What Does Shipment On Hold Mean: Shipping Technicalities Explained

What Does Shipment On Hold Mean..

When a third-party logistics provider (3PL) is hired to help handle the shipments, they will have the ability to put shipments on hold. 

When this occurs, it means that no further action can be taken until there is further instruction from one of your contacts. 

There are several reasons why the courier may place the shipment on hold. It comes back to an issue with some documentation or information in most cases.

This article will explain what shipment on hold means, the causes, and what to do next when it happens.

What Does Shipment On Hold Mean?

Shipping on hold is a status assigned by the carrier to alert you that they can temporarily ship your order. It means your shipment has been delayed for a while, often for seven days or two weeks.

This can be due to a few different reasons, such as customs clearance or documentation issues.

Why Is A Shipment On Hold?

Shipment on hold is a common term in the shipping industry. Sometimes a shipment will be put “on hold” by the carrier. A shipment on hold is something you don’t want to get, but it’s easy to avoid. 

There are several reasons to hold up a shipment. Each cause has its fixes and can turn even the worst situation into an opportunity with the right attitude.

The courier may place a shipment  on hold for several reasons, including:

Customs Duty And VAT Bills Due For Payment

The duty-collecting process is known as customs clearance since the duty or tax has to be paid before goods can be released and free circulation within the country.

One of the critical areas of concern that many importers face is customs/excise duty and VAT bills due for payment. These duties are issued based on the weights or values shown in the shipping documents.

They include; Value Added Tax, Import Duty, Excise Duty, Sales Tax And other taxes. Customs will hold your shipment until you have offset the customs clearance fees.

The Order Is Due For Inspection By Customs 

They may also place some orders on hold before releasing them to the importer. Customs will inspect your shipment to ensure it complies with all laws and regulations for the country you are shipping to. 

This could take a few days to a few weeks depending on the country and if customs have other shipments that need inspecting. 

The order will be held at the port of entry and cannot be released until a Customs officer reviews the order. 

If it is found that the order does not comply with the United States laws and regulations, then the Customs and Border Protection unit (CBP) will seize the goods or destroy them if it is prohibited merchandise. 

The order is seized, and the customer will not pay any duty on the merchandise contained.

It can be frustrating when you have an order on hold at customs, but remember that it’s for the safety of the people who will receive your products. 

Imagine if someone ordered a dangerous item and sent it to your home. You would want customs to inspect that product beforehand.

Port Congestion

A particular port is congested due to an accident or when the large amounts of cargo present in that port may cause congestion. 

The shipment is suspended until the port is cleared for navigation. This may take several days, weeks, or months.

When a shipment is on hold, the carrier cannot continue its journey until the port returns to regular operation. T

his causes a delay in the delivery of goods and increases costs as the shipper has to pay for additional storage and other such expenses.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Extreme weather conditions can be challenging, especially when shipping goods across the country. Weather concerns can delay your shipment, and that can lead to your load being put on hold.

Unforeseen Events Beyond Control Of The Shipping Company

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding or strikes, and social unrest are some of the unforeseen events that could happen. 

In this instance, the routes will be blocked or inaccessible, and therefore your shipment will be put on hold until it’s safe to deliver.

The Order Date Falls On A Weekend Or Long Holiday

The freight will be postponed until the next business day when the shipment’s delivery date falls on a weekend or an extended holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, or Independence Day.

The Consignee Can’t Be Reached By Phone Or Email

When the recipient, also known as Consignee, cannot be reached by phone call, text messages, or email, the delivery has to be postponed until they get them.

Shipping Address Provided Is Incorrect, Or It Doesn’t Exist At All

A shipment might be put on hold if the address provided is incorrect or if the information doesn’t exist at all. If it does not exist or is inaccurate, the package will not be delivered.

The shipper typically uses a system that shows if the address exists and where exactly it is located. Otherwise, there would be a high risk of misdelivered packages.

If the new shipping address is not available on the same carrier’s website, the package will be returned and reshipped at no cost to you. However, you might have to wait up to 10 business days for your package to arrive.

If the old shipping address still exists but was entered incorrectly, and an attempt was made to correct it by entering it multiple times, the carrier will try to contact you for the correct address. 

Incorrect Information Provided By Either Party

The terms and conditions of any purchase order should be thorough and completely understood by both parties. 

No matter how well researched the terms and conditions are, there are always things that could go wrong that you may not have considered.

If one party provides wrong documentation or leaves out pertinent information, customs officers will hold the shipment until the correct documentation is presented on both sides.

When The Order Is Awaiting Transfer To Local Courier

As a customer, you will receive a notification that the order is awaiting transfer to a local courier. 

The system will keep the shipment on hold until you receive a message saying that the tracking number has been transferred to the courier. The courier company will call you to confirm delivery and arrange it.

COVID-19 Pandemic Consequences

As a result of the Pandemic, many cities and countries observe strict lockdown measures. These measures, such as closures of offices, strict operating hours, and movement restrictions, could result in your shipment being delayed and hence placed on hold.

What To Do When Your Shipment Is On Hold

There are many reasons why a shipment might be “on hold,” but if you’re not familiar with the terminology, it can feel like you’re at the mercy of a shipping company.

 At first glance, it may seem like there are no good options when your package is on hold, but there are ways to get your shipment moving again and some situations that you can avoid.

  • The first thing to do is call customer service and ask why your shipment is being held.
  • If any documentation or information is missing by chance, you can feel that out by giving them the correct details and paying the customs fees to release your shipment.
  • When all the clearance has been done, your shipment will be on its way within two to three business days.
  • Always double-check that you have submitted the correct and complete documentation to the customs office.
  • Double-check your shipments to ensure they are complete before updating them with new information, so you avoid having this status applied to one of your shipments.
  • If you are unreachable by phone, you are advised to have an emergency contact who the courier will reach during deliveries.

How Long Does It Take?

Usually, when a shipment is on hold, it can take up to 2 weeks or more, depending on customs and clearance.

When an order cannot be shipped to the recipient because of the wrong address, it is returned to the shipper if he can’t be reached.

If a shipment is delayed, it could cost you more time and money, depending on how far you are in your process when the hold is placed. Ideally, you want your goods to be inspected within 24 hours of delivery.

 If inspectors find an issue within that time frame, the problem is resolved efficiently and quickly, especially if you are cooperative.


To sum things up, you have learned what shipment on hold means and why it is crucial. You know the factors that will place a shipment on hold and handle it when that occurs. 

We highly recommend using shipping management software to help you avoid shipment delays by providing real-time tracking, smart preparation notifications, and more.