Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government should enforce a limit on sea port charges charged by service providers to help reduce the high cost that traders, in particular importers, have had to bear for far too long, a discussion heard Thursday.
The seminar, organized by Senada the USAID-backed non-profit agency, revealed that service firms operating in the Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta for example -- including forwarding and stevedoring providers as well as storage operators -- had allegedly colluded to fix prices.
This alleged pricing ring "has undermined an agreement" on the guidelines for service charges on imported goods for the less-than-container-load (LCL) category of shipments, resulting in "high costs" for importers using services at the port's line two, said Exporter-Importer Association chairwoman Amalia Achyar.
"Many components of service charges are still unclear, and are not part of the agreement, but suddenly appear," Amalia said.
The port's line two serves imported and exported goods with LCL status -- a status given for categories of goods owned by more than one business and shipped in shared containers.
Amalia said that based on her study, more than Rp 1.45 trillion could be saved annually from the amount now spent on port services used by companies in Jakarta, West Java and Banten alone if the agreement could be properly implemented and efficiency maintained.
The agreement was made in 2007 following negotiations among service providers and users, including a forwarder association and exporter and importer associations.
Sharing Amalia's sentiments, Bonded Zone Employers Association secretary Ade R. Sudrajat said the high costs had been a burden on importers, which had low bargaining power in relation to service providers, as overseas exporters had usually already chosen a service provider for their shipments.
"As a consequence, importers have no other choice but to pay all the charges (demanded) to get their goods unloaded, or else have their goods held up at the port," she said.
Taufik Achmad, a Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) member, said government intervention was necessary to help enforce the pricing agreement and to guarantee no "abuse of power" by service providers.
"The government must fix maximum service charges at sea ports in a regulation and detail the components of the charges because it knows at what level the business can be run, without exploiting consumers," he said.
"If a business is found to have imposed charges above the limit, it would be in violation of a government regulation and can then be dismissed from the Tanjung Priok port."
In response however, Transportation Ministry director general of sea transportation Sunaryo said the government would permit agreed charges to service providers and users, as stipulated under the 2008 Law on Sea Transportation.