KARACHI: A letter issued by the Maritime Ministry asking the private container terminal operators including KICT and PICT to charge scanning charges from containers only which were subjected to scanning was questioned before the High Court of Sindh which suspended the same for the time being.
A customs appellate bench of High Court of Sindh earlier heard Barrister Makhdoom Ali Khan former Attorney General Pakistan who contended that it was not feasible for the petitioners to examine all the containers. He contended at present, the petitioners are charging US $ 7 on imported container and US $ 5 on export container. We have made huge investment, installed latest and costly scanners and our cost would not be covered if all containers are not charged. If this was to happen then allow the petitioners to fix their own rates for scanning or direct the custom and other departments to arrange their own scanners, Barrister Makhdoom contended. We in this situation would be charging US $ 5000 per container, he said citing a number of examples.
The bench took a tentative view that as per logic charges of scanning could be collected for those containers who were scanned. The court said that it will hear the other side also before passing any order.
The counsel for petitioner requested that till such time the impugned letter be suspended. The bench allowed the request and suspended the operation of the letter till next date of hearing.
Ministry of Maritime Affairs had advised Port Qasim Authority (PQA) and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) to ensure discontinuation of charging of container scanning charges of $5/container by private container terminals.
Private container terminals at the KPT and PQA are levying scanning charges of $5 on each and every container handled by them through only 1.0-1.5 percent of the containers actually undergo scanning. Around 7,500 containers/day are processed (both import and export) at these two ports.
“The levy of such charges without use of scanning services is an undue burden on the local businesses and increases the cost of doing business and is therefore detrimental to the national economy,” Ministry of Maritime Affairs noted in a letter to PQA and KPT.
It may be mentioned here the levy of such charges is neither covered under any statute nor by the contracts executed between the two port authorities and the terminal operators.
“Levy of scanning charges especially in respect of containers, which are not subjected to scanning, also defies commercial rationale and business sense. On the contrary, no scanning charges are being levied at Gwadar Port by China Port Holdings (COPHI), as informed by Chairman Gwadar Port Authority,” the letter noted.