What is a Intermodal Container?

Intermodal containers are standardized steel boxes used to transport cargo (finished goods or raw material) by ship, truck and rail.

Nowadays, most of the intermodal containers are built in China and owned by many different leasing companies, shipping-companies, and local traders (like us) all over the world.  It’s important to remark that even though inter-modal containers are mostly a Chinese product, they don’t have a nationality because they travel around the world through free zones.  In some cases, local government’s regulation requires transit permits for inter-modal containers to circulate outside the free zones. In other countries regulations allow the inter-modal container to stay for a limited period of time, for example 480 days. After this period, the inter-modal container will be subject to penalization fees. By free zones we mean local ports and local depots. Both need approval of local government authorities to function.  They are responsible of complying with many tax laws regarding inter-modal containers.

What is the difference between a Nationalized Intermodal Container and a Non-Nationalized Intermodal Container?

_Non-Nationalized Intermodal Container:

This is the type of inter modal container that will continue to live through free zones. Its duty will always be to stay in local ports and local depots, and will remain with no nationality.  This type of intermediate container is the one that moves the GDP of every country by importing and exporting finished goods and raw material from one country to another.

_Nationalized Intermodal Container:

A nationalized Inter modal Container is the one that complies with all the import tax requirements of a country.  Once this inter-modal container is nationalized, it can move freely within the country, and could stay in a farm, house, etc. without violating local regulations. This process of nationalization doesn’t mean that the Intermodal Container won’t be able to leave the country if needed. It allows to the container to stay in a country as a nationalized product.

IMPORTANT: The inter modal containers modified to build a house, bank, police unit, school, etc. need to be nationalized, or otherwise it’s an illegal product.

Once at the Depot, what are the fees the container will charge?

When a Non-Nationalized Inter-modal Container moves around free zones and it enters into a depot, the following charges are commonly found:

_Gate in/Gate out
Once the container enters or leaves the free zone depot, a fix fee called “Gate in” and “Gate out” is charged.  In addition, the depot’s personnel inspects the container in detail and reports the damages noted in a form called “Equipment Interchange Receipt” or commonly called “EIR”. The EIR is a document that states the condition of the container based on the damages noted. The information that normally contains is a) the container number, b) Port, c) Terminal, d) date (gate in or gate out), e) Vehicle that brings or takes out the container, f) type of the container (20DV, 40DV, 40HC, etc.), g) Year built of the container (2000, 2001… 2014),, h) the name of the vessel, i) number of EIR, j) The damages noted throughout the inspection, k) Consignee of the container, l) Condition of the container (CW, ASIS, DMG, IICL5).

EIR (Condition of containers)

ASIS:This condition should alert the buyer that there might be damage to the container that might require repairs in order to become Cargo Worthy.
WWT or Wind/Water Tight: This conditional information indicates that the container is dry and suitable for storage.
CW or Cargo Worthy: This quality of container can be used in containerised export shipments. Cargo worthy containers must meet standards of structural strength and be wind and water tight.
One Tripers: These are new containers that have had one load shipped in them. By allowing a shipper to use the container for a single load, the cost to position a new container into any country is reduced significantly. These savings are passed on to the end user.
IICL5: This is the international leasing inspection/repair standard, generally regarded as the most stringent. These grade indicates that the container is in excellent condition, conforming to shipping conditions standards and ready for survey and ocean freight shipment.

The free zone depots charges a storage fee for the number of the days that an intermodal container stays within the perimeters.  The fee charged is mostly per day and per TEU (Twenty equivalent unit, 1 TEU is equal to a 20 foot container, 2 TEU is equal to a 40 foot container). For example, the depot charges 1 USD per day and per TEU.  A 40 foot container that stayed 15 days inside the depot represents 30 USD fee of storage.

The intermodal containers are placed in stowage of 4 floors or less.  The depots according to their space availability place around their containers in different stows. In case that one container is at the bottom of the stowage of 4 containers, it will require 4 movements or “handling” to remove it and place it above a truck.  These movements or “handling” are normally charged per hour or per movement, for example USD 100 per hour or 10 USD per movement.