Chilean fruit exporters have filed a lawsuit for a “systematic succession of abuses” before the Court of Defense of Free Competition (TDLC) against the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), it was reported in Santiago.
Allegedly the world’s largest shipping company, MSC has been accused by 23 Chilean fruit exporting companies of deliberately delaying shipments and applying extra charges resulting in losses of US$ 38 million. The fruit growers claim they have experienced a “continuous and systematic succession of abuses” during the 2021-2022 export season.
According to Diario Financiero, the lawsuit details practices such as deliberate cargo delays and unjustified charges by the shipping company, which affected 994 containers on more than 20 different routes, representing some 16,000 tons of fruit.
The products affected by these alleged practices are mainly blueberries, it was also explained. But apples, pears, grapes, and citrus fruits were also reported to have been dented to varying degrees.
The lawyers representing the Chilean companies said their clients booked their cargo slots months in advance of the export season, but once maritime rates began to rise due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the shipping company decided to prioritize other routes, thus setting aside previous engagements.
“MSC, leveraged on the contracts it had closed, and with the certainty that it would continue to obtain the income from such contracts, deliberately chose to exploit other businesses to the detriment of our clients, altering the routes and the number of stops on the routes required by them, which it was able to do without any counterweight or risk of being disciplined, only because of the captive situation in which they found themselves,” argued the fruit exporters through their legal advisers.
The company also charged the fruit companies for over-stays in the ports of destination (congestion surcharges), which the legal counselors insist were already applied in advance, even without the certainty that they would take place.
The other extra cost stemmed from each additional day that the container remained beyond the allotted time in the port (demurrage charge). In this regard, the companies maintain that these charges were applied when the goods were “in MSC’s custody and could not be released at the ports of destination as a result of its own illegitimate delay.”
According to DF, the lawsuit requests that MSC be prevented from repeating this conduct, in addition to other corrective measures and fines.