The British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association for UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, is repeating the calls it has made previously for an end to surcharges imposed by shipping lines.
The latest call follows recent announcements by the world's leading container shipping companies almost in unison that they would be levying "emergency" bunker surcharges in response to rising fuel costs.
"Forwarders do not like shipping line surcharges of whatever nature and we have been challenging their legitimacy on behalf of our members – and their customers – for many years," says Robert Keen, BIFA Director General.
"In the past, we have seen equipment imbalance surcharges, peak season surcharges and currency surcharges, in addition to fuel surcharges.
"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.
Keen concludes: "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."