What is a Container Hold in Drayage?

A hold is an intentional, mandatory breakage within the container drayage lifecycle made by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Steamship Line (SSL), or the Terminal. A Shipper must take urgent action to resolve the hold(s) associated with their container or risk having it rejected by CBP, blocked from being outgated by an SSL or Terminal, or stored in a way that accrues costly demurrage fees.

Here are the different types of holds that can be placed on an import container:

Customs HoldPlaced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – All containers imported into the U.S. from another country are subject to holds and exams by CBP to ensure compliance with U.S. laws and regulations. There are five hold types that CBP can issue for a container, which are often placed on containers before they arrive in the U.S. or during vessel discharge:

  1. Manifest Hold – This type of hold is placed on containers that have an incorrect manifest.
  2. Commercial Enforcement Hold – U.S. Customs is an auditor for other Federal Agencies, so this type of hold is placed on any containers not meeting FDA, USDA, CPSC, or other government agency standards.
  3. Statistical Validation Hold – This hold type is placed on containers that are randomly selected for ‘statistical’ verification of a manifested or reported commodity, its value, weight, and/or quantities. 
  4. CET Hold (A-TCET)Anti-Terrorism Contraband Enforcement Team – Any containers with dangerous cargo, such as guns or drugs, are placed under this hold type.
  5. PGA HoldParticipating Government Agencies – Agencies who regulate products entering the US can place on a container on this hold type to ensure it complies with U.S. product regulations.

Freight HoldPlace by the Steamship Line (SSL) – This type of hold is for containers that have outstanding fees that need to be paid to the SSL before they will release the container. These could include demurrage, dwell fees, exam fees, etc.

USDA HoldPlaced by CBP – This is a type of PGA hold that happens when the USDA flags the container for an exam to inspect the cargo inside the container.

TMF HoldPlaced by the Terminal – This hold type is for containers that still require Pier Pass to be paid. Containers can still be scheduled for pickup at the Terminal, but the Driver will be turned away when they arrive if Pier Pass hasn’t been paid (resulting in a Dry Run).

Unable to Locate (UTL) Placed by the Terminal – There are times when a container is effectively lost amongst the stacks, resulting in a UTL hold. A container will remain on UTL hold until the Terminal is able to locate the container, requiring Shippers to work with the Terminal to delay the container Last Free Day (LFD) or risk accruing demurrage.

In a Closed AreaPlace by the Terminal – There are times when an area within a Terminal is closed temporarily (i.e. accident, vessel is discharging, etc). All containers within a closed area are unavailable for pickup until the Terminal opens the area back up. This often causes issues with scheduling pickup appointments, requiring Shippers to work with the Terminal to delay the container Last Free Day (LFD) or risk accruing demurrage.

NEXT Trucking Provides Shippers with Hold Visibility via Actionable Holds Management and Proactive Notifications


As a part of our drive toward complete Drayage transparency, NEXT Trucking provides our Shippers with proactive container hold notifications and the ability to manage their container holds via the NEXT Shipper portal in real-time.

Delivered to a Shipper’s inbox at 8:00 am PST every weekday, container hold notifications include critical hold alerts, information, and statuses for their containers. Within the NEXT Shipper portal, Shippers can see which containers have holds, how many holds each container has, and each type of hold placed on a container Shippers can also filter their containers by hold type to identify where bulk actioning might be needed.

By providing consistent visibility into critical container alerts, information, and hold statuses, we’re helping Shippers proactively resolve any holds to prevent demurrage risk or fees.

How are Holds Resolved?

The process for resolving or “clearing” a hold is different for each hold type. Each entity placing a hold (CBP, SSL, Terminal) also has a separate process for clearing each different hold type. It is strongly recommended that you contact the entity that placed the hold on your container(s) to get it resolved as soon as possible:

  • Customs HoldsContact U.S. Customs & Border Protection
  • Freight HoldsContact the Steamship Line
  • TMF HoldsContact the Terminal
  • Unable to LocateContact the Terminal
  • In a Closed AreaContact the Terminal

To learn more about Holds Management and Notifications from NEXT Trucking, check out our blog or contact us at info@nexttrucking.com.

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