What is Rolled Cargo or Container & How to Manage by Exception

What is Rolled Cargo or Container & How to Manage by Exception

Rolled cargo is one cause of delayed ocean freight; unfortunately, it’s not completely avoidable. There are ways to decrease the chance of a rolling container, but it’s important to have a plan to manage the exceptions when a roll booking delays your cargo. Ultimately, freight visibility and data insights on the transportation of your cargo are the main supporting factors for avoiding disruptions, minimizing their effects on the rest of the supply chain, and providing a smooth experience for the customer.

By identifying the risks and understanding how to manage rolled cargo, you can be in a better position for this situation when it does arise.

What is Rolled Cargo?

Rolled cargo, or a cargo rollover, happens when a vessel sets sail without picking up a shipping container as scheduled, resulting in a delay for that cargo. This situation can occur for various reasons, some within the shipper’s control and some up to the carrier. Either way, the goal is to get the cargo on the next vessel as soon as possible to avoid further delays. The exact reason for the rollover will affect the plan of action when responding to the rolled container. 

The Top Reasons for Rolling Containers

1. Overbooking

Some rolled containers occur beyond the shipper’s control. One of the most common reasons is overbooking. Like commercial airlines overbooking their seats and bumping passengers off a flight, the vessel simply may have run out of capacity. Overbooking is often a fact of the industry, despite times when it causes major problems. When cargo is supposed to roll onto another vessel, there’s always a possibility that it will be rolled over again. In times of higher shipping demand, this can quickly snowball into a bigger issue that extends recovery time.

2. Paperwork Problems

There are other reasons for rolled bookings where the responsibility falls on the shipper or the freight forwarder managing the shipping process. Incorrect documentation and problems getting customs clearance are common reasons for delays. This can include the shipper making a mistake on shipment paperwork. If there is an error in the cargo declaration, this will cause a delay with customs. These paperwork-related delays make it important to take care of this process well before the sailing date.

3. Vessel Schedule Disruptions

Changes to the vessel’s schedule can cause rolled cargo that has nothing to do with the shipments. An ocean freight carrier could choose to remove a port from its schedule for several reasons, including inclement weather. There may be vessel weight issues, technical problems, mechanical difficulties, or port congestion, which can each cause the schedule to experience delays and increase the chances of rolled cargo.

What To Do When Your Container Gets Rolled

If you are notified either by the carrier or the freight forwarder that a container is getting rolled over, the first thing to do is find out why. If the reason has to do with paperwork or some other issue on your side, you must take corrective action promptly to avoid further shipment delays. However, if rolling is due to circumstances beyond your control, the next steps should be to lessen the impact on the rest of your supply chain. The cargo will be scheduled for the next vessel, often a week later.

To prepare for the event your cargo gets rolled, you should take measures to lessen the impact on your supply chain. Be sure you have a plan for how your business will respond and get in a better position when future rolled cargo occurs. Having flexibility is essential. Provide enough time for shipments to come in, even if they are delayed due to a rollover.

How to Avoid Rolled Cargo

While shippers cannot prevent rolled cargo entirely, they can try to decrease the chance of it happening to their containers. Here are four ways to help:

  1. Book early – Book shipments in advance to allow plenty of time to prepare documentation and handle any problems that arise.
  2. Manage documentation requirements – Ensure all paperwork is filled out completely and accurately to prevent issues.
  3. Avoid transshipments – Transshipments present more risk for rolled cargo due to loading and unloading at more than one port.
  4. Avoid peak seasons – During peak seasons, like August, September, and October, and just before the Chinese New Year in January and February, there is more shipping demand and a higher likelihood of rolled cargo. Plan ahead to avoid shipping during these months.

How Visibility Lessens the Impact of Rolled Cargo Disruptions

Outside of the shipment-specific strategies, shippers should also recognize the role that supply chain visibility plays in decreasing the chance of a rollover and managing the disruption when it does occur. Visibility helps shippers plan the timing of their next shipment, so they can request quotes with plenty of time before the cargo must be shipped. Preparing for ocean freight’s peak seasons is an important opportunity to take measures to decrease the risk of rollovers and other disruptions and also plan for the likelihood that cargo will get rolled. What’s more, visibility into container milestone events equips shippers to be proactive. If there is port congestion, this indicates tight capacity, and shippers can take steps to secure capacity sooner. Conversely, rollovers due to booking or documentation issues provide ample reasons to reevaluate your handling of this process.

Managing Rolled Cargo with VIZION API

At the root of reducing rolled cargo is improving ocean freight visibility, addressing the factors that affect rollovers, from booking shipments to avoiding transshipments and identifying tight capacity. Visibility allows you to get to a more strategic place and understand what is happening behind the curtain within your supply chain and across the ocean freight market. As the industry leader for real-time tracking solutions for containerized freight, VIZION API provides this level of transparency with every shipment. Contact us today and get the advantage of VIZION API to help manage rolled cargo and more.

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