A Container Depot is a location where containers are stored after the goods are unloaded. The container depot or yard functions as a central place where the shipping and logistics companies hold their containers until it’s time to use them again for the next shipment. Container Depots are predominantly located close to a port, terminal or its surrounding area to assist their quick and smooth transfer when the need arises.
Ports play an important role in acting as the bridge between marine and land transportation. The available space at ports is limited, while the arrival and departure of containers are growing due to the rapid growth in trade and commerce. This exerts extreme pressure on limited space in and around the port.
At any given point, there are millions of loaded containers sailing on ships, while there are also a matching or even a higher number of containers that are not sailing. It is obvious that such empty containers have to be stored safely at a place close to the port until they are ready to take in fresh cargo for the next shipment. This is where container depots and yards come into the picture and play a key role in the proper functioning of the global supply chain. Such facilities have to be secure with a provision to carry out critical services like inspection, cleaning, routine maintenance and fumigation to contain the spread of organisms.
In an ideal situation, companies dealing in containers should have their own facility to store the containers at different locations. But there is continually a shortage of space in and around busy ports. Consequently, ports and other entities began offering a centralized platform to shipping companies for storage of containers on payment of reasonable fees. Thus the concept of container depot was born, and today such facilities are an integral part of the entire shipping process. They guarantee the unhindered flow of commerce between various trading regions by providing quick and easy access to empty containers for shipping companies.
In shipping terminology, we often come across the term “bottleneck” which refers to an acute shortage of containers at one location, while there is a surplus of empty containers at a distant location. This directly impacts the smooth functioning of global supply chains. A recent study has shown that on average, empty containers expend 45 days or more at depots, and this has a direct implication on the availability of empty containers at a distant port in another country. Quick turnaround of containers by the efficient management of container depots can largely contain issues concerning container bottlenecks.
Depot operators ensure smooth coordination of all the activities at their facility. Based on the nature of services, the functions within a container depot can be grouped into three sections.
It stores containers that are in good condition and can be quickly retrieved when a shipping liner makes a request. Within the storage section, there are areas that are grouped based on the ownership of the containers. The “First in, First out” (FIFO) method is usually followed by the depot operator to prevent extended storage periods of containers. Reach stackers are employed to transport containers over short distances and stack them in rows.
This section undertakes inspection, maintenance and refurbishment of containers that arrive in a poor condition. The concerned staff prepares a list detailing the nature of repair work for approval from the container-owner. The repaired and refurbished containers are then taken to the storage section.
A thorough cleaning is undertaken with chemical washing solutions. The cleaning staff in coordination with the administration department prepares quotations and obtains the approval of the container owning company.
Modern container depots deal with standard containers, high cube containers, collapsible flat rack containers, platform containers and refrigerated containers. Heavy-duty forklift trucks and reach stackers are used to move and stack the containers.
With the increasing use of computers and automation in the shipping industry, container depots are no stranger to the use of technologies like Container Management System that monitors and manages the entry, movement and exit of containers from the depot. Information like container ownership details, the type, identification number, condition, grade, date of arrival & exit and maintenance history are recorded in the system for easy access, retrieval and report generation.
iDepo is a web-based depot management system (DMS) from iInterchange, a specialist software solution provider for the container shipping and logistics industry worldwide that manages key operations of a dry container depot. It is designed to help you, to serve your customers more effectively, by making your depot operations more efficient.
The container depot software manages operations such as Gate Moves, Container Maintenance and Repair, Tracking of Containers, Stores and Spares Control, comprehensive Billing and Documentation, with enhanced Reporting support.
Let’s conclude by stating that container depots play a crucial role in the global supply chain and act as the primary consolidation point assisting the smooth flow of cargo for shippers, shipping lines and freight forwarders.
Make your depot an efficient work place!