Maersk officials, including its CEO Soren Skou, Vice CEO Claus V. Hemmingsen and Maersk Pakistan MD Aruna Hussain, have intensified their efforts to silence the voice of Customs Today for raising issues of importers, exposing their extortion in the name of demurrage and detention charges and tax evasion worth billions of rupees every year.
This time, the Maersk officials have attempted to attack Customs Today through the so-called All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA), which is working against the interests of importers and traders. Experts say the association has been formed in violation of the Competition Act, 2010, which gives the Competition Commission of Pakistan legal and investigative instruments and powers to engender free competition in all spheres of commercial and economic activity, enhance economic efficiency, and to protect consumers from anticompetitive behaviour. The Act applies to all undertakings in Pakistan regardless of their public or private ownership and to all actions or matters that can affect competition in Pakistan. The law prohibits situations that tend to lessen, distort, or eliminate competition such as actions constituting an abuse of market dominance, competition restricting agreements, and deceptive marketing practices.
It is clear that the shipping companies cannot form an alliance against traders and importers under the law, which undermines the interests of importers and traders. Experts say the alliance of shipping lines is an attempt to block all legal ways to redress the grievances of importers and traders. The so-called All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) has become active against Customs Today and importers at the behest of Maersk and its officials, including Soren Skou, Vice CEO Claus V. Hemmingsen and Aruna Hussain, after Customs Today carried a number of stories about fleecing of importers by Maersk and other shipping lines in the name of demurrage and detention charges and tax evasion.
It is also clear that the All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) is working against the interests of Pakistani businessmen and trade. In a letter recently written to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Finance Minister, the Federal Revenue Board and the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), the All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) claimed that importers’ demands for concessions were illegal and unjustified. It means the APSA is toeing the line of Maersk and other shipping lines and it has no regard for the government instructions. Under the SRO 1220 and Section 14-A of Customs Act 1969, no demurrage or detention charges can be received after issuance of delay and detention certificates by customs authorities but shipping lines demand and charge additional charges from importers against the customs laws and rules. Furthermore, under Rules 603 (Q), 603 (R), 604 (Q) and 607 (E), others of SRO 1220 (I)/2015, shipping lines, like Maersk, cannot charge any demurrage or detention charges where it is not specifically written on the Bill of Lading (B/L). But still in violation of the rules and laws, Maersk and other shipping lines fearlessly hold the containers of the importers and charge them exorbitant detention charges. The detention charges even exceed the actual cost of a container by a whopping 1000pc.
Importers say shipping lines blackmail and harass importers to collect hundreds of thousands of rupees for each consignment in connivance with officials of departments concerned. They even block the consignments after the payment of duty and taxes and clearance by the customs department. Businesspeople say the government had directed the shipping lines to provide extra 15 working days free for cargo/containers in addition to the existing free period of 5 days after the onset of Covid 19. The FBR issued a notification on March 31, 2020, to shipping companies to waive demurrage and detention charges and give extra free time at ports for 15 days. However, the All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) called all the incentives announced by the government and demands of importers illegal and unjustified, and refused to act upon them.
Now, the All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA), at the behest of the Maersk officials and other has demanded the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and high-up of the government to take action against Customs Today for highlighting the plight of importers and businesspeople of Pakistan. The illegal activities of Maersk and other shipping lines are causing losses of billions of rupees to importers and Pakistan and instead of desisting from their malpractices they have ganged up against Customs Today and traders. However, media related organisations have warned against any action against Customs Today. They said it was an attempt to silence the media and the truth. Recently, Customs Today’s website was hacked for highlighting the fleecing of importers by Maersk and other shipping lines.
The shipping lines, like Maersk, are collecting service charges from Pakistan customers and freely converting Pakistan rupees to US dollars and repatriating it, which is the gross abuse of foreign exchange laws of Pakistan. It is robbing the nation of its valuable foreign reserves and causing the currency to nosedive, importers say and demand action against Søren Skou, Claus V. Hemmingsen, Søren Toft, Vincent Clercp, Morten H. Engelstoft, others of Maersk Line and Arslan Khan, Aruna Hussain, Ghazanfar Khan, Raheel Salim, Maqsood Ul Hasan Khan, Fuad Khan, Hasan Faraz, Shakeel Masih, Omer Khan, Ali Jawad Alvi, Zahid Hussain, Salman Ahmad, Aamir Ali, Umais Aziz Khan, Mohammed Naeem, Farheen Mahmud, Mubasshar Iqbal, Affaq Syed, Syed Mohammad Abbas Jafri, Muhammad Tanveer Sharif, Salman Ateeq, Hamza Haq, Ziad Mahboob, Aamir Ibrahim, Yasir Saeed Khan, Amal Sadiq Dawood, Effat Mehmood, Maria Urooj, Zain Warsi, Mehreen Zulfiqar, Awais Saleem, Zafar Iqbal, Syed Osman Iqbal Zaidi, Anum Yaqub, Fahad Ali, Obaid Iqbal, Zahid Hussain, Muhammad Ali Qureshi, Danish Siddiqui, Amir Arif, Arshad Ayub, Syed Mudassir Ali, Syed Hammad Hussain, Ayesha Qadri, Sheikh Samiullah, others of M/S Maersk Pakistan Private Limited and officials of audit and legal firms of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited.
Traders say the Federal Board of Revenue, Ministry of Ports and Shipping, National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency should take serious action against Maersk for evading billions of sales taxes. They also demanded strict accountability of SRB officials for their collusion in it.