Their demands include greater transparency in shipping charges, including terminal handling charges and the plethora of surcharges that shippers do not believe reflect the real costs of the alleged ‘services’ provided.
The GSF has welcomed the recent intervention by the Sri Lankan government in introducing reforms to ensure fair trading practices. These reforms were in response to protracted lobbying by the Sri Lanka Shippers’ Council to address unfair trade practices prevailing in the shipping industry in Sri Lanka over many years.
The country’s government acted to strengthen the powers of the Director General of Merchant Shipping to deal with anti-competitive practices, unfair charges and to create greater transparency into shipping charges.
Chris Welsh, secretary-general of the GSF said: “The proposed Sri Lanka reforms are likely to be a catalyst for wider demands, especially in the developing world, for greater regulatory oversight of liner shipping and shipping charging practices where anti-trust exemptions remain in place”.
“In the absence of effective competition in many regions of the world, there is a growing belief that tougher controls on liner shipping are needed to regulate carrier practices relating to freight tariffs to provide much needed transparency into shipping charges and surcharges,” he added.
The GSF favours a market-led and fair competition approach to ensure open and competitive ocean transportation markets. However, in the absence of such a position, it believes it is increasingly likely that shippers will demand new regulatory agencies, or at least regulatory oversight, of tariffs and charges to ensure they are fair and equitable.
“I hope that a resolution of these long-standing grievances can be achieved before it comes to that, but momentum is building for a regulatory approach,” suggested Welsh.
The GSF will give further consideration to the issue at its up-coming Annual Meeting in March 2014.