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Cargo Delivery: Top 9 Issues We See In Cartage (No #5 May Surprise You)


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Way too often, we see businesses who fail to take into account potential mishaps in their supply chain. The result is unexpected fees and charges that directly impact their bottom line, and delays in getting goods onto their shelves.

Why does this happen? We asked our cartage team for some answers. Below, we’ve outlined the top 9 factors that cause delay in the delivery of your cargo, and how you can avoid them.

1. Customs clearance is not ready so the cargo can’t be released for collection

When your goods arrive in Australia, your cargo needs to be cleared by customs authorities, so your goods can leave the port/airport. Customs will be looking closely at your shipping documentation so they can satisfy themselves your goods are in order to enter Australia. If your documents are not in order, the cargo will be customs-held until the clearance is done – at the importer’s expense.

If your goods are still being cleared after the vessel has arrived, the importer will have to bear the extra costs of storage at the wharf (for as many days as it takes for customs to clear the cargo) and also potential detention charges (if the shipping container does not get returned to the shipping line within the free time determined by them, which is usually 3-7days).

Additionally, if you have a time slot booked at the wharf to pick up your cargo and your cargo hasn’t been customs-cleared yet, your freight forwarder will miss the current slot and will have to book again for another day – adding to extra costs.

Main takeaway: ensure all shipping documents are promptly provided to your freight forwarder to avoid delays at customs.

For further reading: 7 Most Common Issues in Customs Clearance that You Should Know

2. Your goods are selected for a random inspection

As part of Australia’s border security measures, every month, a certain number of goods entering the country are randomly selected for inspection by customs authorities, such as the Australian Border Force. If your goods are selected, then they can’t be collected from the wharf or airport.

Customs can pick and choose which consignments they want to inspect. This selection is done while the goods are still on water or in air freight. There is no way to predict whether a shipment will be selected for inspection or not and, if they do get picked, there is nothing your freight forwarder can do about it.

  • If the container passes the initial x-ray inspection, then customs take it back to the wharf and release the cargo.
  • If your cargo doesn’t pass the initial x-ray inspection, customs will open up the container and further inspect. Either you (the shipper) or the owner of the goods will be liable for paying for any delays, detention and demurrage fees that this inspection may incur.

Customs has NO obligation to inform you when the goods are going to be released. In fact, Customs and Border Force authorities reserve the right to maintain discretion around their processes not to undermine their operations or give away any hints.

Main takeaway: random inspections are unavoidable.You can minimise the risk of unnecessary delays by (a) having all documentation in place prior to export; and (b) factoring in the risk of delays in your shipping timeline.

3. Not paying your freight forwarder on time

Your freight forwarder is a key party in your supply chain. They are responsible for ensuring that your goods promptly arrive at their destination. However, if they don’t get paid on time, then they won’t be in a position to ensure delivery from port to your warehouse.

This isn’t because your freight forwarder is being difficult. It’s because they need the funds in their account to pay for the service providers to do their job, such as truck drivers or haulage companies.
If you’re importing an LCL shipment, for example, some container freight stations (where your shipment is unpacked after arrival) require a delivery order (DO) to be handed over for them to release your cargo. If your driver doesn’t have that DO when they go to pick up your goods, then container station simply won’t release the cargo to the driver.

Why wouldn’t the driver have that paperwork?

It’s often because the freight forwarder hasn’t paid for it yet on your behalf.

In order for a transport company to receive a delivery order from the freight forwarder, the freight forwarder needs to get paid. If they don’t get paid, then they won’t be able to generate a Delivery Order, and so the driver won’t be able to pick up the cargo.

Main takeaway: Pay your freight forwarder on time, so they can cargo your shipment is released on time.

4. Not Accounting For The Right Equipment

If you don’t arrange the correct equipment to pick it up or load/unload your goods, this can cause serious problems. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s a more common occurrence that you think.

Equipment includes things like the type of truck needed for your cargo, trailers and cranes.

Sometimes that are issues in communication between the client and the freight forwarder and important details are not passed on, such as:

  • How tall are the goods? You might need a semi flat-bed truck (with no roof).
  • Is it long? You might need a semi-trailer truck.
  • Is it heavy? You might need a semi-ridged truck.
  • Can it fit in a tautliner or a curtainsider?
  • Do you have a forklift on site that suits the weight of the cargo?  
  • Or do you need a tail lift truck for unload?
  • Are you transporting a full container? You might need a sideloader (also called swing lift)

Your freight forwarder will have the expertise necessary to avoid situations like this, and should recommend which type of truck and equipment is required to transport and unload your goods based on the packing list and packing declaration provided by you.

If your container is delivered on a side-loader, it’s also important to inform the driver whether they should drive in forward or reverse in to your property, as the truck can only swing to the right hand (drivers’) side. Ensure the container is placed on the correct side of your premises.

Ideally, you should provide your forwarder with as much detail of your cargo as possible, so that they can plan and book equipment with transport companies accordingly.

