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Cost savings to be made in port agency fees, claims independent

Oslo: As much as 3% of the $30bn spent by owners on port costs each year is potentially recoverable, according to DA-Desk, an independent port cost management company. The low-profile concern, which employs 325 staff at its global hub in Sharjah, has been quietly building its client base for the last eight years and now has 80 shipping company clients with 6,000 ships, manages an annual budget of $2.5bn involving 80,000 port calls and advances to 2,000 port agencies.

DA-Desk partner and director Jens Lorens Poulsen says it's time for a shake-up of the sector which he believes is fraught with potential conflicts of interest. Agents spend, control and account for owners' advances but disbursement accounts are only checked weeks or months after a ship has visited a particular port. The process is tedious and very time-consuming. "Agents have a fantastic business model," he says, pointing out that they are paid money in advance, accounting for it sometimes months later, telling owners what services cost and sometimes pocketing any available discounts themselves.

In contrast, DA-Desk is a fully transparent and independent service which is not controlled, either directly or indirectly by port agents, suppliers or shipping companies. "We can truly champion the principals' cause in dealing with port agents," he says. Its Sharjah staff are experts in port cost management and hold extensive data on services and costs in thousands of ports. Furthermore the company offers an effective alternative to bank transfers and poor exchange rates, often based on tourist rates when advances are made to agents. The company has a strategic alliance with Deutsche Bank in London and offers its customers favourable terms through low transfer fees and better forex rates. Shipowners can sign up for the service and be operational within three weeks. No software installation is required and training time is an hour or two per user. [10/06/09]

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