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Sri Lanka move against terminal handling charges bearing fruit: shippers
28 Jun, 2014 08:21:27
June 28, 2014 (LBO) - A Sri Lanka government regulation against a controversial fee charged from shippers who had not contracted for freight in Asian and African countries was being studied by other affected countries, an official said.
Sri Lanka Shippers' Council, representing the country's exporters and importers had long protested a so-called terminal handling fee charged by shipping lines even when freight was not contracted by them.

Sri Lanka's government legislated against the move after several years of negotiations between shippers and shipping lines failed to bring any changes.

Sean Van Dort, newly elected Chairman of Sri Lanka Shippers' Council said "more ethical service providers" were now adhering to the new regulations, while some were trying to avoid them.

Van Dort said the government move was not a state intervention against the market but a carefully considered move to balance the bargaining power where negotiations had failed to end an unfair practice, that was not practiced in more developed markets.

Van Dort said the Sri Lankan body had made representations at a Global Shippers' Forum (GSF) in Montreal in 2008 and found that no such charges were levied in the US and Europe by shipping lines.

The GSF has helped them present a paper at the Asian Shippers' Council where the US and Europe had pledged their support to make changes at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.

The ICC in its INCOTERMS 2010 had made the position clear regarding the freight on containerized cargo.

"You will appreciated that we did not request the government to interfere in fixing prices or charges, but to recognize the fact that such charges are part of the freight…," he told business forum in Colombo after the annual general meeting of the Council where Treasury Secretary P B Jayasundera was the chief guest.

The regulations on terminal handling charges were announced in last year's budget.

He said Sri Lankan shippers faced difficulty with the British Shippers' Council who were influenced by a leading buyer of Sri Lanka who he claimed was mis-informed.

He said the principle behind the law was explained. He said following presentations by Sri Lanka Shippers's Council at Asian Shippers' Council forum in Shanghai in 2013 and the Global Shippers' Council meet in Los Angeles there was no understanding of the issue.

Van Dort quoted GSF Secretary General Chris Welsh as saying that: 'Shippers in Africa, Asia and South America have now called time on these unacceptable shipping practices which long ago disappeared in European, North American and liner shipping trades in other more developed economies. In addition we will support the implementation of the kind of national legislation introduced in Sri Lanka to deal with this widespread problem.'

He said 18 countries in the Union of African Shippers' Council and national bodies in Brazil, Pakistan and India had requested the piece of Sri Lankan legislation.

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