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Gdansk terminal and intermodal operator at odds over extra rail fee

Rail freight customers of the port of Gdansk may have noticed it: a dispute between deepsea terminal DCT and operator PCC Intermodal. The disagreement is about the additional for rail freight operators. According to PCC, this fee is illegitimate and discourages the use of rail.
“We regret to inform you, that despite the attempts made to amicably resolve the dispute between intermodal operators (represented by Polish International Freight Forwarders Association) and DCT Gdańsk, unfortunately no agreement has been reached in respect of DCT’s collection of the so-called ‘manipulation fee for railway service”, PCC Intermodal informs its customers.

It points out that, starting from 1 May 2020, an additional fee will be charged for every transport order to or from DCT Gdańsk. This is “equal to the amount of the ‘manipulation fee for railway service’ applied by DCT”. Until now, the operator had not applied this fee to its customers, as it had refused to be charged the rail freight fee by the port operator.

What happened?

What happened between these two reputable players on the Polish intermodal market? It all started in early 2019, when according to DCT, two intermodal operators stopped paying the rail freight fee that “has been included in DCT’s standard tariff since 2008”.

“The rail service management fee is charged for a number of services performed by our employees for intermodal operators, for the handling of railway wagons (services such as preparation of the loading plan, setting up of lashing pins on wagons, etc)”, DCT comments.

What changed, is that in April 2019 DCT indicated in the public tariff examples of the activities performed as part of the railway services, according to the terminal operator. Moreover, the fees increased over the years. “Since 1 January 2019, the basic rail management fee has been 4.60 Euros per TEU, with surcharges applied for work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.” These surcharges were introduced in 2018.

Unusual charges

According to PCC Intermodal, the additional fees for rail freight operators are not applied at any other container terminals in European ports, where transshipment costs are covered in the Terminal Handling Charges (THC) alone.

“DCT argues that THC collected by shipping lines, covers 100 per cent of transshipment costs for ship – terminal yard – truck or vice versa, and only 95 per cent of these costs for ship – terminal yard – train or vice versa.

“Our belief is that all costs connected with the transhipment of the container to any inland transport mode are duly covered by shipping lines and settled under the THC. And there is no difference between a container arriving or departing to or from DCT by train or by truck.”

Unreasonable reward

“PCC Intermodal, just as the vast majority of intermodal operators, finds the ‘manipulation fee for railway service’ an unreasonable and undue reward collected by DCT Gdańsk S.A. and an overt discrimination of intermodal transport by the only deep-water terminal in Poland”, it writes.

What adds to the dismay of the company, is that DCT Gdańsk has received significant support from EU funds for the development of terminal rail infrastructure. “On the one hand they take subsidies for the development of environment-friendly transport modes, while on the other hand they discriminate rail transport by charging an additional fee to intermodal operators”, a spokesperson said.

Court decision

During the months of dispute, customers were not affected, as operations continued as usual. However, as DCT was seeking payment from PCC and the parties were not able to get closer to an agreement, the terminal operator eventually filed a lawsuit in court. “By an appealable judgment of 17 March 2020 (file ref. IX GC 635/19) this court confirmed the legitimacy of DCT’s collection of a rail management fee for our rail services and ordered PCC Intermodal S.A. to pay the overdue amount in full, together with interest and costs.”
The judgment is not final and PCC announces an appeal against the court’s decision.

The decision led however the intermodal operator to include the fee in its own tariffs, albeit “visible as a separate position on our invoices”. But, the operator assures, the additional fee will be removed from the tariff “as soon as DCT Gdańsk withdraws from collecting the so-called manipulation fee from intermodal operators”.

RailFreight Summit Poznan

At the RailFreight Summit Poznan, the competitiveness of the ports is among the topics on the agenda. During a panel discussion, the advantages of the port of Gdansk, Hamburg and Rotterdam will be discussed. The deep-sea terminal of DCT will be represented by Marcin Kamola.

Registration for this event is open now.

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