ICDs for consensus on service charge hike

Facing criticism for unilaterally raising a service charge last week, private inland container depots (ICDs) have decided to hold discussions with stakeholders first before hiking rates of their other facilities.

Through a notice on August 11, Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (Bicda) increased the charge for a service involving the handling of import-laden containers by around 34 per cent with immediate effect.

The platform said it was one of five types of services which required the use of diesel, such as vehicular and equipment operations, and whose charges needed to be adjusted to the August 5 price hike of fuels.

The government hiked fuel prices by up to 51.7 per cent, the highest in the country’s history. The price of each litre of diesel has reached Tk 114 from Tk 80.

On Wednesday Bicda sat with shipping agents and consensus was reached on raising the charge for handling empty containers by 24 per cent.

The service includes using prime movers to transport empty containers between the Chattogram port and the ICDs and forklifts for shifting the corrugated boxes over short distances within the ICDs.

Currently, the charge for using prime movers for a 20-foot empty container is Tk 1,415 and a 40-foot container Tk 2,830. If forklifts are used, an additional Tk 425 is charged.

Bicda officials said an official circular would be issued soon announcing the new rate involving empty containers and it would have a retrospective effect, applicable for services availed since August 6, the day the new fuel prices came into effect.

The 24 per cent hike was based on proposals focusing cost analysis conducted by both associations, BSAA Chairman Syed Md Arif, who led its Board of Directors at Wednesday’s meeting, told The Daily Star.

Bicda leaders, including President Nurul Qayyum Khan and First Vice President SAJ Rizvi, assured of readjusting the charge if diesel prices were reduced by the government in the future, he said.

Fuel consumption for handling empty containers is lower, for which the hike for the service involving empty containers is lower than that for import-laden containers, explained Bicda Secretary General Md Ruhul Amin Sikder.

He said they would sit with the BAFFA leaders on Sunday to discussion raising the charge for export stuffing package.

Export stuffing package involves taking an empty container from a depot yard to its container freight station (CFS), loading goods into the container, taking the loaded container back to the depot yard and transporting it later to the port for shipment.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) First Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam on August 13 sent a letter to the Bicda president urging to postpone the hike in the charge for import container handling.

He pointed out that any unilateral hike in service charge by Bicda was a violation of the ICD policy approved by the shipping ministry in 2016.

According to that policy, a committee comprising stakeholders formed by the ministry can only propose reviewing ICD charges and any change needs to be approved by the ministry before it can come into effect, said Islam.

There is no mention of such a stakeholder committee in the latest ICD policy formulated by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) in December last year, said Bicda Secretary General Sikder.

Moreover, the import handling service charge was not applicable on the BGMEA members, he said.

This was because containers loaded with raw materials imported by the garment factories are not handled by the ICDs, rather those are handed over to the recipients right from the port, he added.

BSAA Chairman Arif said the NBR was working to amend the policy and steps were underway to form the stakeholder committee.

He, however, hailed Bicda’s move to sit with stakeholders to decide on the charge hikes.

The article appeared in the Daily Star