What Is a Bunker Charge?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 May 2020
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A bunker charge is a type of sea freight charge that is normally imposed with any type of international shipping of goods from one country to the next. The charge basically has to do with the actual loading of the goods into the hold or bunker of the transport vessel, and is considered to cover the costs of not only the loading but also the storage of the goods in the bunker for the duration of the trip. Typically, sellers or exporters will bundle this cost into the total amount charged to the buyer or importer.

The rationale for assessing a bunker charge is normally based on the added operational expenses that the shipper takes on in order to transport the goods. The weight of the goods is understood to lead to higher fuel consumption, which in turn increases the costs of operating the ship. This particular aspect of the rationale for the bunker charge is known as a fuel adjustment factor. In addition, the amount of space that the goods take up in the bunker mean that other goods cannot be transported within that same space.

Calculation of the bunker charge will often include consideration of several different variables. The distance from the port of origin to the port of destination will come into play, since traveling that distance does involve the consumption of fuel. In addition, the weight of the goods being shipped, as well as the total amount of space taken by the goods, will have some impact on the amount of charges assessed. The nature of the goods, and any special precautions that must be taken in handling and storing the goods, will also have an influence on the final amount of the charges.

In many nations, trade laws address how a bunker charge may be assessed, with some being very strict in terms of the use of specific formulas for the task while other nations require only general guidelines that leave a great deal to the discretion of the shipping line. Since the laws impacting the calculation of the bunker charge will vary, it is often a good idea to check with shipping officers in the country of origin regarding the current status of regulations having to do with this type of charge. Doing so helps buyers to have some idea of what to expect and can consider this element of the purchase and shipment along with other factors in order to decide if the purchase is really the best option.

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