rotterdambarges © Mishkacz
© Mishkacz

Barge operator Contargo has imposed an “emergency surcharge” of €25 ($27.4) per container, blaming the surging cost of fuel linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .

Its latest figures put wait times for inland services into Rotterdam at more than three days, while shippers in Antwerp are waiting some 40 hours to receive shipments.

Contargo said: “The substantial increases in the price of gasoil, diesel and electricity present our hinterland network and service providers with great financial challenges.

“To be able to maintain our accustomed service, we will introduce an emergency surcharge that will apply for all combinations of barge, rail and truck, as well as truck delivery without a Contargo main run, of €25 per full or empty container.”

It said the charge would apply until further notice and be levied in addition to existing bunker and diesel surcharges.

Furthermore, the operator said, full containers handled at its terminals without barge, rail or truck transport provided by Contargo would be subject to a “special surcharge” of €3 ($3.29) per box, adding: “If further major changes take place in the next few days, we will re-assess the situation.”

One industry insider told The Loadstar they were “not surprised”, describing the combination of additional charges and worsening services as normal practice in recent years.

The source added that the port of Antwerp’s decision to expand its left bank to accommodate an extra 4m teu would only add to congestion along north Europe’s inland waterways.

“Inland waterway operations will continue to see worsening congestion unless the terminals start to allocate dedicated berthing slots, cranes and labour to handle inland navigation. Terminals still work on a ‘first clear then enter’ rule, meaning that barge shipments are refused unless the shipping company first clears equivalent teu from storage.”

But the source added: “And again, nobody cares; the terminals bill the extended storage cost, the container carriers bill the cargo demurrage and the cargo owner bills the end user.”

The source believed politicians, and barge and terminal operators “found Ukraine helpful cover” to avoid facing the reality that business and governance failures are leading to price increases, adding: “Inflation in Belgium is going up to 8% and in the Netherlands it will climb to 10%, but when consumers remark on this, politicians and businesses conveniently position Ukraine as the reason.”

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