Transportation is both (a) one of the most important piece of a company’s supply chain, and (b) the least understood piece of many business’s decision makers. Often this confusion revolves around how a shipment behaves while in transit. There are so many details between freight forwarders, carriers, and 3PL’s that are misunderstood in the larger market of non-logistics workers. One of those principles being:
“My goods arrived but my freight forwarder is telling me they’re not available.”
Goods Arrived but are Not Available for Pickup
We understand it’s confusing – your goods are here, at their destination port/dock/CFS/etc., but they are not available for pickup and delivery. Unfortunately, there is no 1 specific answer as to why this is the case. There are a variety of reasons. Depending on the mode of shipping your shipment is booked on, unexpected delays, commodity, and many other variables, there are tons of reasons your goods may not be available for pickup.
With 20+ years of experience in the international logistics industry, we’ve seen this occurrence multiple times. While there are tons of reasons it may happen, here are a few of the most common:
Goods Being Held by Customs
One of the most popular reasons that goods may arrive but not be available has to do with Customs. U.S. Customs is responsible for ensuring all shipments entering or leaving the U.S. comply with Federal law. To ensure the shipments are in compliance with the law, Customs will often pull containers for inspections, which can lead to delays. There are a couple ways Customs will inspect containers:
Documentation Inspection: Customs will inspect the documents provided by you and/or your forwarder to ensure that the commodities are approved and the listed weight is in agreeance with real readings. This can slow your container down for a day or two.
Container Inspection: Occasionally, Customs will pull a container, open, and review the contents inside. This can slow shipments down a few days.
Thorough Cargo Inspection: Sometimes, Customs deems it necessary to inspect all of the cargo within the container thoroughly. This can slow shipments down for 5+ days, as the container must be pulled, opened, emptied, and all individual pieces inspected. They must then be reloaded into the container before it is available for pickup.
In these cases, your cargo may appear to have “arrived” to the U.S., however, it is not available for pickup because the cargo is under inspection by Customs at the port.
Stuck on the Rail
Quite frequently, we will see goods delivered via ocean and shipped inland via rail to the destination. The customer receives a notification that their goods have “arrived”, however, the cargo is still on the rail.
If the cargo has been inspected by Customs already, all that is left is for the rail company to unload the boxes from the train at the dock before it is available for pickup. However, cargo is often transported inland via rail before it is even approved by Customs. In these cases, while your cargo may be at the destination state, it must still be removed from the train and inspected by Customs before it is eligible for pickup.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that a freight forwarder or carrier can do about cargo sitting on a rail. Until the intermodal carrier unloads the cargo from the train, the shipment will remain unavailable for pickup.
In LCL shipments, your cargo is consolidated with various other shippers’ cargo. In these instances, the container must be brought to a CFS (Container Freight Station) after it has arrived at the destination country. There, the CFS will deconsolidate the container and break down the shipments for truckers to pick up.
This is a popular reason why goods may have arrived but still not be available. Waiting for the unloading at the CFS can cause delays in your shipment, which is another reason why FCL is a better shipping method.
Pending Release Payments
It’s common that goods will not be released due to pending payments. This can be for various reasons.
In extreme cases, if you have maxed out your credit terms with a freight forwarder or NVOCC and have another shipment on the way, the forwarder may hold the shipment at the destination port until payment is received.
More common is a situation in which the carrier or CFS requires payment before the cargo is released. In these cases, a freight forwarder may inform you that payment is required before cargo release, however, this is due to CFS or carrier requirements as opposed to the choice of the forwarder.
It’s best to keep your credit as clean as possible with your freight forwarder and/or carriers. This will help mitigate the risk of arrived but unavailable shipments in the future.
Depending on your particular situation, some shipment transactions require that originals be presented. If your shipment is not operating on Telex Release, you will be asked to provide original documents.
Requiring original documents is not an uncommon practice. Just make sure that you understand whether or not your freight forwarder or carrier is asking for them before you proceed with a shipment. This way, you can have originals ready and shipped before your cargo arrives to ensure a hassle-free transit.
Congestion at the Port
In ports such as the LA/Long Beach port, congestion is a frequent issue. Depending on peak seasons or amount of notice time, terminals may have limited availability. When we are given short notice of a shipment in need of pickup at a port, it’s not uncommon for us to hear back that the next available appointment at the terminal will be 2-3 days out in busy seasons.
To avoid this, make sure that you inform your freight forwarder or carrier far in advance regarding pickup times. This way, they can work with their carriers and the terminal to ensure that your cargo is ready for pickup upon arrival.
If your freight forwarder is telling you that your goods have arrived but are not available for pickup, you’re not alone. It’s a very common issue, and there are a myriad of reasons that it may be happening to you.
Among some of the most popular reasons for arrived but unavailable goods are: Customs delays, cargo on the rail, CFS deconsolidation, pending release payments, original documents needed, or congested ports.
While some of these situations are unavailable, many of them can be avoided through strategic preparation and good communication. If you are working with a freight forwarder, there are multiple steps you can take to improve the chances of your shipment arriving in time without hassle.
If you would like to learn more about this subject, or have related questions, please reach out to one of our team members at our contact page or in the chatbox below! We would be happy to help you with any questions you might have!