Freight forwarders, shipping lines’ battle over new freight charges intensifies

Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, Minister of Transport
  • Shippers warn against control of charges
  • Freight forwarders prepare to sue

Shipping Lines operating in the country have warned that any move by government, through the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, to impose control mechanism on freight charges will have dire consequence for the sector.

Meanwhile, freight forwarders who either pay the fees directly or pass them on to clients, feeling shortchanged and badly treated, are threatening to use the law courts to press home their demand – which is basically for the removal of these charges.

The shipping lines, freight forwarders and Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) have over the past few weeks expressed high sentiments over new freight charges announced by major shipping lines in the country.

This culminated in marathon meetings and communique exchanges geared at addressing concerns with the new charges. The latest meeting was held at the behest of Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, and resulted in the issuance of a directive for shipping lines to negotiate the new charges with the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) – the sector regulator.

Since then, some meetings and exchanges have gone on between the two bodies – but it seems little progress has been made. But even before the talks go far, the Vice President of the Ship Owners and Agents Association (SOAA), Adam Imoro Ayana, has said that any attempt by government through the GSA to control freight charges will be a dangerous path to take.

“If that is what they want to do, they should say it so that the shipping lines will act accordingly,” he told the B&FT in an interview, adding that the shipping lines, just as they have done in the past, will continue to engage the GSA on matters that will lead to betterment of the sector – but the shipping lines will not kow-tow to any move to impose freight charges on their operations.

“In engagements it is not about imposition, when it gets to imposition then it is a different kettle of fish. We can always talk every time, but you cannot impose your will on me,” Mr. Ayana said.

He further added that the operational costs of shipping lines have shot-up astronomically due to the impact of COVID-19 and other matters.

The shipping lines, from March 1, began implementing new tariffs of US$132 for a twenty-foot container and US$264 for a forty-foot container from US$77 and US$154 respectively. They have also announced their intention to commence implementation of container transfer fees at US$50 as an inland additional import service charge, scheduled to be implemented from March 15 this year.

But the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has since the implementation of these new charges expressed its displeasure at the move, and described it as unfair and unlawful as the shipping lines did not sit with the regulator to come up with the new charges as the law requires.

The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Edward Akrong, in an interview with this Paper said: “Since the minister gave the directive for shipping lines to go and sit with the GSA and look at the negotiation of the new charges, the shipping lines have taken on some lackadaisical attitude – and if we don’t push hard, they might let this slide as with similar issues in the past.

“We have sent a clear message that we are ready to fight to the end of this, and they should be ready to defend their brands individually when we start to confront this injustice – unless they don’t care about the image of their brand and they will be okay if they come across as cheats internationally,” he said.

He added that among the many options they have to address the matter is a legal route, and they are ready to take it to correct the injustice happening in the sector.

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