Exporters pan new export fees
Some cargo shipments will be delayed till AOT explains
On the eve of the opening of Suvarnabhumi Airport, a major row has broken out between exporters, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT) concerning plans to impose a shipment fee on all exporters using the new airport.
Some exporters say they will suspend air-cargo shipments from tomorrow until next week while they await a clear answer from AOT on its proposed surcharge.
Aqua Thai Export president Bumroong Theragul said yesterday that his company had postponed the export of 40 tonnes of fish by a week, because of the shipment fee. He called on AOT to revise its plan to create additional charges on exporters and write a new policy to manage the customs-free zone.
With the new airport due officially to open for full commercial services tomorrow, exporters say they will be in trouble if the airport management insists on collecting the new fees.
Joining the exporters, the Thai Chamber of Commerce called on AOT to cancel the service charge, because it would be a high burden and reduce exporters' competitiveness.
The AOT says it will collect a shipment fee from all exporters of Bt1 per kilogram of cargo. Exporters faced no such surcharge at the old Don Muang Airport. AOT says it will also
collect a Bt400 fee per person from vehicles entering the customs-free zone. It has not explained the conditions applying to this fee.
"We [exporters] must shoulder higher costs but get no benefit in return," said chamber representatives, who joined with the Thai Airfreight Forwarders' Association, the Thai Fruit and Vegetable Producers' Association, the Thai Orchid Exporters' Association and the Fish and Aqua Plants Exporters' Association in demanding urgent consideration of their request by AOT.
They said four letters had been sent to AOT since June.
"AOT should clarify why it needs to collect the surcharge, because the cost of the new airport is financed by the government," said Pornsilp Patcharintanakul, deputy secretary-general of the Board of Trade.
Thai Airfreight Forwarders' Association chairman Kovit Thanyarattakul said that going by the weight of cargo currently being shipped by air, the surcharge would cost exporters Bt1.1 billion.
"The costs of the shipment operation should not be higher than Bt200 million a year," he said.
Thai Fruit and Vegetable Producers' Association president Chusak Chuenprayoth said the move from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi would increase exporters' costs by 30 per cent, mainly because of oil prices.
The new airport will officially open tomorrow. A total of 350 domestic and international flights are scheduled to use the airport in the 24 hours from midnight tonight.
Flights will begin with the landing of a Lufthansa cargo flight from Frankfurt and Bombay at 3.05am, followed by a Japan Airlines passenger flight. The first departure will be a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight for Riyadh at 5am.
Kuwait Airways will be the last operator using Don Muang Airport. Its flight from Jakarta will arrive at Don Muang at 1.30am and depart again - the final departure - for Kuwait at 2.50am.
Airport director Somchai Sawasdeepon said that since Suvarnabhumi's soft launch on September 15, the number of flights using the airport has grown to about 100 per day. Problems encountered by airlines so far have been "tiny" and able to be overcome.
Yesterday, the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy inspected the airport and confirmed its full readiness for commercial operations.