers. 

Although sea transport is still the cheapest shipping option, other shipping methods, such as rail, are gaining ground. The New Silk Road, a large-scale initiative launched by the Chinese government, is stimulating transport by rail.

Especially if you are shipping smaller cargo, this option is worth exploring. Find out more about the New Silk Road in our white paper on the topic.

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