January 8, 2000
Dominican government raises port fees by about 20 percent

                  SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) -- The Dominican
                  government has increased port costs about 20 percent across the board and
                  added some new service charges to pay for infrastructure improvements.

                  Officials have said that the increases instituted this week will help the port
                  authority cover its operating costs and wages and also comply with shipping
                  companies' request to improve infrastructure and security.

                  The increase is to bring in about $1 million more a year over the $5.2 million
                  generated from the same basic port services fees last year.

                  The new rates are expected to raise cargo companies' costs by $10 per
                  40-foot container. Also, some services that were once free will now incur a
                  fee, such as a $500 to $700 charge to use forklifts and a $5 fee per
                  container loaded or unloaded at the ports.

                  The Association of Shipping Agents, which represents 10 companies, had
                  asked the port authority in a January 3 letter to improve the infrastructure
                  because of "obstacles that impede our work," such as poor lighting and
                  security, traffic jams at the port entrance and holes in the pavement that
                  would cause cranes to fall, damaging equipment and cargo.

                  The government has not yet announced details about its specific projects to
                  improve the infrastructure.

                  Maritime cargo companies said the increases and new fees would be worth
                  the extra cost if the money is used to improve infrastructure as promised.

                  "We have to see what happens," said Teddy Heinsen, general manager of
                  shipping agency ET Heinsen, said Friday.

                  "The pity is commercially speaking, the ports of the Caribbean, Nassau,
                  Kingston, Panama and Puerto Rico are less expensive and more efficient,
                  but we are getting slower and more expensive" Heinsen said.

                  Cruise ship passenger fees were not affected and will stay at $1 per person.

                  Heinsen said the shipping association members will meet in two weeks to
                  decide on their own new rates in light of the increased port fees.

                    Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.