What is ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival)?

ETA refers to the date that a specific shipment is expected or projected to be brought to the destination location. The specific location can be the warehouse, or some other location specified in the sales contract for the shipment. In some cases, the destination can also be the location indicated in the Incoterm used for the shipment. Not all Incoterms specify the destination in the term’s format. Hence it is necessary to specify how the ETA is being measured. In many cases, ETA will be assumed to refer to the date that the shipment arrives in the destination port.

What is ETD (Estimated Time of Delivery)?

ETD refers to the date that delivery is expected to be made to the final destination, before a new transaction triggers the shipment to be moved again. For example when receiving cargo into a warehouse the ETD is the date that the cargo is projected to arrive at the warehouse. When sending shipments to a customer, the ETD becomes the date the shipment arrives at the customer’s premises or is delivered to the customer at a specified place.

It must be noted that ETD can also refer to Estimated Time of Departure. In this case it refers to the date that the shipment leaves from the origin. This typically refers to the date that the vessel carrying the cargo departs the source port.

Main difference to note between ETA and ETD?

In most cases, the ETA is the date that the shipment arrives in the destination country and the ETD is the date it arrives at the consignee’s premises. It is important to clarify these definitions clearly when making out contractual agreements to avoid misunderstandings.

Another term that may also come up is RDD. This stands for required delivery date and usually refers to the date that the customer expects delivery to be made. In most cases, RDD should match ETD.

Importance of calculating correct ETD?

ETD accuracy is very important to consignees for several reasons:

  • To be able to plan for late deliveries by alternate sourcing
  • To ensure the receiving warehouse has sufficient space to receive and hold the cargo
  • If receiving raw materials, to ensure that planned production schedules have sufficient raw materials to meet demand, without having a large inventory on hold
  • To make arrangements for local transportation if necessary

Wrong ETD can throw many carefully made arrangements off balance and in some cases even render the consignee unable to accept the cargo upon arrival.

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