Customs agents decry slow cargo handling

KARACHI: Customs clearing agents on Wednesday urged the government to take action against sluggish cargo handling at seaports that they said push up detention charges.

Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) said traders are facing hardships with regards to clearance of import and export consignments at terminals.

“The terminals are taking extra time for grounding of containers and arranging the cargo for the examination that is causing an increase in the cost of doing business in the shape of heavy container detention charges and port storage/demurrage, which are being charged in US dollar,” KCAA said in a statement.

“Dwell time also increases due to shortage of handling equipment and skilled labor. Terminal tariffs are different.”

The issue has been raised as the economy is reeling from coronavirus-lockdown slowdown.

A couple of months back, ports were witnessing severe congestion as traders were unable to take delivery due to supply line disruption as the provincial government couldn’t ease lockdown in absence of efficient mechanism to check health dangers posed by the coronavirus.

Karachi port, which handles 76 percent of cargoes, saw containers pile up with the traders not furnishing essential documents to get their consignments cleared due to lack of goods transportation amid coronavirus-led lockdown.

Exports declined 6.8 percent to $21.3 billion, whereas imports sharply fell 18.6 percent to $44.5 billion during the last fiscal year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

Amid lockdown, the government gave free access to warehouses, but traders said the incentive would not help many importers as majority of cargoes are handled at private terminals that refused to waive demurrage and extend free period. Around 80 percent of the imports land at private terminals.

The KCAA further said theft, pilferage and damage cases are being reported regularly inside the premises of terminals / off-dock terminals, as there is no proper mechanism to compensate the trade in case of any loss.

“Difficulties faced by the trade were discussed with terminal operators on various occasions but no fruitful results had been achieved,” it said.

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