Let’s do away with shipping surcharges: BIFA

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is repeating the calls it has made previously for an end to surcharges imposed by shipping lines.
The latest call follows recent announcements by the world’s leading container shipping companies almost in unison that they would be levying ‘emergency’ bunker surcharges in response to rising fuel costs.
“Forwarders do not like shipping line surcharges of whatever nature and we have been challenging their legitimacy on behalf of our members – and their customers – for many years,” said BIFA director general Robert Keen.
“In the past, we have seen equipment imbalance surcharges, peak season surcharges and currency surcharges, in addition to fuel surcharges.
“The number of surcharges and fees continues to grow – often with no real explanation or justification. For instance, what does an extra ‘administration fee’ or ‘container sealing fee’ cover that is not in the standard service offered?”
Shippers can also be asked to pay surcharges when there is port congestion caused by labour unrest or bad weather, or haulage surcharges when there is a shortage of HGV drivers.
Forwarders do all they can to minimise the effects of the surcharges but in the end at least some of the costs need to be passed on to the customers “and there is sometimes an unfair perception that our members are to blame,” he added.
“If a shipper enters a contract to buy goods they should know exactly what they are paying and that price should not change. If they use Incoterms they can buy ex works or FOB and control the supply chain. If they let their supplier arrange shipping, they have no control over the charges applied. But in either case, additional surcharges imposed by shipping lines should not be allowed,” Mr Keen concluded.

VICT Webb Dock dispute becomes the Christmas Grinch

Container transport companies, truck drivers and shippers are feeling the impact of a union picket that has been in place at Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) in the Port of Melbourne for several days.
The picket has forced VICT to turn away hundreds of trucks that pick up and deliver containers to the Webb Dock terminal.
“This picket is costing container transport companies, their import and export customers, and Victorian consumers tens of thousands of dollars a day” said CTAA director Neil Chambers.
“The pretence for this dispute centres on the inability of a single individual to obtain a valid Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) to work in the restricted landside zone inside the container terminal,” Mr Chambers said.
“Every day, the Commonwealth Government issues or rejects applications for MSIC. MSIC is an issue of national security and critical to the protection of our ports, and particularly the people who work in them.
“Why on earth would the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) hold the Victorian community to ransom over a person who’s ineligible to hold a MSIC? Also, there are appeal processes available under security law which we assume the individual has pursued? Surely the community and the union should feel safer that the system is working.
“Stopping hard-working container truck drivers, all of whom are required to hold valid MSIC, from going about their daily work is irresponsible. These drivers, the transport companies and the Victorian community are entitled to a fair go.
“It is not out of the question that container transport companies and their shipper customers may seek financial compensation through the courts if this uncalled for picket continues,” he added.
Already, CTAA has identified how Victorians are being adversely affected.
“We’ve got reports of urgent imported medical supplies being held up, as well as goods imported for Christmas sales, and containers full of perishable goods like seafood destined for Christmas festive tables.”
With only four weeks until Christmas, retail customers desperately need their import containers to meet Christmas demand.
On the export side, there are hundreds of containers of agricultural and general goods held up that will miss sailings and impact on important overseas trade contracts for hard working Australian farmers and manufacturers.
“If this picket is really a community protest as reported by the MUA, then surely the community has made its point and it’s now time for Victoria Police, Fair Work Australia (FWA), the courts, the Port of Melbourne and the Government to assist in ensuring that normal operations are resumed immediately,” Mr Chambers said.
CTAA also called on the main overseas shipping line affected, Hong Kong based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) to suspend their container detention and demurrage arrangements for all imported containers affected by the delay.

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