Impact of Global Supply Chain Disruptions on Detention and Demurrage

Amir Taichman
Founder & CEO
June 19, 2024

The global supply chain has faced significant disruptions in recent years due to various events such as pandemics, trade disputes, and natural disasters. These disruptions have had a profound impact on detention and demurrage fees, which are critical components of shipping logistics. This post explores how these global events have affected detention and demurrage fees and discusses strategies for businesses to adapt and minimize associated costs.

Understanding Detention and Demurrage Fees

What Are Detention and Demurrage Fees?

Detention and demurrage fees are charges imposed by shipping lines when containers are not returned or picked up within a specified time frame. Detention fees are incurred when importers hold onto containers beyond the allowed free time, while demurrage fees are charged when containers are left at the terminal for too long. These fees can add significant costs to supply chain operations if not managed properly.

The Importance of Managing Detention and Demurrage Fees

Effective management of detention and demurrage fees is crucial for maintaining cost efficiency in logistics operations. With rising global supply chain disruptions, these fees have become more prevalent, making it essential for businesses to implement strategies to mitigate their impact. Failing to manage these fees can lead to substantial financial burdens and affect the overall efficiency of supply chain operations.

The Impact of Global Events on Detention and Demurrage Fees

Pandemics and Their Effects on Supply Chains

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on global supply chains, leading to increased detention and demurrage fees. Lockdowns, port closures, and reduced workforce availability have caused delays in cargo handling and transportation. As a result, containers have often been held up at ports longer than usual, leading to higher demurrage fees. Similarly, restrictions and disruptions in logistics networks have led to extended container holding times, increasing detention fees. The pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of global supply chains to sudden and widespread disruptions, underscoring the need for better preparedness and flexibility.

Trade Disputes and Their Influence

Trade disputes, such as the US-China trade war, have disrupted global trade flows, causing uncertainties and delays in shipments. Tariff impositions and retaliatory measures have led to congested ports and delayed customs clearance processes. These disruptions have resulted in containers being held at ports for extended periods, thereby increasing demurrage fees. Businesses have also faced challenges in returning containers on time due to changing trade routes and restrictions, leading to higher detention fees. Trade disputes can create an unpredictable environment for logistics, making it difficult for businesses to plan and execute efficient shipping strategies.

Natural Disasters and Their Consequences

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, have a significant impact on supply chains, disrupting transportation and port operations. These events can cause severe delays in cargo movement, leading to increased demurrage and detention fees. For instance, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 disrupted shipping operations in the Gulf Coast, leading to significant delays and higher fees for businesses relying on those ports. Natural disasters can strike without warning, causing immediate and widespread disruption to logistics operations.

Strategies for Adapting to Supply Chain Disruptions

Enhancing Supply Chain Visibility

Improving supply chain visibility is crucial for managing detention and demurrage fees during global disruptions. By utilizing advanced tracking technologies and real-time data analytics, businesses can monitor the status of their shipments and anticipate potential delays. Enhanced visibility allows for proactive decision-making, enabling companies to reroute shipments or make alternative arrangements to avoid excessive fees. This approach not only helps in managing current disruptions but also prepares businesses for future challenges.

Strengthening Relationships with Logistics Partners

Building strong relationships with logistics partners, including shipping lines and port operators, can help businesses navigate disruptions more effectively. Collaborative partnerships can lead to better communication and more flexible arrangements during times of crisis. For example, working closely with shipping lines can provide insights into potential delays and allow for negotiating extended free time periods, reducing the risk of incurring high detention and demurrage fees. These relationships can be invaluable in gaining preferential treatment during peak times and disruptions.

Diversifying Supply Chain Networks

Diversifying supply chain networks is another strategy to mitigate the impact of global disruptions on detention and demurrage fees. By having multiple suppliers, transportation routes, and ports of entry, businesses can reduce their reliance on a single point of failure. This approach allows for greater flexibility in rerouting shipments and avoiding congested ports, thereby minimizing the risk of delays and associated fees. Diversification can also help in balancing costs and ensuring supply chain resilience.

Implementing Risk Management Practices

Adopting comprehensive risk management practices is essential for preparing for and responding to global supply chain disruptions. This includes conducting regular risk assessments, developing contingency plans, and investing in insurance coverage for potential disruptions. By having a robust risk management framework, businesses can better anticipate disruptions and implement strategies to minimize their impact on detention and demurrage fees. Effective risk management involves continuous monitoring and updating of strategies to keep pace with evolving risks.


Global supply chain disruptions have significantly impacted detention and demurrage fees, posing challenges for businesses worldwide. However, by understanding the nature of these disruptions and implementing effective strategies, companies can adapt and minimize the associated costs. Enhancing supply chain visibility, strengthening relationships with logistics partners, diversifying supply chain networks, and implementing risk management practices are crucial steps in mitigating the impact of global events on detention and demurrage fees. By staying proactive and prepared, businesses can navigate these challenges and maintain cost-efficient logistics operations. The ability to adapt and respond to disruptions will be a key differentiator for businesses in the increasingly complex and interconnected global supply chain landscape.