Owners of private inland container depots (ICDs) have begun realising increased charges for container handling since Monday despite opposition from users who feared the cost of export and import would go up.
On Monday morning, the ICDs increased the charges for handling of export, import and empty containers by 20 to 25 percent. But later in the evening, they revised the charges down to 12 percent upon request from Zulfiquer Aziz, chairman of the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA).
Earlier, the ICDs discarded their plan twice—on April 1 and August 1—to raise the rates, because of the request and assurances from the shipping ministry and the CPA to bring a solution soon.
On August 2, the shipping secretary and the CPA chairman assured the owners of 19 ICDs of taking a decision in this regard by August 25.
Even after the expiry of the deadline, the ICD owners had waited two more weeks but no solution was in sight which prompted them to begin charging at the increased rates.
Nurul Qayyum Khan, president of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA), said the CPA chairman had assured that the tariff committee of the shipping ministry would review the charges soon.
But the ICD users, which include exporters, importers, and freight forwarders, expressed dissatisfaction over the tariff hike, saying the decision was taken by the ICDs unilaterally at a time when three committees formed by the shipping ministry and the CPA had been working on the issue.
Khairul Alam Sujan, director of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said the ICDs should not have raised the charges on their own in violation of the ICD policy.
According to the ICD Policy, a tariff committee formed by the ministry could only review the tariffs, which need to be approved by the ministry before being effective.
The latest hike came after the BICDA increased the charges by 20 to 25 percent on February 28 against the backdrop of operational and investment cost escalation, devaluation of the local currency, and the increase in fuel prices, labour charges and equipment maintenance cost.
BICDA’s Khan said a committee of the CPA in a report in April 2016 revealed that the ICDs’ operational and other costs had surged by 42 percent between 2010 and 2015, so the charges should have been increased by the same amount by then. But they had agreed to increase it by only 20 percent at that time upon insistence from the stakeholders and request from the CPA, he said.
The shipping ministry on April 1 formed an 11-member tariff committee headed by Abdus Sattar Sheikh, joint secretary of the shipping ministry. On April 21, the tariff committee constituted a 13-member committee headed by M Shafiul Bari, CPA member for harbour and marine, directing it to submit a report on the tariffs within 15 days, sources said.
The second committee has recently formed a sub-committee led by Ashraful Islam, assistant terminal manager of the CPA, to work on the issue.