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Wilhelmsen Ships Service set up Suez Canal transit team to cut costs, confusion

Wilhelmsen Ships Service set up Suez Canal transit team to cut costs, confusion
Wilhelmsen Ships Service (WSS) has established a dedicated “local transit team” at its office in the historic Egyptian port city of Alexandria to help clients navigate the nearby Suez Canal and its complex rebate system.

The Norway-based global maritime agency will staff the Alexandria office 24/7 with agents it says boast an “intimate knowledge of the workings of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA)” and how ship owners/operators can best benefit from a rebate system it describes as “stringent, yet generous”.

Seatrade Maritime News has unveiled two toll sweeteners offered to VLCCs recently as the SCA looks to recoup the $8bn cost of a new 72km Suez Canal widening project inaugurated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in August 2015.

The discounts are a response to increased competition from the newly expanded Panama Canal and to coax back vessels which have otherwise veered away from the Suez and its tolls by sailing the long way around the Cape of Good Hope.

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WSS says the widened Suez Canal, designed to double daily traffic and increase annual revenue to more than $13bn by 2023, has cut vessel waiting times from 11 to three hours.

SCA rebates typically range between 5% and 35% dependant on an array of route and cargo variables. The biggest savings of up to 65% are available to container vessels trading between ports south of Norfolk, Virginia in the US and ports lying to the east of Port Kelang, Malaysia, WSS says.

However, Steffen Langlete, WSS’s Ship Agency product manager, says the incentives often go unclaimed due to the complex SCA system which is calculated on a case-by-case basis and also subject to factors such as freight rates, hire rates and bunker prices.

WSS cites the example of a recent client with a 38,000 dwt general cargo vessel which it helped cut $50,000 from the original $180,000 transit fee.

“Loading in Huelva, Spain and discharging in Fangscheng, China, this considerable rebate could have, and often does go, unclaimed by customers unable or unaware of the paperwork and timings required by the SCA,” Langlete said.

“This is a great scheme with huge potential benefits but if shippers forget to apply at the right time, or fail to submit the correct papers, their rebates may not be forthcoming and, in an era of tight margins and pressure on costs, this can be a heavy price to pay.”

“It’s hard to stay on top of everything and that’s why we’ve created this expert team. It’s a service that meets a genuine market need and will greatly assist all our customers passing through this fundamentally important trading channel.”

The team matches a WSS transit team working the Panama Canal with similar, already established relationships with port authorities and security companies, WSS says.

WSS has more than 30 years of experience in the Suez Canal focused on helping clients with slot bookings, pilotage, bunkering and husbandry services. Its new Alexandria transit team will work in tandem with 200 agents employed across seven offices in Egypt, including 260km to the west at Port Said, the Mediterranean mouth of the Suez Canal, and at Port Suez at the Red Sea end of the newly expanded canal.

WSS is part of Wilhelmsen Maritime Services, a network of 4,500 marine professionals servicing 2,200 ports in 125 countries.