Global Shipper Forum plans to stop shipping surcharges within five years

Members of the Global Shipper Forum (GSF) aim to stop container shipping surcharges within five years and plan to take action to change trading agreements and stamp out “opaque and unjustified” charges.

“Shippers of goods around the world have had enough of demands made by carriers and forwarders for the payment of charges that are poorly explained or out of proportion for any service provided,” Chris Welsh, the GSF’s secretary general, said in a release.

“GSF is looking to end the imposition of surcharges on shippers by 2020 through a series of actions that will expose the scale and injustice of the practice to world trade bodies and if necessary publicise the worst examples notified to us.”

Welsh said the arbitrary surcharges are “disrupting” efficient world trade and “distorting” local markets. Surcharges can amount to $250 per container, according to GSF members using Asia-Europe trade routes.

The GSF aims to make the extent of surcharging an issue in future trade agreements, and will make the World Trade Organisation and UN bodies aware of the scale and impact of the practice.

The forum also wants amendments made to the International Chamber of Commerce’s Incoterms, to clarify who is responsible for the settling certain costs currently recovered through surcharges.

The measures taken by the GSF echo comments from the European Shippers Council (ESC), which this month criticised how the European Commission (EC) has tackled price fixing among container lines.

The EC has just finished a probe into whether container carriers illegally colluded in hiking prices through public general rate increase (GRI) announcements since 2009, but concluded there is no evidence the carriers have infringed EU competition law.

The EC has accepted the 15 carriers’ collective offer to change the way they make price announcements and GRIs to customers, but the ESC said this would not solve the problem of price fixing because the EC’s agreement with container lines is not legally binding.


Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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