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Federation of ASEAN Shippers Councils 27th Annual General Meeting

12th September 2004

The 27th Annual General Meeting of the Federation of Asean Shippers’ Councils (FASC) was held in Singapore from 12-14 September 2004. Hosted by the Singapore National Shippers’ Council, it attracted over 60 delegates from 18 shippers’ councils representing 31 countries from Asia, America and Europe, making it the largest gathering of this nature.

Present were the FASC membership, namely Indonesian National Shippers’ Council, Malaysian National Shippers’ Council, Philippine Shippers’ Bureau, Singapore National Shippers’ Council and Thai National Shippers’ Council; associate members: Australian Peak Shippers’ Association representing also the Oceania Shippers’ Forum, China Shippers’ Association, Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, Korean Shippers’ Council, Macau Shipper’s Association, Shippers’ Council of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka Shippers’ Council; Pakistan Shippers’ Council and observers, Association of Shippers’ Councils of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (ASCOBIPS), the Japan Shippers’ Council, European Shippers’ Council and National Industrial Transportation League of the USA.

In the presence of the international shippers’ community, a milestone in the shippers’ movement in Asia was formed through the launching of Asian Shippers’ Council (ASC) by the Honourable Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Transport. She is optimistic that it is timely and most meaningful to have ASC as a platform among Asian shippers, for it is clear that Asia is emerging as a manufacturing, trading and maritime powerhouse in the global arena. ASC will serve as a forum for Asian shippers to discuss issues of interest to present and advocate an Asian view to the international community.

The ASC is composed of convenors representing the following regional groupings: ASCOBIPS, ASEAN, CHINA AREA, NORTH EAST ASIA and OCEANIA. The ASC elected Mr John Y Lu, as its inaugural Chairman and Mr Willy Lin as Vice Chairman. A Secretariat is established to assist the operations of ASC.

In spite of their diverse backgrounds, the shippers shared certain common issues which were discussed at length. Among the subjects covered were Ocean Freight markets, the Terminal Handling Charge (THC) and other Surcharges, Anti-trust Laws, Maritime Security, and Free Trade Agreements in East Asia.

The delegates were encouraged with the progress of European shippers towards bringing about regulatory changes, specifically Regulation 4056/86, that grants shipping lines immunity from competition rules and regulations. The 25-member European Liner Affairs Association (ELAA) has written to the European Commission expressing its members’ willingness to cede the right of shipping conferences on to fix freight rates, which has been welcome as a first step. However, ELAA has requested that shipping lines maintain the right to collectively set surcharges, which the meeting found unacceptable. FASC members’ agreed that they would continue to lobby with their respective governments in removing the anti-trust immunity for shipping, a privilege enjoyed by no other industry.

FASC believes that maritime liner conferences should undergo substantial changes. The system, as currently constituted is adverse to the interest and needs of industry and trade. Reforms need to be enacted which creates true economic partnerships between shippers and carriers that results in a market driven environment.

FASC members’ have been working to roll back THC to basic freight rate along with other surcharges which are constantly being imposed by the lines. The members’ agreed to continue pursuing the issue through their respective governments and international organisations, like The Federation of International Freight Forwarders Association (FIATA) the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), World Trade Organisation (WTO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) by recommending the incorporation of THC to the ocean freight to confirm with the International Commercial Terms (INCOTERMS).

The conference lines have failed to disclose the cost components of THC despite the dialogues with them. The shipping lines continue to refrain from sharing the cost figures with shippers.

The meeting also discussed at length the ongoing terrorist threats, and the mounting concern amongst governments and security experts that ships and containers could be the next target. FASC members’ shared this concern and would work with authorities in bringing about measures to enhance security, compatible with the movement of cargoes. However,

the meeting emphasised that each party in the supply chain should bear its own costs, as all parties benefit from these security measures.

The FASC supports common and compatible measures that are effective in securing the world’s ocean based supply chain. The FASC members strongly endorsed the goals of enhancing security while balancing the need to maintain a free flow of commerce globally.

The FASC acknowledged the statement of Minister Lim Hwee Hwa and we quote “Enhancing the security of our ports and ships is very important, but these measures will not be adequate unless we secure the entire supply chain in a holistic manner. This begins with looking at how the cargo is assembled, packaged and placed into containers and how the containers are transported across the world, to the final discharge of the goods”.

The meeting rounded off with expressions of support for the Global Shippers’ Forum, which allows shippers’ council from across the world to exchange views and develop strategies on a common platform.

The new elected Chairman of FASC is Dr Suardi Zen of Indonesian National Shippers’ Council and Dato’ Mah Siew Keong of Malaysian National Shippers’ Council as its Vice Chairman.

The meeting accepted the offer of Indonesian National Shippers’ Council to host the 28th FASC AGM in 2005.

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