The Financial Express

Shippers cry foul as depot operators hike charges

| Updated: September 22, 2019 15:05:25

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Representational photo — Collected Representational photo — Collected

A fresh tariff hike by private container depots in Chattogram has irked the users of the facility.

The shipping companies, freight forwarders and consignees are the key users of services provided by 18 privately-owned container depots, known as off-docks.

The Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA), a group of the depot operators, has increased its charges by 12 per cent across the board. They provide around 20 services, including stuffing or un-stuffing of goods.

The stakeholders argued this will raise the cost of doing business in the country.

They also said that the spike came up at a time when the shipping business had slumped not only in the country but also across the globe.

Given the urgency of the situation, the Chittagong Port Authority has hurriedly called a meeting with all stakeholders today (Sunday) at its office in Chattogram.

People at the shipping firms told the FE they will not comply with the new hikes as they believe that it will make the services expensive.

Although the new tariff has been effective since September 16, the depots will prepare bills from October next, people familiar with the business told the FE.

The users have felt aggrieved by the hike."The services provided by the depots are poor and they behave like a cartel in the trade," Sahed Sarwar, a director at the Bangladesh Shipping Agent Association (BSAA), a group that represents international shipping firms, told the FE.

"They often raise their charges by cashing in on the limited supply side," said Mr Sarwar, a deputy managing director at the Feedertech, a Singapore-based feeder service provider.

Shipping agents also sent a formal letter to the port authority calling for the postponement of the new announcement of the charge hike.

But depots operators are hell-bent on implementing the rate, saying they have been trying to increase the charges since 2016.

"Even we announced the new rate in August last, but the port authorities had requested us to delay for some weeks," said Nurul Qayyum Khan, president of the depot operators' group.

Mr Khan said their new charges are justified as the tariffs have remained much lower for years.

"Prices of every item increases in the market but people raise questions when we try to revise our tariffs," said Mr Khan, chairman at the QNS, an off-dock located at the Export Processing Zone area at Halishahar in Chattogram.

"I don't understand why there will be a tariff committee to determine our charges," he noted.

The association had revised upwards its tariffs by 20 per cent more than three years back. It did it based on the recommendations made by the CPA Committee.

The capital-intensive depots have been in operation nearly three decades in Chattogram. They handle both export and import.

They handle cent per cent of the ready-made garment shipment with around 37 imported products equivalent to 22 per cent of the country's total overseas procurement.

Mahbubul Alam, president at the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that depot operators have announced charges abruptly.

"We believe that solutions must come through discussion, but they had announced it abrasively ," Mr Alam said.

He said a committee is working on the tariff fixation and they should have waited until the report is submitted to the authorities concerned.

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