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Shipping Alert! Maersk shipments en route may not reach Pakistan in case of blocking of user ID

Shipping Alert! Maersk shipments en route may not reach Pakistan in case of blocking of user ID

KARACHI: Shipping company Maersk shipments en route may not reach Pakistan in case of blocking of its user ID by the FBR and the Customs Department due to noncompliance of advise issued by the govt department. FBR and Customs Department advised shipping lines and terminal operators to waive demurrage and detention charges and give free extra time at ports due to Coronavirus disaster but shipping lines Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd and terminal operator Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) did not give any relief to importers and traders.
Customs Enforcement could block ID of Maersk Line or cancel its license for violation of rules 603 (Q), 603 (R), 604 (Q) and 607 (E), others of SRO 1220 (I)/2015. In a move to cancel the licenses of Maersk Line and its subsidiary in Pakistan Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd, importers had written a letter to Chief Collector Enforcement and Collector Customs Preventive to take necessary legal action against the shipping line for violating SRO 1220 (I)/2015. Now the process of blocking the ID or cancelling the license seems to be in its final stages.
Customs Today already procured copies of the letters issued to Customs Preventive department while pursuing to cancel licenses and also of various FIR application copies received by the police station. The letter received by Deputy Collector Preventive with subject: 100% waiver of demurrage & detention and also cancellation of license of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited under Rules 603(Q), 603(R), 604(P), 604(Q) & 607(E), others under SRO1220(I)/2015.
According to the letter, importers said, “Maersk Pakistan Private Limited is not issuing Delivery Order/NOC for our shipments on the pretext of non-payment of illegal charges of demurrage and detention while none of these charges were specifically agreed between the shipper and shipping lines which is necessary under the law to put any such charges on us. {Refer Rules 603(q), 603(r), 604(p), 604(q) & 607(e), others under SRO 1220/ 2015}”.
The letter written to Customs Preventive said, “Maersk Pakistan Private Limited has yet not complied to its obligations under the law to give 100% waiver to us which delay is further causing us unbearable losses and hence now it devolves upon your esteemed office to take necessary legal action under the law as prescribed under rules 603(q), 603(r), 604(p), 604(q) & 607(e), others under SRO 1220/2015 which includes cancellation of license of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited and also penalty on Maersk Pakistan Private Limited under section 156(1) 7A of the Customs Act, 1969”.
Importers further demanded, “It is humbly submitted that such 100% waiver and the subsequent cancellation of license of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited and penalty is not advisory in nature rather these are mandatory provisions of law which is even pressed by the usage of the word ‘Shall’ in its respective provisions. As such even the worthy Chief Collector of Customs Enforcement is bound by these provisions of law to ensure that 100% waiver of demurrage and detention is granted by the shipping lines and also to penalise and cancel the license of Maersk Pakistan (Private) Limited for not readily complying to the SRO 1220/2015”.
Sources said the shippers are more interested to know about what will happen to their goods if they load them today on Maersk vessels and in the near future require delivery of those goods at Pakistan ports. Whether they will be able to get the goods delivered at Pakistan ports in the event of blocking of user ID of Maersk Line. Business community has alerted the importers loading their goods on these specific vessels to be careful as their goods could not reach Pakistan when the user ID of Maersk Line is blocked. These shipping lines would not be allowed to call their ships on ports in the event of blockage of their user ID. When user ID is blocked of these shipping lines then the goods loaded on them would have to be called at transit locations like Dubai, Singapore, etc. instead of reaching Karachi ports.
Shipping lines expressed their inability to waive container detention charges, which was advised by the ministry as well as Customs, because the shipping industry itself is hit by the global lockdown.
All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) in a letter to Customs authorities and Ministry of Maritime Affairs mentioned the current crisis had impacted all equally, including shipping lines and terminals, globally.
“Shipping lines, container terminals and off dock terminals are foreign entities, who are themselves undergoing damage limitation on a much larger scale to survive this crisis globally. Over the past week, more and more shipping lines are being forced to cancel voyages due to a lack of availability of cargo, and thereby the financial impact caused by that ‘Blank Sailings’, are coming as a shock to shippers globally, leaving them with delays and a lack of options”.
APSA noted that they had no choice but to charge detention charges as the revenues were drying up. “Containers, which should be on the ships to generate revenue for shipping lines, are sitting idle on land. Concurrently, shipping lines are also paying lease charges for these containers on a per diem basis”.
APSA noted that if shipping lines were unable to function financially and continue to maintain presence in any country because of that reason, then their absence would bring the economy and trade of that country to a grinding halt.
A large number of imported consignments are piling up at port terminals due to absence of transportation. Around 20, 000 containers with import and export goods are estimated to be stuck at the ports due to lockdown. It may be mentioned here that shipping lines charges a whopping figure of around $100/day as detention charges after the free period.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) also reacted to the claims of shipping lines that they would suffer loss if detention charges were waived, and dubbed their claims as untrue. FPCCI Vice President Khurran Aijaz said international trade had almost shut down and there were no export shipments from Pakistan. “There is no export to USA or Europe, whatever these shipping lines would do with the empty containers other than dumping them,” he said, adding detention charges were only justified if the shippers suffered connection losses. Admitting that shipping lines were foreign entities, Aijaz said these very lines were also operating in neighbouring India and most of them had waived detention charges there.
