Premier: Port fee increase ‘minimal’
A tax increase at ports will have a “very minimal effect” on expenses for wholesalers importing goods, Premier Paula Cox stressed yesterday.
Distributor Butterfield & Vallis, and both Opposition parties, have criticised the rise in wharfage fees from 1.1 percent to 1.25 percent introduced by the Customs Tariff Amendment Act, which they say will add to the cost of food and other goods.
However, Finance Minister Ms Cox yesterday said wholesalers will now no longer have to pay port dues they were required to pay the Corporation of Hamilton under the previous system.
She said the new wharfage fee had been calculated with that in mind.
“The increase includes both wharfage and port dues that the municipalities used to collect,” said Ms Cox via her press secretary yesterday.
“All that was done was to replicate this as close as possible. The wholesalers are not recognising that going forward they will not have to incur port dues expenses.”
Under the Municipalities Reform Act, passed last summer, Government takes over the Corporation's power to levy wharfage for imports and exports, as well as port dues.
“The bill last week replaced a charge levied by a port owner/operator local authority by a charge imposed by the central government,” added Ms Cox.
“The bill introduces a separately identifiable normalised charge to duty with its own exemptions.
“Such a charge has the dual benefit of replicating the repealed wharfage and port dues as far as reasonable. There should be only very minimal effect on cost attributed to this change.”
United Bermuda Party MP Grant Gibbons had raised concerns about the increased wharfage fee during the Customs Tariff debate in the House of Assembly last Wednesday.
Butterfield & Vallis, and Bermuda Democratic Alliance chairman Michael Fahy added their criticisms in yesterday's newspaper; Ms Cox was contacted for an explanation about the increase on Tuesday but responded after yesterday's article was published.