Low sulphur surcharges implemented by the world’s top liners from the start of this month vary by as much as 90%, according to research carried out by Aphaliner.
According to Alphaliner’s survey of the carriers’ surcharges on the Asia to North Europe route, the surcharges applied on December 1 range from a low by MSC at $71 per teu to a high from Hapag-Lloyd at $135 per teu.
The difference among alliance partners was stark given that these surcharges are likely for boxes sailing on partners’ ships. For instance, MSC’s 2M partner, Maersk, is charging $45 more per teu compared to its Geneva counterpart.
“The wide variations in the new fuel surcharge and lack of complete transparency on their calculations is bound to fuel shipper concerns of overcharging by carriers to compensate for lower freight rates,” Alphaliner warned in its latest weekly report.
James Hookham, secretary general of the Global Shippers Forum, urged clients of liners to question these new charges.
“Shippers should be challenging any surcharges demanded by shipping lines as a matter of routine but especially ones for low sulphur fuel over the next few weeks,” Hookham told Splash, adding: “These findings suggest that shipping lines’ approach to surcharges is no better than ‘if it’s January then it must be sulphur’. The only other person saying that with any confidence is Satan himself!”
Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), suggested the divergent fuel prices was “blatant profiteering” by the liner community.
“Whilst freight forwarders have been anticipating increased costs as a result of the new rules around low-sulphur fuel, they do not believe that surcharges are the best response and believe that shipping lines should be factoring the increased costs resulting from the low-sulphur rules into their standard freight rate pricing mechanism,” Keen said, adding: “It is not as if the shipping lines have not known about these increased costs for a long time and should have been accommodating them into their business plans for 2020. If the Alphaliner research is correct, it suggests that the lines are plucking a surcharge figure from thin air and further supports our previous assertion that such surcharges are blatant profiteering by shipping lines determined to exploit the situation.”
Sunny Ho from the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, who has long campaigned for fuel surcharges to be rolled into freight rates, urged containerlines to exercise far higher levels of transparency in how they came up with these new low sulphur costs.