Asian ShippersÆ Council: South China emergency bunker charge improper
The Asian Shippers' Council (ASC) has called on governments in the region to take “decisive action” to stop anticompetitive behavior among container shipping companies following an Emergency Bunker Surcharge (EBS) introduced by eight lines operating in the Taiwan to Hong Kong-South China trade.
The ASC said the eight companies — OOCL, Wan Hai, Evergreen, RCL, T.S. Lines, Kanway Shipping, Cheng Lie Navigation and Yang Ming — announced separately that they will levy the same EBS of HK$440/RMB 400 per TEU to be collected from consignees in Hong Kong and South China, regardless of whether freight has already been prepaid in Taiwan, with the same effective date of July 1.
The carriers’ announcements were made on the same day as the European Commission published its final competition law guidelines for when liner conferences are outlawed for European trades. The ASC said the EBS shows the extent to which lines are taking advantage of the absence of similar legislation in Asia to impose such “unwarranted” charges.
“The barely disguised collaboration amongst the eight lines would not have been permitted in the European Union when a formal ban on shipping conferences take effect on Oct. 18,” the ASC said.
“Like most surcharges, the EBS was imposed unilaterally without prior consultation with customers and without any consideration of the impact it would have on their operation. Without any recourse the ASC fears that the innovative list of surcharges will become lengthier when lines converged in Asia, the remaining turf where they still enjoy the power of collective price fixing.
“At ASC, we have always maintained that bunker surcharge like THC is an integral part of the freight. Charging EBS from the consignees goes against normal international liner shipping practice.”
The ASC highlighted that the eight carriers, with the exception of Kanway Shipping, are members of the Intra-Asia Discussion Agreement (IADA), which was thwarted by the Chinese government in June 2007 to impose a Terminal Handling Charge (THC) in South China.