Freight forwarders hit out at shipping fees

16 November 2016

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is calling for an end to surcharges imposed by shipping lines with scant justification.

BIFA, the trade association for UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, said forwarders disliked shipping line surcharges and have been challenging their legitimacy for years.

Robert Keen, BIFA director general, said in early November two lines had introduced surcharges. The first, which is applicable on eastbound Europe/Asia trades, was described as addressing a container imbalance problem in Northern Europe brought about by increased demand for containers, said Keen. He said another line introduced a peak season surcharge.

“Our members have become used to shipping lines adding peak season, fuel and currency surcharges, but the number of surcharges and fees continues to grow – often with no real explanation or justification,” said Keen.

“For instance, what does an extra ‘administration fee’ or ‘container sealing fee’ cover that is not in the standard service offered?”

Shippers might find themselves asked to pay surcharges to cover port congestion caused by labour unrest or bad weather or haulage surcharges caused by a shortage of HGV drivers.

BIFA said while forwarders tried to minimise the effect of the surcharges in the end it was inevitable some of the cost would be passed to customers.

“There is sometimes an unfair perception that our members are to blame,” Keen said. “If a shipper enters a contract to buy goods they should know exactly what they are paying and that price should not change.”

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