Asian shippers slam bunker levy
Powerful Far East shippers want the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to pull the plug on an emergency bunker surcharge applied by container lines in the intra-Asian trades.
In a co-ordinated move, the China Shipper"s Association, the Shenzhen Shipper"s Association, the Hong Kong Shippers" Council and the Macau Shippers" Association have called for the immediate withdrawal of the newly introduced ?unreasonable and discriminatory? surcharge.
In a letter, the shippers" groups have ?served notice? on the shipping lines to stop collecting the surcharge as it is a ?groundless fee? with ?no justification?.
According to the shippers" groups, the bunker levy is being charged by shipping lines on the China?intra-Asia trade route and is being collected for all export shipments from China at ports of origin, regardless of whether the cargo has been ?pre-paid at origin? or ?collected at destination?.
In a bullet point list sent to container carriers and a who"s who of regulatory authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong, the shippers have highlighted five key areas.
Firstly, they argue that fuel is consumed during the actual sea journey and therefore ?any surcharges associated with fuel can only be part of sea freight and naturally, to be paid by the party that pays the freight?.
They add: ?Shipping lines" absurd requirement that the EBS must be paid by shippers at origin has created undue difficulties for international trade under standard fob or cif terms.?
Secondly, they contend that the oil price has dropped from its height of $150 a barrel in 2008 to $80 today and ?remains quite steady?, arguing that ?there is no reason for a bunker surcharge?.
The letter continues: ?The shipping lines have imposed the levy at the same time and at the same rate, which leaves shippers without any choice but to pay. This act definitely monopolises the situation and is counter to international moves propagating anti-trust.
"There has been no prior consultation with consignees and shippers before the imposition of the unjustifiable EBS. This is in violation of Decree No 10 issued by the Ministry of Communication of China in 2007.?
Finally, the shippers say that the EBS is discriminatory since it is not being imposed in other parts of China.
?Shippers in South China have been burdened with terminal handling charges that are higher than other regions in China,? they said.
?It is estimated that THCs are going to cost South China shippers HK$1bn annually. This has jeopardised the region"s competitiveness in international trade. Since the South China export business has a big share in European and US markets, it is the hardest hit region in China during the financial crisis.
?Manufacturers are trying hard to find ways to cope with the financial crisis such as exploring new markets in Southeast Asia. It is therefore another blow to shippers to impose an arbitrary charge that is unjustified and that will render Southern China shippers economically uncompetitive.?