Freighters, apparel makers still at loggerheads over higher charge

The country's freight forwarders are still continuing realising of a higher charge on import items despite the revenue board-brokered agreement between the apparel makers and the freighters, leading to an enmity between the two sides.

On January 5 last Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the freight forwarders and the National Board of Revenue (NBR) held a meeting on the raised charge realised by the carriers. In the meeting the freighters decided to postpone taking of the enhanced charge for the time being.

The meeting also decided that the NBR would request the shipping ministry to organise a tripartite meeting to reach an amicable solution to the issue.

But the shipping ministry still could not take any move to settle the issue.

MA Latif, President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), told the FE: "A section of government officials including some of them from the NBR and the Ministry of Finance are encouraging the freight forwarders to realise the higher charge."

Mr Latif, also a ruling party lawmaker, said he was discussing with the port users' forum the possibility of announcing a tougher programme in protest against the increased charge.

Syed Badrul Hoque, President of International Freight Forwarders of Bangladesh, said: "Our general members have opined in favour of taking a new charge of Tk 2,500 (US $ 36) on each bill of lading (B/L)."

The earlier rate was Tk 1,500 as of January 1 this year.

Mr Badrul also claimed the charge is much lower than in Sri Lanka. "They (Sri Lankan freight forwarders) are charging $50 on each B/L."

Earlier in June last year the freight forwarders had decided to increase the charge. But they had to postpone the decision after the then shipping minister Dr Afsarul Ameen had requested them to wait as the global economic crisis was wreaking havoc at that time around the world.

BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy said: "We've already informed the shipping minister of the issue, seeking his intervention in reducing the charge."

Sources said the shipping minister is likely to meet with the BGMEA leaders this week to break the stalemate.

Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, first vice president of the BGMEA, said: "Freight forwarders have raised the charge unilaterally without discussing with us."

Meanwhile, the freight forwarders have replied to the NBR on the show-cause notice issued by the Chittagong Customs House (CCH).

The CCH issued 14 show-cause notices for raising the charge on import items.

One freight forwarder, who received the show-cause notice, said: "We did not breach any terms and conditions of our licence."

He also said the NBR is not authorised to fix any charge for the freight forwarders.

The freighters arrange cargo movement to an international destination. Also referred to as international freight forwarders, they have the expertise that helps them get the job of preparing and processing the documentation and carrying out other related activities pertaining to international shipment.

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