Import-export businesses in Vietnam are worrying about a possible increase in terminal handling charges by shipping lines, which would decrease their competitiveness.
The Vietnam Maritime Administration is taking comments for a draft on a possible increase of 10 per cent in container handling charges, except for the Mekong Delta. This means that shipping lines might follow a rise in terminal handling charges.
According to Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), in recent years, many shipping lines increased their charges way above their previous rates.
Since 2013, Mearsk/MCC Line, which has the largest market share in Vietnam, increased a series of its charges. For example, THC increased from VND4 million ($177.77) to VND5.2 million ($231.1) per container, while delivery order fee rose from VND550,000 ($24.44) to VND730,000 ($32.4).
What is more, shipping lines also applied new charges, such as container imbalance charge (CIC), which goes at $60 per container.
Differences in the application of the same charges are also a problem. For example, THC for 20-feet container varies from $90 to $105 and occasionally reaches $110 and even $120.
Although many import-export firms have been raising objections, the situation remains unchanged. The director of a seafood company in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau's Vung Tau city said that shipping lines all raised charges. If firms reject their business, they would not be able to make shipments.
"Each month, we export dozens of containers to Japan, meaning that we have to pay charges of several tens of millions of dong," he added.
According to a general director of a seafood company in Vung Tau, shipping lines have announced that from late April 2018 they would increase some charges by 3-5 per cent, or $70-100 per container.
"Each month, we export around 140 containers to the EU, Japan, and South Korea. With the new increase in charges, production costs will increase by VND210-300 million ($9,333-13,333) a month, significantly denting our profit," he admitted.
According to statistics from the Vietnam Maritime Administration, around 40 foreign shipping lines are operating in Vietnam, handling 88 per cent of all imports and exports.
The Vietnamese government issued Decree 146 in November 2016, asking shipping lines to publicise container handling charges by sea, surcharges, and service charges at seaports. However, import-export firms still complained about the unreasonable collection of charges and surcharges.