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Ferry freight rate increase create controversy

by Tomeika Jeffrey

Local merchants are seeking a new revised ferry freight rate that is economical and comparatively competitive with rates of other cargo vessels.

Both Government and private business owners have agreed last week to meet by mid-July, in hopes of settling the long brewing controversy, with an outcome favourable to both parties.

The discussion was prompted by a letter published in The Montserrat Reporter early February (see February 3 issue), where private business entrepreneur Mr. Kenny Cassell expressed outrage at the going ferry freight rate. In the letter, he claims the rates are too high and not comparatively competitive with other freight rates throughout the region and that of the previous vessel, Miss Kenya which shipped cargo to Montserrat at a charge of $5.00 per cu. ft. before its halt in January 2012.

Access Coordinator in the Department of Communications and Works explained that, the ferry freight was reduced earlier this year to make the freight charges economical to local merchants; however the rates were set to be too high.

Mr. Martin explained that one factor which accounts for the present freight rate, stems from the ferry design. Unlike the Kenya Vessel, the ferry was not designed for boarding cargo shipment, so to facilitate the shipment of cargo; more labour may need to be recruited to facilitate the boarding of cargo. Nonetheless he is confident that the matter “will be resolved at our next meeting.”

Meanwhile Management believes that individuals are not fully aware of the other charges cargo shipment incurs more so in this particular situation.

There are a number of surcharges to be considered when considering the freight rate. Consideration must be given to the point of laden and country of export and in the case of the Montserrat ferry, which was contracted to transport passengers, addition labour charge may be applied. Other charges may include loading charges and individual billing charge.

He revealed that a given freight rate may fluctuate with shipment. When there is a large quantity of cargo the rate may fall and it is the reverse when there is less cargo.

In his letter to the newspaper, Mr. Cassell laid out what he believes to be a resolution to the issue.

He stated in his letter “We understand a new ferry is being built for Montserrat. It would be smart for the designer to take into account our freight requirements. But that would only be part of the equation. The ferry must also have competitive rates.  What is dramatically worse is the increase from EC$5 per cu. ft. to EC$15.00 per cu. ft. Absolute madness! No one in their right mind would now use the ferry to bring their cargo.”

“The above figures speak for themselves. Montserrat has no interest in earning any revenue from freight on the ferry! We would be satisfied with whatever we can get by carrying passengers even if we have to heavily subsidize the operation!” according to Mr. Cassell.

Finally on Wednesday, Minister Kirnon revealed, that following meeting with the members of Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association and after discussions within his ministry the rates for shipping cargo on the ferry will be reduced from $10.00 per cubic foot to $5.00 per cubic foot.

The decision came as no surprise as our investigation revealed from at least one source, that funding for the ferry includes all handling.

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by Tomeika Jeffrey

Local merchants are seeking a new revised ferry freight rate that is economical and comparatively competitive with rates of other cargo vessels.

Both Government and private business owners have agreed last week to meet by mid-July, in hopes of settling the long brewing controversy, with an outcome favourable to both parties.

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The discussion was prompted by a letter published in The Montserrat Reporter early February (see February 3 issue), where private business entrepreneur Mr. Kenny Cassell expressed outrage at the going ferry freight rate. In the letter, he claims the rates are too high and not comparatively competitive with other freight rates throughout the region and that of the previous vessel, Miss Kenya which shipped cargo to Montserrat at a charge of $5.00 per cu. ft. before its halt in January 2012.

Access Coordinator in the Department of Communications and Works explained that, the ferry freight was reduced earlier this year to make the freight charges economical to local merchants; however the rates were set to be too high.

Mr. Martin explained that one factor which accounts for the present freight rate, stems from the ferry design. Unlike the Kenya Vessel, the ferry was not designed for boarding cargo shipment, so to facilitate the shipment of cargo; more labour may need to be recruited to facilitate the boarding of cargo. Nonetheless he is confident that the matter “will be resolved at our next meeting.”

Meanwhile Management believes that individuals are not fully aware of the other charges cargo shipment incurs more so in this particular situation.

There are a number of surcharges to be considered when considering the freight rate. Consideration must be given to the point of laden and country of export and in the case of the Montserrat ferry, which was contracted to transport passengers, addition labour charge may be applied. Other charges may include loading charges and individual billing charge.

He revealed that a given freight rate may fluctuate with shipment. When there is a large quantity of cargo the rate may fall and it is the reverse when there is less cargo.

In his letter to the newspaper, Mr. Cassell laid out what he believes to be a resolution to the issue.

He stated in his letter “We understand a new ferry is being built for Montserrat. It would be smart for the designer to take into account our freight requirements. But that would only be part of the equation. The ferry must also have competitive rates.  What is dramatically worse is the increase from EC$5 per cu. ft. to EC$15.00 per cu. ft. Absolute madness! No one in their right mind would now use the ferry to bring their cargo.”

“The above figures speak for themselves. Montserrat has no interest in earning any revenue from freight on the ferry! We would be satisfied with whatever we can get by carrying passengers even if we have to heavily subsidize the operation!” according to Mr. Cassell.

Finally on Wednesday, Minister Kirnon revealed, that following meeting with the members of Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association and after discussions within his ministry the rates for shipping cargo on the ferry will be reduced from $10.00 per cubic foot to $5.00 per cubic foot.

The decision came as no surprise as our investigation revealed from at least one source, that funding for the ferry includes all handling.