MAERSK Line’s announcement that it would change its empty container de-hire regime could add between $80 and $200 per container to existing transport and delivery costs, according to Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia commercial manager Scott Carson.
He said, according to initial feedback from CBFCA members, the increased costs would be caused by inefficiencies created in booking the empty container de-hire “effectively as an export booking within the VBS”.
Also, costs would be added by an increase in transport time delays at de-hire locations. And also, Mr Carson said demurrage could contribute to cost increases.
“Increased instances of container de-hire demurrage costs due to an average of one to two working days being ‘shaved’ off the tail end of the empty container transport process as a result of the transport operator having to accept available VBS slots, compared to the more current flexible method involved with de-hiring empty containers to container parks where CBFCA members and transport operators work with the container parks,” he said.
Maersk is not the first shipping line to institute such a policy, Mr Carson said OOCL, Hamburg Süd, COSCO and ANL had already started requiring de-hires to go directly to the terminal, but they’ve had a smaller impact with their smaller volumes, relative to Maersk.
“We acknowledge Maersk being up-front and acknowledging this, while some of the others have done this by stealth,” he said.
“We’re concerned that the precedent is growing, and it will become practice; it would basically force empties to be treated as export containers,” Mr Carson said.
“I’m not sure the shipping lines have considered the ramifications, which are quite substantial.”
The de-hire regime also raises potential questions about liability.
“These [empty] import containers are going to back into the terminals and booked like a full container – if there’s later damage to be found on one of them, that’s generally the responsibility of the party who’s had it under its control,” Mr Carson said.
“Are they [stevedores] going to have an inspection officer to inspect all these containers before they’re lifted off the truck? – I don’t think so.”