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Cruiseship agents are in uproar over a decision by the Singapore Cruise Centre to charge ships an additional docking fee of 10 times the usual amount if they are forced to berth at container terminals due to congestion.
Singapore-based cruise line agents were informed officially a week ago of hefty new service charges to be levied in the October 2009 to April 2010 cruise season on vessels that will have to call at PSA’s container terminals due to lack of space during busy periods at the cruise centre.
The fee was not stated in the letter to agents informing them of the new charges, but agents who have enquired were told it would be an additional S$3,600 ($2,587) per hour, compared with S$340 per hour docking charges previously.
Singapore Shipping Association cruise sub-committee chairman Frankie Tan said they were concerned that both the service charge was very high, and it was being implemented immediately.
Mr Tan said it would affect the costs of cruise lines that had already published their programme for the next season and budgeted for their costs. International cruise lines normally plan their itineraries at least one year in advance.
The new higher fees will affect 19 ships scheduled to call at the Singapore Cruise Centre between now and April 2010. An average call of 12 hours for an affected vessel would cost an estimated average additional amount of S$41,392.
The Costa Classica, due to stay in port in Singapore for 34 hours, will pay an estimated additional S$107,644 on top of the original docking fee of $14,756. In total the 19 affected calls are expected to cost an additional S$789,399.
The cruise centre has given no reason as to why the additional fees are being levied and the SSA expressed grave concerns over the lack of consistency of transparency of fees being charged for vessels calling at third party berths.
“It would be a shame if a lack of transparency irreparably damages Singapore’s reputation and credibility after all the work that has gone into developing Singapore as an International Maritime Centre and cruise hub,” said SSA president SS Teo.
Mr Tan called for the fee to be postponed until at least next year to give cruise lines time to decide if they wanted to make alternative arrangements.
Cruise line agents said it was too early to gauge the reaction of cruise lines although they are expected to be unhappy about the charges and unwilling to accept such a large additional charge.
“Cruiseship operators may decide to divert their ships to other ports in the region in view of their lower costs,” said Mr Teo.
The Singapore Cruise Centre is the only licensed cruise terminal operator in the city state, and Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore does not allow cruiseships to anchor for passengers to be brought ashore by tenders.
Singapore’s second cruise terminal, which broke ground last week, will not be operational until the end of 2011. Cruiseship passenger arrivals in Singapore have grown by 20% this year and are expected to pass the 1m mark before year end.