New bid to solve containers row in Bahrain
Manama, August 25, 2014
Bahrain’s business leaders have pledged to investigate claims that a port operator has refused to release cargo containers belonging to eight major shipping companies in a dispute over unpaid fees.
The port committee at Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is expected to meet Transportation Ministry officials this week to resolve the issue after APM Terminals (APMT), the operator of Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP), allegedly threatened to block the release of the empty containers over pending storage charges ranging between BD5,000 ($13,133) and BD80,000.
Companies are allowed to store their empty containers at the port for 10 days before a tax is imposed, however, the owners claim they had an agreement with officials to hold the boxes depending on availability of space without enforcing additional charges.
The GDN earlier reported that the companies were given a deadline to settle the dues, which ended yesterday (August 24).
"We have received the case from the representative of the agents who are facing the issue," said BCCI port committee head Khalid Al Murbati.
"According to (the companies), they have a problem and now since the matter has been referred to the BCCI we will take it up with the government.
"We have asked for an urgent meeting with Transportation Ministry Under-Secretary for Ports and Maritime Navigation Affairs Hassan Ali Al Majid and APTM. We are just waiting for replies."
The affected companies, known as Non-Vessel Operating Carriers (NVOCs), are Trans-Continental Shipping, Celerity Shipping and Forwarding, Pan Gulf Logistics, Al Mulla Logistics, International Agencies, Onyx Shipping Agencies, Clarion Shipping Services and United Arab Shipping Company.
They earlier told the GDN that they were in negotiations to pay the fees in instalments, which were accumulated from last year, and claimed the levy was a result of a system glitch at the APMT.
Meanwhile, BCCI transport committee head Abdulhakim Al Shammary criticised the ministry for signing a 25-year contract with APMT.
"Right from the beginning we had issues with this company which has failed in serving the national trade," claimed Al Shammary, who is also an outgoing MP.
"We were patient in the beginning thinking that those were the transition hitches.
"However, till today, this company is still making many mistakes which are causing damage to the importers and exporters and the government is silent.
"I am very surprised that the port authorities are not doing anything to safeguard our country's interest."
He also urged His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa to intervene to resolve the dispute.
Meanwhile, Dilmun Shipping Company general manager Balaji Ardhanari told the GDN they settled their storage dues with APMT in December 2013.
"We are not part of the issue anymore, as we have already settled the dues with APTM," he added.
APMT officials declined to comment when contacted by the GDN yesterday, while the Transportation Ministry said it would respond soon. - TradeArabia News Service