Australian Businesses must get advice before paying ‘Priority Shipping Fees’ introduced by shipping companies

By Brian Hack, EES Shipping 

As much as I’d like to be talking to you about settling into a calm ‘new normal’ in the world of the international shipping industry, sadly the only thing we can predict is how unpredictable things will be!

As ports around the world continue to grapple with quarantines, working from home and shutdowns, the delays which we’ve been experiencing for many months now are to some degree inevitable.

While we’re living a relatively COVID-free existence here in Australia, most countries around the world are still very much facing a live situation.

We get a false sense of security here in Australia because we’re predominantly out of lockdowns, but in other ports, they are still dealing with staff working from home and sanitation issues, so the usual procedures are still compromised.

Container shortages experienced in 2020 are still a major issue facing importers and exporters around the world.

These shortages are impacting industries across the board Taking Malaysia as an example, the world’s biggest manufacturer of medical gloves. Although the shortage has eased slightly, exporters were still facing delays of up to five weeks to get products where they needed to be.

And in Malaysia, like the majority of other countries, more boxes don’t necessarily mean more spots on vessels for those boxes.

The trap for Australian importers and businesses – and one I think it’s important to warn you about - is the lack of space on vessels isn’t stopping some lines from offering what they’re calling ‘sea priority fees’.

What exactly is a ‘sea priority fee’? Well let’s look at it like this.

You as the customer may get told, ‘if you don’t pay this fee your next possible sailing is in five weeks but if you pay this fee, you’ll probably get it in the next two weeks’.

Sounds good right? Well sure, in theory it’s good. But just because you’ve paid the money doesn’t actually mean the shipping lines can guarantee you that time frame.

You’re still beholden to how quickly they can move things around, whatever room they have available and what terms and conditions you’ve signed up to.

Shipping lines can’t just magic vessels or containers out of nowhere, so if you’re being asked to pay this fee it’s important to get advice as to whether what they’re offering is realistic.

Australian businesses need to understand delays in international shipping are still suffering the hangover from 2020 and consider the reality of the situation before parting with more money:

  • The black swan shipping delays can’t magically resolve themselves: We’re still very much seeing the problems across the globe as we were in late 2020.
  • Terms and conditions still apply: Even if you pay a fee for rushed service, you’re still at the mercy of the shipping lines.

You might be thinking, dealing with these kinds of delays must be incredibly frustrating. And you’d be right. At EES Shipping, we understand the frustration many are feeling because of the delays but there is not a whole heap that can be done to speed things up. Which is why it’s so vital you make sure you get good advice before you put your hand in your wallet.

Moving boxes around can sound like a simple thing, and lines offering these kinds of extra fees are banking on you not having the kind of insider knowledge you’ll get when you get advice from freight companies.

Like we talked about in ‘How 2020 Has Affected the Shipping Industry it can be confusing to see ships leaving a destination wondering ‘why couldn’t my container be on any of those ships?’.

But it doesn’t work like that because your container could be for MSC or Maersk, so it has to go on an MSC or Maersk ship. Just like you can’t buy an Emirates ticket and use it to fly on Singapore Airlines.

You’re flat out running a business, and delays can impact your bottom line so it can be tempting to think ‘oh it’s only a few more hundred dollars’ if someone is waving a solution at you. But you have to be guaranteed of that solution. Read the fine print, make sure you’re not wasting your money and if you can’t be sure, we’re always happy to help.

For more information about the content of this article, pelase contact Brian Hack of EES Shipping at

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