[ Frequently Asked Questions ]


What is a Stevedore?

A stevedore is either a person or a firm contracting with a ship's owner, agent, charter operator, or the owner of the cargo to load or unload a ship in port. This contractor, in essence, agrees to become the middleman between these entities and the supply of longshoremen who perform the actual cargo handling. The contractor provides the expertise required to load or unload all types of cargoes safely and efficiently. (1)

English: "Stevedore" - n: one who is responsible for the loading or unloading of a ship in port
Spanish: "Estibador"-n: packer, stower
French: "Estibar" - v: to pack
Latin: "Stipare" - v: to press together

Who is a Steamer Agent?
The expression ‘Steamer Agents’ has been defined to mean any person who undertakes, either directly or indirectly.

--to perform any service in connection with the ships’ husbandry or dispatch including the rendering of administrative work related thereto; or

--to book, advertise or canvass for cargo for or on behalf of a shipping line; or

--to provide container feeder services for or on behalf of a shipping line;

The taxable service provided by a steamer agent to a shipping line, is the service provided by a Steamer Agent in relation to a ships’ husbandry or dispatch or any administrative work related thereto as well as the booking, advertising or canvassing of cargo, including container feeder services. The value or the taxable service in relation to service provided by a steamer agent to a shipping line, shall be the gross amount charged by such agent from the shipping line for services in relation to a ship’s husbandry or dispatch or any administrative work related thereto or in relation to the booking, advertising or canvassing of cargo, container feeder services including the commission paid to such agent.

Steamer Agents incur various types of expenses on behalf of the shipping line such as pilottage and berth hire charges, Indian Coast light dues paid to the port authorities, cargo expenses paid to port authorities and transporters such as CONCOR / railways, private transporters, chartered accountants fee, income tax, brokerage paid on export cargo, ship handling expenses paid to stevedoring agents. For all the above charges the Steamer Agent is ordinarily reimbursed by the Shipping line. Further, the Steamer Agent bill the principals i.e. the shipping line, for two types of service charges. One is called the husbandry fee which they charge for a ships’ husbandry. The second is the agency commission which is paid by the shipping line on the import and export cargo. These commissions are usually paid as a percentage of the net ocean freight (basic freight) which is clearly indicated in the agreement entered into between the Steamer Agent and shipping line.

It is clarified that in relation to the Steamer Agent, the service charges will constitute the husbandry fee as well as the agency commission on import / export cargo. Other expenses incurred by the Steamer Agent on behalf of the shipping line shall not be taken into account.

It has been represented that the accounting for purposes of service tax should be on per voyage, per vessel basis and further that the registration for service tax purposes should be done only of their seaport offices. It has been decided that only such sea port offices of the Steamer Agent should be registered for service tax purpose which are raising the bill to the shipping lines. The branch offices in ICDs which are just sales offices and do not raise any bills to the shipping line, need not be registered. This is for the reasons that billing is done by the sea port offices and not the branch offices.

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