Freight forwarders are still under the lash of the lockdown, battling related demurrage and storage charges preventing them from getting back to healthier balance sheet positions.
One such freight forwarder phoned late last Friday afternoon saying: “We’re not taking this anymore. Shipping lines have us over a barrel and we just have to pay. It’s killing our businesses.”
According to Mike Walwyn, Western Cape director for the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff), it isn’t necessarily demurrage that’s costing freight forwarders.
“Storage is the big thing at the moment.”
Explaining past events as lockdown delays resulted in cargo build-up, Walwyn said: “A lot of goods went into storage under shipping line control. Even if it wasn’t, freight forwarders had to put their goods into storage and wait for their clients to reopen”.
One bill he has seen, Walwyn said, came to R6 million.
“That’s not Mickey Mouse money.”
And although some lines, like MSC as indicated by Walwyn, are willing to reduce 'penalties' by up to 30%, freight forwarders are still feeling the weight of costs passed onto them without their having a say in the matter.
“Philosophically speaking we can ask government to help because they called for the lockdown after all. We all know though that they don’t have money. Of course we can try and force them to apply pressure through the Competition Commission but then lines might stop coming to this country altogether.”
As for the Commission offering a sole recourse for freight forwarders, there was no certainty about how soon they would be able to apply themselves to such matters since they had their hands full with PPE-related cases, Walwyn said.