Gov’t to regulate shipping charges, empty containers

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will regulate and monitor all fees concerning empty container returns and charges of shipping lines, which will also be banned from charging fees in the Philippines, to address the high cost of shipping and resolve port congestion.

Trade Secretary  Ramon M. Lopez Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez revealed after meeting with industry players that this will be part of a Joint Administrative Order (JAO) that will be issued by government agencies, such as DTI, Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Transportation, BOC, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

The Joint Administrative Order (JAO), which is expected to be out middle of this month after a public hearing, seeks to regulate and specify the rules and regulations that will govern the fees and charges of shipping lines, port operators, truckers, and port users to lower operating costs and improve logistics efficiencies,

Under the JAO, shipping lines will be banned from imposing fees, instead all charges must be included in their freight and other origin charges.

Aside from the JAO, a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) between BOC and Philippine Ports Authority will also be issued to issue new rules that will normalize the utilization rate of container depots in Manila back to 70 percent.

BOC Deputy Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco said that they plan to make charges of container depots at par with other countries to prevent shipping lines from abandoning their empty containers in the yards.

For laden containers, the JAO will remove the provision requiring the submission of Equipment Interchange Receipt (EIR) as a basis for the implementation of the 90-day rule. Instead, the discharge date will be used as the start date. The group is also looking into using abandoned containers for low-cost housing, evacuation centers, and cold storage facilities for fish ports.

To reduce the number of containers entering the port and improve efficiencies, the JAO will also allow shipments to pass through Batangas and Subic Ports, closer to their destination or consignees. This will also help locators of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) find a more efficient option than the port of Manila.

After the issuance of the order, Lopez said the DTI and concerned agencies will work on a roadmap for the logistics sector and provide a long-term plan to improve efficiencies and costs.