The British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association for UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, is repeating the call it made earlier this year for an end to surcharges imposed by shipping lines.
"Forwarders do not like shipping line surcharges and we have been challenging there legitimacy on behalf of our members – and their customers – for many years," says Robert Keen, BIFA Director General.
"Last week, one line said that it is moving to address the container imbalance problem being faced in North Europe at the moment brought on by increasing demand for containers, by introducing a number of Equipment Imbalance Surcharges applicable from November 1st on the eastbound Europe/Asia eastbound trades.
"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. For instance, what does an extra 'administration fee' or 'container sealing fee' cover that is not in the standard service offered?"
Shippers can also be asked to pay surcharges when there is port congestion caused by labour unrest or bad weather, or haulage surcharges when there is a shortage of HGV drivers.
Forwarders do all they can to minimise the effects of the surcharges but in the end at least some of the costs need to be passed on to the customers "and there is sometimes an unfair perception that our members are to blame," he adds.
Mr Keen is also Chairman of the Multimodal Transport Institute within FIATA, the international trade association that represents the world's freight forwarders and logistics service providers, and this has been focussing on surcharges for several years.
"If a shipper enters a contract to buy goods they should know exactly what they are paying and that price should not change. If they use Incoterms they can buy ex works or FOB and control the supply chain. If they let their supplier arrange shipping, they have no control over the charges applied. But in either case, additional surcharges imposed by shipping lines should not be allowed."