The question regarding the difference between ICD and CFS has been running in the shipping industry for a long time. Many people who are a part of the import-export process think that there are no differences between the two. This blog has been written with the sole focus on what exactly is an ICD and CFS. And it also highlights the difference between the two. The seaport infrastructure’s development over the ages and these different facilities made the handling of cargo at seaports more convenient.

What is an ICD or Inland Container Depot?

Inland Container Depots (ICDs) are container storage facilities that are inside a country, but away from gateway ports and towns. The shippers commonly refer to them as “Dry Ports.” As they are far away from the country, in the hinterland, and also away from any water bodies like the sea or river courses.

Shipping and cargo container companies in Germany and all over the world use ICDs to transport and store shipping containers before and after transferring them to the seaports. The inland intermodal terminal connects to a seaport by different modes of transportation like road or rail. An ICD is basically a specialized facility for intermodal containers or standard freight containers as we know them.

The shippers load the goods onto the cargo vessels. In this case, instead of loading and unloading the goods in these shipping ports, the shipping containers could easily be transferred between the modes of transportation of ship and road vehicles, or ship and trains as well. An ICD is a combination of the shipping services of the customs department, sea custodian, freight forwarders, shipping companies, customs brokers, etc. All these services ensure the smooth handling of cargo for the importers and exporters.

Many facilities are present at an ICD. These include facilities for the consolidation and storage of the goods, maintenance for the rail and road cargo along with customs clearance services. Due to these services being provided at inland container depots, the need for these facilities at the seaport itself is not required anymore. An inland port also helps in speeding up the process of transportation of cargo between the shipping container vessels and all the transportation networks on land in order to create a distribution point that is more centrally located.

For a visualized understanding of ICD and CFS, watch our video here:

Functions of an Inland Container Depot

  • They act as a storage facility where the cargo containers can be stored for some time before they are transferred to the seaport for being loaded onto the shipping vessels.
  • They also offer repair and maintenance facilities for different dimensions of shipping containers as well as for the equipment used for the transportation and shifting of the cargo containers.
  • ICD provides warehouses facilities for the temporary storage of cargo while assisting in the import-export custom clearances. They tend to serve as transshipments hubs as well.
  • The loaders use them as transit points for rail and roads for carrying the cargo units to and from the seaports.
  • Inland container depots can control the demurrage charges and also assist with administrative and documentation procedures.
  • They play a huge role in the consolidation of LCL shipments (less than container load) which results in a reduction of container shortage in the shipping industry.
  • ICDs are essentially an extension of the container seaport infrastructure that has developed over the last few years. They help in the container sorting and processing functions.

What is a CFS or Container Freight Station?

CFS stands for a container freight station that refers to a warehouse where LCL shipments (less than container load) are consolidated. It is a warehouse station where the consolidation and deconsolidation of goods take place before the loaders export or import them to different destinations. The CFS plays a huge role in the transaction of import-export at the departure location as well as the destination.

To put it simply, a CFS is a place to store cargo before loading and after unloading. Container freight stations maintain the container shipping line itself and are also answerable for the customs examination as well as clearance procedures in order to facilitate LCL Shipments. LCL shipments are basically those shipments whose quantity cannot fill up an entire shipping container. They combine with other shipments of different cargo locations in order to make a final shipment to the maximum potential.

Container freight stations are located in areas that are within the container terminals. They are close to the harbors, large-sized warehouses as well as railway hubs. They are at that particular demographics as the LCL shipments comprising of many small cargo units can be easily transported to their final destination via road or rail transportation.

Functions of a Container Freight Station

  • Their most important responsibility is to receive and consolidate LCL shipments for the export process of cargo. They also de-consolidate the new or used shipping containers at their destination. And then dispatch the final individual packages for their delivery.
  • CFS serves as a temporary container storage space for goods, empty and full containers.
  • They facilitate the maintenance and repairs of the cargo units that they might have incurred while in transit.
  • They prepare a container load plan. And marking and sealing of the cargo boxes for identification once they reach their destination is also done here.
  • Another major responsibility of CFS includes certain documentary procedures like customs clearance procedures. The process includes the classification, examination as well as assessment of the cargo shipments.
  • They can track, sort out load, and conduct final counting of the cargo units before and after shipping.
  • They maintain and track the shipments, including the names of exporters and importers, customs agents, and so on.
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Differences between Inland Container Depot and Container Freight Station

Here is a table highlighting the major points of difference between an ICD and a CFS.

Inland Container Depot (ICD)Container Freight Shipping (CFS)
An ICD is a customs station that the loaders use for loading and unloading cargo.A CFS is a custom area that is an extension of the port-terminal itself.
ICD helps importers/exporters to handle their cargo shipments closer to factories and warehouses and have an independent existence. CFS is a part of the customs station and does not have any independent existence.
ICD is usually far away from the servicing points.CFS is mostly closer to the seaports.
Bills of entry, shipping bills, and other documentation are carried out at the ICDs. The shippers also use them for the assessment and clearance of goods, warehousing, temporary storage, etc.  Only a part of the customs process, i.e. the examination of goods is carried out at the CFS. The shippers load and unload the cargo onto the cargo units from the CFS.

We hope that by now all your questions and doubts regarding the difference between ICD and CFS are clear. They both are container storage facilities but have different functions. They both play vital roles in the process of transportation of cargo all over the world.

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