KARACHI, Nov 26: Members of shipping lines of the Indian, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ceylon Conference (IPBCC) have increased freight charges by an average 12 per cent on the westbound cargo with effect from December 1, 2005.

The IPBCC in a ‘notice to trade’ informed exporters (customers) that shipping lines intend to implement a rate restoration on the westbound trade from December 1, 2005.

The conference lines operating under the IPBCC will increase freight charges for the haulage of cargo from Mumbai, Mandra, Kandla, Karachi and all other ports falling within this range to UK, North Continent, Scandinavian, Baltic and Mediterranean ports.

According to details, the IPBCC-member shipping lines will be charging $150 more for a 20-feet container and $300 for a 40-feet container from December 1, 2005. It has also been notified that the increase rate levels will be valid until January 31, 2006 only. This indicates the IPBCC-member lines may resort to a further increase after the expiry of this period.

It has been clarified that the IPBCC members will keep ancillary tariff items, such as ‘special equipment addition’ and surcharges under review. This indicates the shipping lines have kept their options open to raise charges on these accounts also.

Justifying the move, the ‘notice to trade” points out that all member lines are facing considerable increases in charter rates that continue rising dramatically. It also attributes the hike to a worldwide shortage of container equipment. “Consequently, delays caused by these factors and on account of congestion continue affecting all member carriers of the IPBCC and these have a detrimental effect on member lines’ ability to operate efficiently,” the notice added.

Exporters took a strong exception of the development and lamented that the freight hike would adversely affect their exports as they were already facing a tough time in the European markets where punitive duties put them to a disadvantage against their competitors from India and China.

They said further that up to now they had been paying $1,250 for a 20-feet container for the westbound cargo and an increase of $150 would mean a 12 per cent hike in freight. Similarly, a $300 increase for a 40-feet container would mean an 11.26 per rice hike in charges.

The export trade has been constantly objecting to unilateral decisions of freight hike by the shipping lines, complaining that no regulator body is there to monitor or regulate their activities the world over.

The exporters demanded of the government to take up the matter with countries of the region so that the one-sided decisions of the shipping lines could be checked and a modus operandi was evolved prior to any freight hike.

The shipping lines have been resorting to frequent freight hike under one pretext or the other for years. Some time they increase charges under general rates increase (GRI) or implement the same under the rate restoration. Similarly, they also impose surcharges and take years to withdraw them even after that particular cause of irritant is removed.