Referring to All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) letter to Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Customs, FPCCI office bearer said APSA had itself mentioned cancellation of voyages and non-availability of cargo. “If there is no cargo and no voyages, why do these shipping agents in Pakistan want Pakistan’s importers to vacate the containers?”
Aijaz said that the shipping lines and terminals had honoured the directives of the Indian government. “Shipping agents didn’t even contact their principals abroad and straight away refused to honour the directives of Pakistan government,” Aijaz claimed.
He said that thousands of import containers were lying at ports, and the importers could not get these released, as there was no transportation, while the markets and warehouses had been locked down.
“The importers are already suffering due to closure of markets, declining value of rupee, and these additional charges by terminal operators and shipping lines. It is not fair for the shipping lines to meet their revenue requirements by penalising Pakistani importers,” the FPCCI vice president said.
Meanwhile, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), on the proposal moved by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs led by Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, approved the KPT Board Resolution for extension in existing free period from 5 working days to 15 working days for cargo/containers landing with effect from 25-3-2020 till 30-4-2020. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired the meeting of the ECC of the Cabinet. But importers and traders are of the views that the terminal operators will not implement this decision of the ECC.
Customs Today has taken up this issue from last few weeks and extensively reported about the miseries being faced by the importers and traders due to Coronavirus disaster and difficulties incurred in clearance of their imported cargo. Former Central Vice Chairman Pakistan Auto Spare Parts Importers and Dealers Association, Pakistan Awais Piracha, PALIMA (Pakistan Artificial Leather Importers & Merchants Association) chairman Faheem Ur Rehman Saighol, Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA) General Secretary Muhammad Aamir, All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) President Arshad Jamal, All Pakistan Timber Traders Association (APTTA) Chairman Muhammad Sharjeel Goplani, Friends of Business & Economic Reforms President Kashif Anwar, Pakistan Chemicals & Dyes Merchants Association (PCDMA) chairman and FPCCI Vice President Khurram Aijaz, Customs Clearing Agents Mr. Sharjeel Jamal, Mr. Naeem and Mr. Zargham Shah also raised this issue at different forums and press conferences and played their role for the benefit of the national economy at large. Customs Today was the only newspaper that voiced concerns of traders and importers and covered their demands of 100% waiver in demurrage and detention charges and seeking of free extra time at ports, but terminal operator QICT and shipping lines Maersk Pakistan did not give any appropriate relief to them, even after the advise issued by the FBR, Customs Enforcement and Customs Appraisement Departments.
Traders, Importers and Customs Agents said FBR and Customs Department miserably failed to implement the existing laws regarding demurrage and detention charges as companies like Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) and Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd have become a ‘shipping mafia’, only working to take benefit of these difficult times and looting the nation on Covid-19 disaster. CEOs and high-ups of QICT and Maersk including Junaid Zamir, Aruna Hussain and the accused benaami owner Habibullah Khan are reportedly not listening to the directives of the FBR and Customs Department.
According to details, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) asked port authorities to waive demurrage and detention charges for 15 days but QICT and Maersk Pakistan did not adhere to it. Then Customs Enforcement South Karachi, Customs Appraisement and Facilitation (East) Karachi and MCC Jinnah International Airport Karachi wrote letters to these shipping lines and terminal operators to implement the advise of the FBR but these companies did not comply with the orders.
QICT controlled by DPWorld announced additional 5 storage free days in addition to normal free days as per tariff which would be applicable on cargoes arrived from 20th March 2020 till vessel arriving on 5th of April, 2020 and deliveries up to 15th April 2020, after that will be charged as per actual invoice. But traders and importers demand 100% waiver of demurrage and detention charges as entitled under the law and extension in free time till complete normalcy returns in one or two months. Because in current situation, due to different reasons it is difficult for them to clear their containers in the said period.
Collectorate of Customs Enforcement and Compliance, led by Chief Collector Wasif Ali Memon, directed shipping companies and shipping agents to extend waiver of delay and detention charges during lockdown to contain coronavirus but no one yet followed his directives. Collectorate of Customs Enforcement & Compliance also issued instructions to chairman All Pakistan Shipping Association and chairman Pakistan Ship Agents Association to allow free time to importers. A letter in this regard was issued by Additional Collector Omar Shafique on 3 April, 2020.
Now finally the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), on the proposal moved by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, approved the for extension in existing free period from 5 working days to 15 working days for cargo/containers landing with effect from 25-3-2020 till 30-4-2020. Traders, importers and customs agents applaud efforts of Customs Today team for national cause but they fear the terminal operators will not implement this decision of the ECC.