What Is ETA and ETD in Shipping?



In maritime transport, it is often difficult to accurately determine the time of arrival or even departure of a vessel from a port. For this reason, the abbreviations ETA and ETD were created.

These terms are widely used in the maritime and shipping industry and indicate the approximate dates of the vessel’s passage start and end. This is due to many factors that a ship encounters during a sea voyage and operations in port.

ETA & ETD in Shipping

Definitions of ETA And ETD Terms In Shipping

Those working in the shipping industry, maritime transport, supply, warehousing, and indeed in logistics, are well aware of what the abbreviations mentioned above mean:

ETA (Estimated / Expected Time of Arrival) – the expected date and time of the ship’s entry into the port or defined position, the abbreviation is used in the ship’s schedule.

ETD (Estimated / Expected Time of Departure) – the expected date of departure of the ship from the port.

What is The Meaning of Estimated Time of Arrival or ETA?

Estimated time of arrival (ETA) is the date and time when a particular vehicle reaches its destination. It is a transport term that defines the remaining time in which certain ship, aircraft, vehicles, or emergency services will reach their destination.

The term is primarily intended to inform about the planned schedule of the transport unit in the transport industry, however in the duration of the transport of goods before they reach their destination.

Thus, in a simplified way, it informs the parties involved like port authorities, ship agents, pilots, stevedores, receivers, shippers, or customers about the time during which delivery can be expected.

It should be understood and remembered that the party giving information makes the most accurate guess based on the available data. The situation can change over time and it is worth taking into account many factors, which we will consider below.

The party receiving this information must be aware of the many factors that can change the time and even the date, so ETA should be considered as orienting information, and in no way accurate or approved.

Factors that can influence the ETA of the ship:

  • Change in ship’s schedule
  • Change in the route of the ship
  • Lack of available berths and/or stevedores in associated ports where the ship calls
  • Delays in cargo operations in ports along the route
  • Availability of pilots in ports
  • Availability of tugboats in ports
  • Change of weather on the route
  • Technical problems on board
  • Crew fatigue and health

What is the meaning of Estimated Time of Departure or ETD?

Estimated time of departure (ETD) is the date and time when a particular vehicle plans to depart from its current location. It is a transport term that defines the remaining time in which a certain vessel, aircraft, vehicle, or emergency services will be able to leave the port, terminal, warehouse, or parking location.

In the case of transportation, ETD provides information on the day on which the shipment departs from the specified seaport or airport. Thanks to this, the forwarder or the client can track the status of the delivery.

Planning and scheduling the cargo moves depends on the information obtained from transport and shipping companies. Professionals working in logistics understand that the above concepts are related not only to the delivered or arriving cargo but also directly to the vessel that transports it.

Please note that the actual time of dispatch or delivery may differ slightly or even significantly from that indicated in the accompanying documents, for example in the booking confirmation of the cargo stating the ETD or ETA columns for various reasons. These are, in fact, indicative dates and times, which are very important, but by no means accurate.

Factors that can influence the ETD of the ship:

  • Ongoing cargo operations in port
  • Delays in obtaining clearance from port authorities
  • Technical issues onboard and ashore
  • Port State Control, Vetting, or other inspection onboard
  • Availability of pilots in ports
  • Availability of tugboats in ports
  • Weather restrictions for leaving port
  • Detention of the ship
  • Crew fatigue and health

The Use and Calculation of ETD and ETA

Important points to mention, although most often these concepts are associated specifically with maritime transport, they are also found in supply chains organized with the help of other modes of transport (air, car, etc.).

Estimated departure and arrival times are most commonly found on the booking confirmation. This information is provided by the owners/manager of the chartered vessel or other modes of transport. In fact, the booking confirmation is a formal agreement/contract between the client (the shipper) and the performing party (forwarder or carrier).

Since ETA is important in logistics (however, like ETD), they are trying to calculate them as accurately as possible. This data depends on several factors:

  • ship timetables;
  • ship route;
  • the number of passing ports where the ship calls;
  • congestion of berths at intermediate stopping points;
  • labor relations between service personnel and the company;
  • weather and time of year;
  • other factors.

The slightest non-standard situations related to any of the mentioned points can significantly change the actual time of departure and arrival, which will differ significantly from ETA and ETD.

It is not difficult to guess that the most important factor is the weather, especially during storms. Ships captains make their own decision on board to make route deviations based on the weather forecast which often leads to longer voyages, but less time on the route and improved safety for the ship, crew, and its cargo.

Any carrier employs full-time analysts who constantly compare the specified ETD and ETA with the actual time of departure and arrival of goods.

This is very important because allows you to identify anomalous deviations that are trying to level out so that the estimated and actual dates of departure/arrival coincide as much as possible. The correction allows you to optimize supply chains.

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