Main takeaway: tell your freight forwarder everything about your cargo (weight, dimensions, special requirements, on-site rules or restrictions, or extra equipment needed for unload) so they can plan a smooth delivery.

5. The correct equipment is not available

Even when you know what equipment you need to pick up your shipment, sometimes that equipment just isn’t available for hire on the day your cargo is ready to be collected.

For example, if you need a Hiab truck (also called Franna crane), you may find that there isn’t any available for hire. It’s not uncommon that they might be fully booked for the next three days.

You might need to wait another day or two until the equipment becomes available for hire. If this happens, then your forwarder may need to cancel your slot at the wharf and postpone picking up your cargo.

Main takeaway: Foreshadow each and every piece of equipment you need across your shipment, allowing plenty of time in advance for your freight forwarder to organise their availability.
Hiab truck (also called Franna crane), typically used for break bulk cargo.

6. Your cargo is sent for a rural tailgate inspection

If cargo needs to be delivered to a regional or rural area, then depending on the postcode, it may be directed for a rural tailgate inspection right after arriving in Australia.

If this is the case, customs officials will open your container and inspect it to see if there are any plants, seeds or organic materials (such as soil or dirt) inside the container. They do this in order to protect our agricultural regions from being contaminated with foreign pests coming in shipping containers.

If the cargo does get sent for a rural tailgate inspection, it needs to be taken from the wharf to an approved facility to be inspected (your forwarder can organise this process for you).

Samples of the organic material might be taken for analysis. If customs identify a problem, the container needs to be entirely unpacked and cleaned (both internally and externally) – all at your expense.

If the container passes the inspection (which lasts typically 1-2 business days), then it can be delivered to its final destination.

Your freight forwarder can arrange a rural tailgate inspection with the customs department should your delivery address fall into one of the rural tailgate postcodes, which you can check here.

Main takeaway: Check if your final delivery address is classified as regional or remote area. If so, factor in the risk of a rural tailgate inspection into your timeline.

7. Last-minute Change of Plans

We often see clients changing their mind in the last minute as to how and where to deliver their cargo, increasing the risk of extra costs and delays.

For example, asking to:

  • Deliver cargo to another destination
  • Store goods elsewhere for a few days
  • Change their shipment from FCL to LCL

We understand why this happens. You may not be ready to receive your cargo on your site yet. Maybe you had a large order last minute and your yard is full. Make you don’t have room to unpack your container.

This will require your freight forwarder to take swift action. They can either collect your cargo at the scheduled date and unpack it in their own warehouse before sending it to you. They can also hire another party to unpack your goods and store it temporarily and then rearrange final delivery when your site is ready.

But ultimately, making last minute requests is much more likely to cost you more. Avoid it as much as possible.

Main takeaway: Last minute changes are often unavoidable. Factor in the cost in your budget to avoid eating into your bottom line.

8. Listing the wrong delivery address

As rookie as this sounds, it is not uncommon to have it delivered to the wrong address. Even the most experienced shippers can still get the delivery address wrong.

You may have been shipping your goods to the same place for years. All of a sudden, you move locations. But you can forget to tell your freight forwarder.

Your freight forwarder assumes nothing has changed and then organises delivery to the usual old address. Whoops!

Main takeaway: Tell your freight forwarder if your delivery address changes!

9. Labour Strikes, Traffic, Port Congestion or Weather events

Delays happen all the time in the supply chain, and sometimes you really can’t avoid it. This includes phenomena like:

  • Traffic

Transport networks are prone to congestion, especially around major ports and distribution centres. Traffic snarls, caused by a surge in container movements, road construction, accidents or peak travel hours can impede the timely movement of cargo-carrying vehicles.

  • Wharf congestion

If your vessel arrives at a congested port, it may take time for the goods to be unloaded in a timely fashion. Other ships are already docked. The wharf area may also be teeming with containers waiting to be released. In these situations, all you can do is wait your turn.

  • Strikes

Industrial action within the port facilities, rail operators, truck drivers or even tug boat operators can bring cargo operations to a grinding halt. Strikes can cripple cargo movement and cause extensive delays in cartage.

  • Weather events

Heavy storms, floods, typhoons or extreme temperatures can lead to port closures, flight cancellations, and dangerous road conditions, resulting in delays and disruptions across the entire supply chain. Unfortunately, none of each are in anyone’s control.

Main takeaway: Research the local circumstances of your delivery locations so you can understand the risk of these delays. Factor in the risk of unexpected delays in your shipping timeline.

Want to avoid these problems in shipping your cargo?

If you’re planning your next shipment and are concerned about these delays, then help is available.

ICE is a reputable and experienced freight forwarder with offices Australia-wide that have been helping shippers navigate the complexities of global supply chains for decades.

Our highly experienced team is well-equipped to ‘ride the waves’ of your supply chain, minimising the above issues as much as humanly possible.

You can reach out to any of our offices around Australia here or request an obligation-free shipping review today.

Request A Quote

or call us on 1300 227 461

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