The world over, shippers and trade associations consistently complain about what they say are endless and unnecessary surcharges leveled by the carriers.
The trade association for UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, the British International Freight Association (BIFA), is one of the many groups that has long challenged the legitimacy of shipping line surcharges.
In 2018, after the major carriers in response to IMO’s 2020 regulations nearly simultaneously announced the introduction of low sulfur fuel surcharges, BIFA was vocal in speaking out against the carriers. BIFA at the time accused the carriers of profiteering at the expense of the shippers under the guise of the IMO regulations.
Last week, BIFA welcomed the news that some container shipping lines have decided to discontinue those low sulfur fuel surcharges. Speaking on behalf of its members of forwarding and logistics companies, the association applauded the move while repeating its calls for an end to the practice entirely.
“Forwarders do not like shipping line surcharges of whatever nature,” says Robert Keen, BIFA Director General, “and we are hoping that other lines will follow suit and also stop their low sulfur surcharges, as well as reconsider their policies in regards to applying surcharges for anything from equipment imbalance to port congestion. Over the last few years, the number of surcharges and fees has continued to grow, often with no real explanation or justification.”
While BIFA was pleased with the decision to end the one surcharge, they also pointed out reports of new potential charges ranging from haulage surcharges to container compliance charges. They said that while forwarders try to minimize the impact of these charges often they have to be passed on to customers creating unfair perceptions for their members.
“Where is the justification for adding a surcharge for the general costs involved in running the business of container shipping?” asks Keen. “Some surcharges should already be consolidated within freight rates, with any required fluctuation being managed against that figure.” Regardless of the circumstances, Keen says, “additional surcharges imposed by shipping lines should not be allowed.”