Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been pleading with Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Federal Board of Revenue, Customs Authorities, Private Terminal Operators and Shipping lines to take a rational and ethical approach and waive the detention and demurrage charges which have accumulated during lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, but all these appeals and requests have been in vain and no concession was given by either the shipping lines or the terminal operators. Ironically these very shipping lines have given generous concessions to the consignees in India without much delay, on the orders of Ministry of Shipping, India. In some cases the licenses of shipping lines were cancelled who refused to waive the detention charges during the lockdowns.
Ministry of Maritime Affairs and FBR appear to be helpless in enforcing the relevant provisions of law and constitution which may be invoked under such emergency circumstances and provide much needed relief to the entire trade and industry of Pakistan. KCCI has time and again emphasized that shipping lines and Private terminal operators have made billions of rupees and repatriated it in foreign currency for last many years, but in the time of an unprecedented crisis they not only refused to help and rescue Pakistan’s trade and Industry, rather they exploited this situation inhumanly and made a windfall profit at the cost of country’s economy.
An attempt was made in the year 2015 to bring an end to the exploitative tactics of Shipping Lines and agents, by the KCCI and other trade bodies through the Federal Board of Revenue, and a draft SRO was issued dated 04 December’2015 which was to insert a new chapter entitled “SHIPPING AGENTS RULES” (Chapter XXVI) the necessary provisions in Customs Rules 2001 whereby the shipping agents were to be restrained from imposing any charges other than those specified in the Bills of Lading. The lines were also restricted from encashment of Security Deposits received from consignees.
The SRO provided new provisions under clauses (p), (q) and (r) under Rule 592, which stated that:
In case of violation in case of any additional charges other than freight, not mutually agreed by shipper and shipping line and not specifically written of the Bill of Lading, punitive action will be taken against the agent.
In the case of violation in terms of detention charges not agreed between shipper and shipping agents after specified free days, the agents could not demand charges at their will and punitive action will be taken.
The licensee (agent) will have to refund security deposit within seven working days after settlement of accounts. In case of violation punitive action was to be taken.
These provisions were sufficient to protect the trade and interests of Pakistan’s economy by way of curtailing cost of doing business. Somehow, the said draft SRO did not see the light of the day and the fate of it is unknown.
The KCCI has; therefore, demanded the Federal Board of Revenue, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce to restore the said SRO and insert the new chapter and rules as specified in the draft, in order to bring an end to the exploitation of trade and industry in Pakistan, save foreign exchange and
punish the culprits who have for years repatriated hundreds of millions of dollars at the cost of our economy.