Although, fortunately, this is not a regular occurrence, shippers do occasionally experience delays that affect the estimated time for loading and delivery of goods.

In the following lines, we will try to list and explain the matter, which can be caused by a number of different reasons.

Read on, to find out the most common causes of delays in shipping goods by sea and, above all, how to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to delays in shipping containers.

Why sea freight can be delayed

External factors

Many delays are caused by unpredictable factors such as weather conditions, piracy, military conflicts or force majeure.

When any of these factors affect high-demand routes or ports, it causes a funnel effect and even a standstill that can lead to delays of several weeks, with all that this implies for all the actors involved in maritime trade.

This is why shippers and freight forwarders place so much emphasis on planning ahead and creating a Plan B. This offers the possibility to change the route and use a nearby port, solving one of the biggest fears of shippers.

Changing schedules and traffic

Many cargo shipping delays are caused by traffic problems, especially on the roads. These provoke delays in loading onto ships and in final delivery to the consignee.

This often happens during Christmas and other important dates, such as Black Friday. Also, during holidays due to “departure operations” which crowd the highways of most of the world.

For this reason, if you cannot avoid using maritime freight during the busiest times of the year, we advise you to try to plan your shipments several days in advance to ensure delivery and to meet agreed deadlines.

Customs problems

Maritime freight requires the preparation of a cumbersome documentation that is necessary to load any container onto a ship: delivery notes, bill of lading, shipping instructions, verified gross weight (VGM), etc.

Missing documents, errors in filling them in and inspections by local authorities can cause delays which, if left unaddressed, can become chronic and costly.

This is why it is so important to be familiar with the shipping regulations of the different ports you are using, as well as the particular requirements of each one of them.

Inadequate technology

Often, the reason for cargo ship delays is the inadequate technology with which the logistics operator works.

Obsolete software problems, outdated production routines that slow down booking processes such as cross-checking emails or phone calls, cause delays in bookings and take up far more time than they should for those in charge of preparing shipments.

We recommend that you choose a company that uses the latest technology to transport your goods and track them in real time.


Strikes at shipyards, ports or carriers can almost certainly lead to delays. Although this is an external factor, it is often possible to assess the situation and take appropriate action if we know the current state of the circumstances in the area of origin and destination.

Along with early booking of vessels and planning ahead, this can often save you significant cost overruns.

Delays in cargo production

Another reason for delays in shipping is related to delays in the production of cargos by the supplier.

Unfortunately, it is much more common than it seems that suppliers do not arrive on time and do not meet agreed deadlines.

👉 You may be interested in: What are demurrage and detention charges?

To ensure that your containers arrive on time and on schedule, the pick-up, and loading date must be planned well in advance.

Roll over

Any of the accidents mentioned in this article may result in roll-over or, in other words, in the goods not being loaded on the vessel that was supposed to take them to their destination.

To prevent this, you can plan your shipments well in advance, prepare your documentation in advance, check it thoroughly, secure your cargo, use reliable and experienced transport companies and enlist the help of a good freight forwarder.

Congestion and container shortages

Two of the main concerns when shipping goods by sea are: port congestion and container shortages. Both issues tend to occur during peak seasons and often result in significant additional costs for shippers.

Since time is money, there is nothing like having access to a container radar service such as Boxxport, which allows you to search for containers in real time in the easiest and fastest way. Need a container? Find it on Boxxport.