KARACHI: Ministry of Maritime Affairs advised Karachi Port Trust (KPT) for extending free period at the port to facilitate traders; however this would not benefit importers much as 80 percent of cargo is handled at private terminals, whom out rightly refused to waive demurrage and extend free period.

No such directives were issued to Port Qasim Authority (PQA).

KPT allowed 15 working days as free period instead of 5. This is applicable from March 25 through April 30, 2020. KPT will also allow the terminal operators to utilize KPT storage area to accommodate excessive containers subject to availability of space.

Terminal operators will be allowed to utilize LPT land till May 15 for the containers landing between March 25 and April 30, 2020.

Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Khurram Aijaz welcomed the announcement and added the traders would only benefit if the private operators extended the free period and waived the demurrage.

“Around 80 percent of the imports land at private terminals. The suspension of demurrage during this period is an incentive for owners of cargo to accelerate the process of taking delivery of their cargoes,” Aijaz said.

Referring to the notification of Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Aijaz said there were no directives to private terminal operators or shipping lines regarding waiver of demurrage and detention charges. “We have been requesting these terminal operators and shipping companies to only waive the surcharge and not the principal amount of rent, because the circumstances are not in anyone’s control. They impose exorbitant penalties for overstay of containers, which sometimes exceed the value of the imported goods.”

Vice President FPCCI said private terminals and shipping companies had the monopoly and persistently dared government writ. “Demurrage and detention have been waived by the companies in neighboring, so why not in Pakistan.”

It may be mentioned here the Shipping Association in a letter to Customs authorities excused from waiving the detention, and even threatened to discontinue the operations if forced to waive detention charges.

Trade sources said private container terminals and shipping companies had disregarded the ministry advisory to waive demurrage and container rent over and above the free period for any delay in loading/unloading operations or evacuation/arrival of cargo for reasons attributable to the lockdown measures.

They said international trade had almost stopped and there was no demand of empty containers, but the shipping companies were still claiming connection charges from importers.

“FPCCI, KCCI, Customs authorities and even the Ministry of Maritime Affairs advised them to waive additional charges, but they are firm in their stance.”

An official said due to slow clearance of imported cargo, terminals were witnessing severe congestion, and yet the operators were reluctant to waive penalties despite the fact such a waiver would incentivize clearance of cargo.

It may be mentioned here that importers have already started shifting their consignments to bonded warehouses to avoid additional costs at ports.

Customs agents and traders have also complained about the absence of proper precautionary measures against CONID-19 at the offices of these terminals and shipping companies, where agents and importers had to line-up for hours to take delivery orders.

It may be mentioned here that Directorate of Transit Trade Zeba Azhar forwarded 3,000 Afghan transit cargo to SAPT for scanning, however SAPT is only scanning 100 containers/day. They have the capacity to scam around 200 transit trade containers/day.

An official said SAPT was using delaying tactics to mint as much demurrage on these containers adding SAPT could easily scan perishable goods first, but they are observing first come first serve policy.

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