U.S. shippers side with Canadians in protest of inspection fees
Canadian shipping companies aren't the only ones rallying against increased inspection fees proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Since CBC News first reported the department wants to raise the fee for agricultural quarantine and inspection services of ships from $496 to $825 US per inspection, it has learned several U.S. companies also oppose the proposed fee increase.
The United States Department of Agricultural Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says the increase is needed to recover costs of performing the inspections that are designed to find contaminants, pests, invasive species and non-compliant packaging, among other things.
The USDA is also proposing the elimination of the annual fee cap of charging a maximum of 15 times per vessel.
Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S. vessels on the Great Lakes.
The freighters carry raw materials such as iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, aggregate and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation, as well as salt, sand and grain.
"Some of those American vessels do return from Canada more than 15 times per year, so the cost to the industry would top $200,000 US," the association wrote in a letter to the USDA, opposing the fees.
Both the Lake Carriers’ Association and Chamber of Marine Commerce state their dry bulk cargoes would be unlikely to nurture invasive pests.
"We applaud the Department of Agriculture’s efforts to stop invasive species and diseases from entering our country via imported plants and animals," the Lake Carriers’ Association wrote. "Our industry likewise shares that commitment and even though our members’ vessels never trade beyond the Great Lakes, they employ a number of best management practices to limit the potential that their ballast water might spread a non-indigenous species brought to the Lakes in the ballast water on a vessel entering from the oceans."
The Chamber of Marine Commerce's estimates increased inspection costs for Canadian ships could more than double under the new rules and puts Canadian shipping companies at a disadvantage.
“They are unjustified on the grounds of environmental risk and would make Canadian Great Lakes vessels less competitive against U.S. Great Lakes ships carrying the same products in the same waters," the chamber's president, Stephen Brooks, said in a media release.
However, Laura M. Blades, director of public affairs of the American Great Lakes Ports Association, says U.S. shippers could have it just as bad if the fee increase is approved.
"Stephen Brooks’ quote infers that the USDA’s proposed fee hike and cap elimination impacts only Canadian vessels. That is false," she wrote in an email to CBC News. "The proposal would not affect the competitive nature of U.S./Canadian vessels carrying the same products in the same waters since all vessels would be affected by the fee increase."
The increase only affects U.S. ships transporting cargo from Canada to the U.S.
U.S. ships travelling from a American port to American port — from Duluth, Minn., to Detroit for example — are exempt.
"The commercial vessel user fee is not applicable to a vessel that travels from a U.S. port of entry to a U.S. port of entry," Marelis M Sanchez of the USDA wrote in an email to CBC News.
The commercial vessel user fee must be paid by any international ship, including Canadian ones, upon arrival at a port of entry into the customs territory of the United States.
The United States Department of Agricultural Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says the increase is needed to recover costs of performing the inspections.
The fee increases were proposed in April. A final ruling is expected in December.
As of June 13, a coalition of more than 30 organizations, including the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opposes the proposed fees.