To ensure the proper maintenance and safe transportation of containers, it is crucial to store them under optimal conditions and streamline the logistics process. This is where inland container depots come into play.

An inland container depot, also referred to as an Inland Container Depot (ICD), is a facility typically situated away from port areas.

Its primary function is to handle the loading, unloading, storage, and transfer of containers to various modes of transportation for their final shipment.

At BOXXPORT, as experts in international sea container trade, we recognize the vital role these depots play in international logistics and the global supply chain.

Apart from container handling and storage, many depots also offer services such as cargo consolidation and deconsolidation, container maintenance and repair, and customs document preparation.

These services streamline the flow of goods in international trade.

Why are shipping containers important?

The significance of inland container depots lies in several key aspects. First and foremost, they serve as a critical link between sea and land transport, enabling efficient movement of goods by providing storage space for containers until they are ready for shipment to their destination.

Additionally, depots that facilitate cargo consolidation and deconsolidation optimize logistics and lead to substantial cost savings for businesses.

Instead of shipping several partially filled containers, goods can be stored in these depots until there is enough to fill a container entirely.

Moreover, inland container depots play a vital role in alleviating congestion at ports. By storing containers away from port areas, they help alleviate pressure on port infrastructure and enable more efficient container handling.

Furthermore, these depots often offer supplementary services that facilitate the transportation process, such as customs document preparation, goods inspection, and container maintenance and repair.

These services contribute to simplifying the supply chain and ensuring the timely and secure delivery of goods.

How does a container depot operate?

The operation of a marine container depot involves a well-coordinated process comprising several stages. Initially, containers loaded with goods arrive at the depot, usually transported by truck, train, or ship, depending on their location and logistics route.

Upon arrival, the containers are unloaded and undergo registration, a critical process that enables detailed tracking of the containers and their contents.

This tracking is essential for proper inventory management and ensuring the safety of the goods.

Subsequently, the containers are stored until they are ready to be shipped to their final destination.

During this storage period, various operations can be carried out, including consolidation and deconsolidation of goods, container maintenance and repair, and preparation of customs documentation.

When the time comes to transport the containers to their ultimate destination, they are loaded onto the appropriate mode of transportation, whether it be a truck, train, or ship, and dispatched accordingly.

This process is executed efficiently to maintain a continuous flow of goods and minimize container downtime.

Types of storage in inland container depots

The storage of containers within an international cargo depot can be implemented in different ways depending on the depot’s infrastructure and the type of goods being handled. Here are some common storage methods:

1. Racked storage: In certain cases, especially for handling smaller goods, containers can be stored on shelves. This approach maximizes space utilization and facilitates access to the containers.

2. Stacking: Containers are designed to be stackable, and warehouses take advantage of this feature to optimize storage space. Empty containers are typically stacked on top of each other, while full containers are stored at the bottom to ensure stack stability.

3. Block storage: This is the most prevalent method of storage in container depots. It involves storing containers side by side in designated areas of the depot.

Functions of the container yard

Container depots serve several vital functions within the global supply chain. Here are some of the most important functions they perform:

1. Container storage: Container yards provide secure and controlled spaces for both short-term and long-term container storage.

2. Container loading and unloading: Depots handle the loading and unloading of containers to and from various modes of transport, such as trucks, trains, and ships.

3. Consolidation and deconsolidation of goods: These depots can combine goods from different suppliers into a single container for shipment (consolidation) or separate goods destined for different recipients from a single container (deconsolidation).

4. Container maintenance and repair: Some depots offer services to maintain and repair containers, ensuring they are in good condition prior to shipment.

5. Customs document preparation: Container depots often assist with preparing the necessary documents for customs clearance, facilitating the import and export process.

Advantages of container depots

The utilization of container depots offers several advantages for both logistics companies and goods owners. Here are the key advantages:

  • Logistics efficiency: Container depots enhance supply chain efficiency by facilitating seamless transitions between different modes of transport and enabling consolidation and deconsolidation of goods.
  •  Reduced port congestion: By storing containers away from port areas, container depots help alleviate congestion at ports, improving overall logistics operations.
  • Flexibility: Container depots provide flexibility for businesses by allowing them to store containers until the optimal time for shipment.
  • Additional services: Many container depots offer supplemental services such as container maintenance and repair, as well as customs document preparation. These services simplify the supply chain and reduce time and costs associated with transporting goods.
  • Sustainability: Container depots contribute to sustainability efforts by minimizing the need to move empty containers and reducing the number of trips required, thereby reducing carbon emissions within the supply chain.

Are there any disadvantages to inland container depots?

While inland container depots offer numerous advantages, they can also have some disadvantages:

  • Storage and handling costs: Storing containers in a depot may incur additional costs, which can vary based on the duration of storage and handling activities involved.
  • Transportation delays: Although container depots improve logistics efficiency, inadequate depot infrastructure or suboptimal handling processes can potentially lead to delays in the supply chain.
  • Complexity in supply chain management: Utilizing a container depot adds complexity to supply chain management, as it requires additional coordination and involves interactions with multiple stakeholders.
  • Infrastructure dependency: The benefits of container depots rely heavily on the quality and capacity of their infrastructure to handle container volumes. Insufficient or poorly maintained infrastructure may lead to inefficiencies and delays.


What is the difference between a container freight station and an inland container depot?

The main difference between a container freight station and an inland container depot lies in their function and location.

A container freight station is a designated point, usually located in a port, where containers are loaded and unloaded from ships.

On the other hand, an inland container depot is generally located away from the port area and primarily used for the storage and handling of containers.

👉 Learn about the role of container freight stations in supply chains

Who owns an inland container depot?

The ownership of an inland container depot can vary depending on the country and business model. It can be owned by a logistics company, shipping company, government entity, or even a consortium of companies.

Regardless of ownership, the primary objective of an inland container depot is to facilitate the efficient flow of containers within the global supply chain.