The shipping agents, apparel exporters, and off dock owners are now at loggerheads over the increase of overall charges of the off docks in Chittagong by 23% which is linked to diesel price hike in the domestic market.

Both the apparel makers and shipping agents are demanding cancellation of the charge hike which is feared to increase their cost of doing business significantly and have severe impacts on Bangladesh’s export-import trade.

The Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA) on 8 November increased haulage charge, lift-on/lift-off charge, export stuffing package, import handling package, and verified gross mass charge by 23% giving a retrospective effect four days earlier.

BICDA argued that the diesel price hike has led to the fare hike by public transportations as well as goods transporting vehicles. Like the other transportation sectors, diesel is being used in all container handling equipment and container carrying vehicles thus the charge hike is necessary.

“The depot charge hike is necessary to adjust with the diesel price rise. Continuation of business is impossible for depot owners by providing subsidy from own pockets,” BICDA president Nurul Qayyum Khan wrote in a letter to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) justifying the charge hike.

However, the depot charge hike has sparked immediate reactions from the main users of the off dock.

“The sudden hike of depots charges will enhance export cost in the apparel sector. The arbitrary decision is not business-friendly,” BGMEA first vice president Syed Nazrul Islam wrote in a letter to the BICDA president.

He further noted that according to the container freight station (CFS) policy, the tariff fixation committee, formed by the ministry of shipping, will re-fix charges, if necessary.

“But this time the BICDA did not seek tariff committee’s intervention thus the charge hike is unacceptable,” wrote Islam.

Additionally, the BSAA held a meeting in presence of agents of all the mainline operators having business in Bangladesh. The meeting was told that the off dock owners have increased charges violating the CFS policy.

They said the BICDA has raised charges even on labour cost which has no relation with the diesel price hike. Besides, the charge was hiked without assessment of real cost increase of the depots.

BSAA director Muntasir Rubayat believes that a price hike can be effective on a genuine cost increase which is linked to diesel price rise, but not on the overall cost of depot services, and that has to be initiated by the tariff committee, not the off dock owners.

“A retrospective effect of any charges is not also acceptable in the shipping industry,” he pointed out.

Source : Container News