CHINA has begun to clamp down on bad debtors, according to the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association (HKLSA). According to the HKLSA, shipping companies have reviewed the issue numerous times in the past few years, but have not been able to do much, due to circumstances in China regarding state-operated agents. However, this seems to be changing. Some Chinese-owned carriers and agents in China have taken a lead in dealing with the issue of late payments by implementing a maximum credit period for payment, reportedly as late as 45 days, the HKLSA says. The carriers have maintained a current log of accounts with late payments and, in some cases, have even refused cargo from accounts notorious for late payments. Past attempts to deal with the issue of default payments have been largely futile due to the lack of support from China's state-owned carriers and agents. ''Although the difficulties experienced over the past several years will not be resolved overnight, members of the shipping community are very optimistic that measures are being taken that will curb bad practices,'' says Roberto Giannetta, spokesman for the HKLSA. ''I think we will see a new standard of practice emerging shortly,'' he adds. The HKLSA added that shipping companies in and around Hong Kong saw this as the time to address the issue collectively, and perhaps implement some standards that would facilitate collection in the future. ''Most of the shipping companies in the industry have seen this initiative from the Chinese side as a positive move and are taking advantage of the momentum to follow suite,'' it says. It has formed a committee to educate the local shipping community with the problem of default freight payments in China. The committee is looking at recommendations ''to create a platform whereby everyone in the industry is able to work together to improve circumstances leading to the collection of freight payments,'' it says. One of the key ingredients needed to reach the committee's objectives is a thorough education plan that will reach all sectors of the industry. According to the HKLSA, some shipping lines report situations where payments are outstanding for more than a year. Others experience difficulties when payments arrive for multiple shipments. ''Quite often these payments do not add up to the outstanding total and carriers are left trying to figure out which shipments are outstanding and which are paid for,'' it says. The committee has met twice this month and will continue meeting in the next few weeks before presenting a series of recommendations. It has plans to lay down what it calls ''accepted standards'' and to educate all parties involved in the Chinese shipping sector.