Trade director refutes claims of imminent shipping shutdown due to rising fuel prices

Mathan Walter

Trade director Matthan Walter denies claims made in a video circulating on social media that major shipping companies will be grounded in the next two weeks due to rising fuel prices, making import difficult for the countries of the region.

Walter, in a statement on Monday, told the Dominicans there was no need to worry and they would be adequately cared for nutritionally.

“I want to say that’s just scaremongering,” he said. “If we have to talk about some of the products that he talked about in his recording, that is, rice and sugar, because of the CSME [CARICOM Single Market and Economy] arrangements we have, we import [the] most of our rice from Guyana and our sugar also from Guyana and lately Belize so our rice and sugar don’t come from too far away.

Walter acknowledged that there are shipping companies that use low sulfur fuel. He explained that the fuel contains 0.5% sulfur content and many commercial ships use this fuel and it is breaking records.

“You will see numbers indicating that it will cost around $1,042 a ton now, double the price a year ago to move produce from certain markets to the region,” the trade official explained.

However, he indicated that many of the ships or ships that go on very long trips have what are called scrubbers, and these scrubbers allow them to use the high sulfur fuel which is much cheaper and use it in a way that has less impact impact on the environment.

“It becomes a saving for the shipowner himself,” Walter said.

Therefore, he said, the sadness and misfortune reflected in the recording made should not be taken at face value at all.

“The content in it brings fear and it’s unwarranted fear,” he remarked. “There will always be during this time for more than one reason what they call supply site dislocations which will sometimes delay the receipt of some of the products needed to make the lives of our citizens more comfortable, but the ships do not move because of high fuel prices, that is not true.

Walter pointed out that although the price of fuel is high, there are ways to deal with this situation.

“For example, high prices, how come ship owners and operators are going to deal with that? They pass it on to freight shippers with a lag effect via what are called bunker adjustment factors and these adjustment factors will be added to existing contracted rates,” he explained.

Also, he said the ships will move but pass on some of the costs with some lag to those they are contracted to.

Meanwhile, according to Walter, Dominicans will continue to benefit from the importation of products that will keep them comfortable and the government is working diligently to move in a way that allows for local investment that would promote local production, in agricultural products and agro-processed products.