Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Port Rates Reversal Comes Too Late For Some Shipping And Logistics Companies

Lord Bates Praised for 'An Outbreak of Common Sense' by BIFA
Shipping News Feature

UK – The news comes that Lord Bates, formerly Shadow Minister for Communities and opposition spokesman has confirmed in the media that he intends to push through the abolition of back dated port rate bills. Although the news will be welcomed by those with port side freight handling and storage facilities, the scandalous situation outlined in our article in March, with landlords charging excessive increases they have not paid and others paying up demands that now would be shelved if outstanding, will leave a bad taste in the mouths of many who have paid up, or worse still, gone under.

In 2009 the Valuation Office Agency, an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs, unilaterally and without consultation, decided that port companies had been undercharged for their business rates. In a controversial move, it subsequently backdated rates bills to April 2005. Companies in the sector were thought to have faced demands totalling £50 million in backdated demands.

According to British International Freight Association (BIFA) Director General, Peter Quantrill, the move signals a welcome break for Britain’s hard-pressed international freight sector.

Mr Quantrill says: “The fact that the new government has pledged to make scrapping this iniquitous demand a high priority means that Westminster has removed the sword of Damocles from some businesses at Britain’s ports and allows them to concentrate on what they want them to do – facilitate Britain’s import and export freight movements.

“These backdated demands threatened businesses in the UK’s ports with retrospective rates bills totalling millions of pounds. Several companies have failed after being presented with these draconian costs and others faced seven-figure sums that threatened to put them out of business.

“This move is a welcome break for some BIFA members and others in the freight sector working tirelessly to bring goods to the UK and take our valuable exports worldwide. As the leading trade association for UK freight forwarders, we are non-political but that does not mean we hold back from praising the government, of any hue, when it works to support the facilitation of international trade.”