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By Agnes E. Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 14) - Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and Guam consumers may expect increases in the cost of goods shipped from the West Coast, with both shipping companies posing to raise their rates starting June.

Horizon Lines announced increases in its shipping rates, weeks after its only competitor in the West Coast-Saipan route issued notice of its own rate hikes.

On April 21, Matson Navigation Co. Inc. announced increases in its container shipping rates, terminal handling charges, and moving vehicle rates for the CNMI and Guam.

Horizon followed suit last week, filing a general rate increase with the Surface Transportation Board for freight moving to and from Guam and the CNMI’s three main islands.

Matson and Horizon are now the only two companies shipping goods from the West Coast to the CNMI. This came after PM&O Line Shipping terminated its operations between the West Coast and Saipan early this year due to low tonnage.

Matson’s rate increases will take effect on June 6 while Horizon’s will be effective the following day.

Like Matson, Horizon wants to raise its rates by $125 when rated on a per-container basis. Horizon’s rates for containers will increase by $5 when rated on a weight, measure, or weight/measure basis, and by 5 percent when rated on any other basis.

Rates for moving vehicles will also increase by $25. In addition, the West Coast terminal handling charge will increase by $25 per container and $5 per vehicle.

With the exception of wharfages, arbitraries and fuel surcharges, all other charges in rules will increase by 5 percent.

"This increase is being taken to partially offset cost increases experienced over the past twelve months including, but not limited to, increased labor cost, worker’s compensation insurance, and increased capital spending for equipment replacement and rolling stock," Horizon said in a statement.

Saipan seaport Antonio Cabrera said he has not heard of Horizon’s plan, but "I was expecting it."

May 14, 2004

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