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Container Imbalance Charge (CIC): What you need to know

When engaging in import-export activities, managing cost factors is crucial to ensure the efficiency and competitiveness of your business. In this article, we will explore "Container Imbalance Charge" (CIC), one of the factors affecting transportation costs, along with smart management strategies.

Phụ phí CIC

I. Container imbalance charge (CIC): What is it?

Container Imbalance Charge (CIC) is a fee that shipping companies often apply to compensate for the imbalance between the number of containers exported and imported at ports. This means that when an exporting port has too many empty containers or an importing port has too many full containers, shipping companies may charge CIC to the parties involved.

The CIC fee can vary based on various factors, including transport schedules, container types, and specific conditions at each port. This can pose challenges for import-export businesses, but it also provides opportunities to optimize costs.

Currently, countries with trade surpluses and trade deficits often have a significant imbalance in the number of empty containers. Empty containers are often not in the right place at the right time. Import-focused countries tend to have many empty containers lying unused, while export-oriented countries need empty containers for loading but may not have enough. Transporting empty containers from surplus areas to deficit areas is necessary but generates additional costs for shipping companies. Therefore, the CIC fee is introduced to offset the additional costs incurred by shipping companies.

For example, Vietnam imports a substantial amount of goods from China. The containers used to import goods will result in many empty containers in Vietnam. After unloading the goods, there will be a surplus of empty containers. In such cases, Chinese manufacturers may face a shortage of containers to load new goods, prompting shipping companies to charge businesses that use these empty containers to transport them back to China.

II. When does CIC occur, and what are the conditions for its application?

Businesses are not only concerned about what the CIC fee is but also when shipping companies will charge the CIC fee and the conditions for applying it. In reality, the imposition of this fee depends on the timing and the container imbalance situation, and it is subject to change.

The CIC surcharge will be imposed at a certain rate per type of container and is usually applied to specific routes where there is a frequent shortage of containers for loading. The end of the year, when the buying and selling of goods between countries intensifies, leads to an increased incidence of CIC charges.

Regarding the conditions for applying the CIC fee, typically, the buyer is responsible for paying the fee, and it is not based on the actual value paid. The fee amount is related to the quantity of imported goods and has objective, quantifiable data and relevant documents.

The CIC fee may fluctuate between $85 per 20-foot container and $170 per 40-foot container and will vary depending on different periods.

III. Factors influencing the CIC surcharge

The calculation of the CIC fee is usually determined by shipping companies and port authorities. Here are some crucial factors they consider when calculating the CIC fee:

  1. Container Type: Some container types may have higher CIC fees due to their wider usage. Standard containers usually have lower CIC fees compared to specialized containers.

  2. Shipping Direction: The shipping direction also influences the CIC fee. If you are transporting goods from a port with full containers to a port with empty containers, the CIC fee may apply.

  3. Specific Port Conditions: Different seaports may apply different CIC fees based on their specific conditions. If a particular port faces a severe imbalance, the CIC fee may increase.

  4. Time: Time is another essential factor. The CIC fee may change over time, and being aware of this trend can help you predict and manage costs more effectively.

IV. Conclusion

The Container Imbalance Charge (CIC) can be a significant part of your transportation costs when participating in import-export activities. However, smart and efficient management can help you save money and enhance the competitiveness of your business. Always monitor changes in the CIC fee and adjust your transportation strategy to take advantage of cost-saving opportunities.

(Video:Container Imbalance Charge (CIC))


  1. What is Container Imbalance Charge (CIC)? ⇒ CIC is short for "Container Imbalance Charge," which is a type of fee applied by shipping companies to offset the imbalance between the number of containers exported and imported at ports. You need to pay attention to it because this fee can affect your cargo transportation costs.

  2. How is the CIC fee calculated? ⇒ The calculation of the CIC fee is typically determined by shipping companies and port authorities. It depends on various factors such as container type, shipping direction, specific port conditions, and time.

  3. How can I optimize the management of the CIC fee? ⇒ To optimize the management of the CIC fee, you can monitor time and transportation schedules, negotiate transportation contracts, utilize smart port services, and collaborate with trade partners.

  4. Does the CIC fee change over time? ⇒ Yes, the CIC fee can change over time. It depends on the specific conditions at ports and fluctuations in the shipping industry.

  5. How do I know when to pay the CIC fee? ⇒ When using sea transportation services or sending goods through seaports, you should contact shipping companies or ports to determine whether the CIC fee applies to your shipment.

  6. Does the CIC fee impact the final product price? ⇒ The CIC fee can impact the final product price if not managed efficiently. However, effective management of the CIC fee can help you control and optimize costs, maintaining a stable product price.

Contact US: Ryan Hoang - Global Network Department Email: Hotline: 0947 672 825


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