CN waiving demurrage for off-peak container pickup in Chicago, Memphis

CN waiving demurrage for off-peak container pickup in Chicago, Memphis

CN is offering to waive $150 in daily demurrage for up to seven days on containers in Chicago and Memphis if the unit is picked up during one of three off-peak windows. Photo credit: Eric Buermeyer / Shutterstock.com.

Canadian National Railway (CN) is offering to waive up to $1,050 per container in storage charges for shippers that arrange to have their import boxes picked up from its Chicago and Memphis terminals during “off-peak” traffic periods in an effort to increase cargo flow through the congested inland freight hubs.

The Montreal-based Class I will drop $150 in daily demurrage for up to seven days on any containers that have incurred storage fees if the unit is picked up during one of the three off-peak windows listed below, CN said in a customer advisory Friday.

  • 8 p.m. Friday, July 23 to 4 a.m. Monday, July 26
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, July 29 to 4 a.m. Monday, Aug. 2
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5 to 4 a.m. Monday, Aug. 9

The move comes just one day after the top rail regulator in the United States sent a letter to each of the seven North American Class I railroads asking them to explain when and how they charge shippers for demurrage, as well as provide monthly reports on the number of containers stored at their facilities since July 2020. Due to an exemption for containers and trailers, the US Surface Transportation Board is unable to formally intervene in such matters, but shippers and other stakeholders have increasingly encouraged the agency to get more involved in regulating intermodal rail transport, including a group of Memphis importers, exporters, and truckers.

A 12-month flood of containerized imports has overwhelmed the chassis supply at busy inland intermodal ramps, often preventing shippers from picking up boxes prior to the expiration of their so-called free time. That’s exposed importers to demurrage charges that have exceeded $10,000 per container in some cases, even if the railroad was unable to make those boxes available for pickup due to the lack of chassis.

“In order to maintain fluid and safe operations, it is critical that we continue to have import loads picked up in Chicago and Memphis as a priority,” CN said in its advisory note. “Reducing long dwelling import units puts us in a good position to mitigate elevated carter turn times, avoid multiple re-handles and load out empties/export loads on time to meet the export cut off at the ports.”