What is detention and demurrage when importing from China?

Navigating the complexities of detention and demurrage in logistics

Detention and demurrage are two terms that every importer doing business with China should know. These costs can be significant and have a direct impact on the profitability and efficiency of your import activities. But what exactly do these terms mean and how can they influence your import process?

1. What is detention?

Detention refers to the costs incurred when an import container remains on the customer's premises or in storage for longer than the agreed time before being returned to the shipping company. These costs often arise due to delays in processing or transport problems.

  • Example: Suppose you import goods from China and due to an unforeseen delay in your warehouse, the container remains five days longer than planned. For each additional day the container is held beyond the exempt time, detention charges may be charged by the shipping company.

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2. What is demurrage?

Demurrage refers to the costs incurred when a container remains in the port longer than permitted after arrival. This can happen when customs clearance is delayed or when the goods are not collected on time.

  • Example: Your container with toys from China arrives at the port of Rotterdam, but due to customs delays the container remains in the port longer than planned. Demurrage costs will be charged for each day that the container remains in the port after the exempt period.

The impact on importing from China

Detention and demurrage costs can add up quickly and have a significant impact on the total cost of your imports from China. It is therefore essential to have good planning and to ensure smooth handling of both customs clearance and transport to your storage.

How can detention and demurrage be minimized?

  • Ensure efficient customs clearance by arranging all necessary documents and permits in advance.
  • Work with reliable logistics partners who have experience importing from China.
  • Monitor your shipments closely and anticipate possible delays.
  • Make agreements in advance with the forwarder about the number of days of detention and demurrage. Sometimes an offer seems very attractive, but in reality you hardly have any days off for detention and demurrage.


Understanding and effectively managing detention and demurrage is crucial when importing from China. Through proactive planning and good communication with your logistics partners, you can minimize these additional costs and ensure a smoother import process.

 Do you need help efficiently managing your import process from China?

Contact Westwood Sourcing for expert support and advice. We help you navigate these complex aspects of importing and ensure a cost-efficient approach.

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