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Dutch shippers skeptical about surcharges

By Hpanchal on October 28, 2011

In a survey conducted by the Dutch Shippers Council (EVO) this summer, the majority of its members expressed uncertainty as to the security and fuel surcharges currently charged by carriers in the Netherlands. Joost van Doesburg, the EVO’s airfreight policy manager, told Air Cargo World that in regard to the security surcharge — usually a blanket fee of €0.15 per kilogram — more than 50 percent of the respondents “did not believe that the amount of this security surcharge was invested in improving the security.”

In addition to shippers, the survey was also given to freight forwarders who operate out of Schiphol Airport.

Van Doesburg calculated out the surcharge fees for Amsterdam Schiphol and found that around €108 million a year is collected by airlines in the name of security. “One really big freight forwarder — and I cannot give his name — said, ‘OK, if they would invest €108 million each year in improving the security, there would be three golden gates surrounding Schiphol Airport,’” he said. “If shippers don’t believe it, and freight forwarders don’t believe it, it’s probably not true that they use this kind of money for the reason why they are collecting it.”

Dutch shippers think the security charge is a bit dubious, but carriers take the stance that fuel and security charges create transparency, not take it away, said Bob Imbriani, vice president of corporate development at Team Worldwide. “I think they use them to present to the public that, ‘Well, we’re really not charging any of this. Look at our airfreight rates — they haven’t changed; they’ve really gone down, and all [surcharges] are just reflecting other conditions we have no control over.’”

Van Doesburg has proposed a relatively simple solution that will still provide carriers with their costs and will also sate the ire of shippers. Instead of charging a security surcharge, just wrap that fee into the base rate carriers charge. Of course, that means the base rate would be lifted from the current low levels Imbriani has been seeing, but van Doesburg said it will actually create more transparency in the process, not less. The fuel surcharge, he added, can be better measured if every carrier agrees to a simple formula based on fluctuations in the international price of oil.

If these changes are implemented, perhaps the dark cloud shippers see over surcharges will brighten a bit. But until then, shippers will continue to view surcharges with skepticism and caution, van Doesburg said.

“When you let shippers talk about their biggest problems with airfreight, they would always say surcharges,” van Doesburg concluded. “Some would say fuel, others would say security, but it is definitely surcharges that are the biggest problem.”

For the full story on surcharges, read “Surcharges: Fair or foul” in the upcoming November issue of Air Cargo World.

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