THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Tuesday said the majority of shipping lines have canceled the surcharges imposed during the port congestion days in response allegations by the Federation of Philippine Industries that such fees were still in place.
Thirty-six shipping companies have discontinued the surcharges since port congestion was declared over early this year, Trade Undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba told The Manila Times.
“There are already 36 shipping lines that are not collecting any port congestion surcharges,” he said.
Data culled from port operators and stakeholders show that among the shipping lines no longer charging port congestion fees are APL K Line, Hapag Lloyd, Maersk and OCCL, Dimagiba noted.
“These are big shipping lines, actually. And there are only 11 shipping lines that are still imposing surcharges,” the DTI official said.
Among the 11 shipping lines are Wan Hai, Heung-A, OCL, CMA-CGM and China Shipping, according to the department.
In a press briefing last week, FPI chairman Jesus Lim Arranza asked the DTI to look into the matter as it will impact on prices of goods.
The port congestion charges range from P25,000 to P30,000 per container van, according to FPI.
Dimagiba, however, said that the DTI does not have rate regulating power over shipping lines.
“Kung wala kaming mandato, kung wala kaming order, hindi namin puwede pakialaman.
Kasi i-expose namin sarili namin sa criminal case [If we do not have the mandate, if we do not have an order, we cannot interfere. Because we will expose ourselves to criminal cases], ” he said.
Not even the abolished Philippine Shippers’ Bureau, Marina or the Philippine Ports Authority have the jurisdiction to regulate rates imposed by foreign and domestic shipping lines, Dimagiba noted.
There is no law on regulating the fees imposed by shipping companies.
“I don’t know where FPI is coming from, but they have been involved in many, many forums last year, and they were in two or three port forums. They know about the limitations of the Philippine Shippers Bureau,” Dimagiba said.
The bureau, which was abolished under the DTI rationalization plan, functioned as an accrediting body.
“It is a free market. We already told the industry that they have choices . . . They are not bound to continue patronizing shipping lines that still imposed unreasonable charges,” Dimagiba emphasized.
“Why bother with 11 shipping lines that are still collecting port congestion fees? Just discontinue using them and let them feel the market plunge,” he added.
Manufacturers and traders should use wise decision, the DTI official said. “They are also consumers in that context. They should exercise the freedom of choice.”