KARACHI/LAHORE: Goods transporters in Karachi held prolonged strike a couple of weeks ago to get their grievances addressed by the federal government, provincial government, FBR and Ports authorities. During their 12-day long strike, economy suffered colossal loss of $24 billion. Importers and exporters faced tremendous difficulties during the strike as their containers got stuck up at the ports.
PM Nawaz Sharif directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to urgently resolve the problems of business community. The Minister visited the FBR House very next day and directed the high officials to clear the backlog of containers at ports at the earliest. After this, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Ports and Shipping Minister Kamran Michael visited Karachi to listen goods transporters problems themselves. They accepted demands of transporters and waived off demurrage and detention charges to compensate the business community. But after passage of several days, backlog of containers at Karachi International Containers Terminal (KICT) is not yet cleared, creating immense problems for importers.
There are a number of serious complaints that containers are not grounded for 10 days. Ports authorities give impression that customs officials are not allowing them to ground the containers but DC Asad Larik at KICT alleged that terminal operators are delaying the grounding of containers as they are not providing space for it. If grounding is allowed, the examination takes several days, causing huge revenue losses to the exchequer.
After clear instructions from PM, Finance Minister, Ports and Shipping Minister and FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa, the matter of containers clogging is not yet resolved. On the one hand, it is on top of government agenda to increase the revenues but on the other, the government seems least bothered to take up the issue on urgent basis. Waiving off demurrage and detention charges will reap no fruits for the business community as delay in containers clearance will further augment their difficulties. They could lose their back-to-back orders, resulting in revenue loss for the government as well.
The importers are facing immense difficulties in clearance of their goods’ containers at KICT, due to shortage of Customs officials in assessment and examination departments.
During the survey, it has been observed that grounding of containers is being delayed up to 10 days, creating huge backlog as DC at KICT did not bother to implement the directives of the Finance Minister in letter and spirit. DC Customs further aggravated the situation through slow examination of containers.
The sources informed the Customs Today that the importers have to pay hundreds of millions of rupees in detention charges due to this mess-up.
The proprietor of Jamal Logistics & Enterprise informed this scribe that the assessment at KICT is being delayed for three to four days, while the examination is not being conducted on time, causing loss to importers. “Terminal staff is facing lack of space due to shortage of Customs officials”, he added.
According to KICT authorities, around 400 containers are being grounded daily at the terminal and only 100 to 115 containers are being cleared.
While talking to Customs Today, DC Asad Larik at KICT said that it is not customs officials fault but terminal operators are delaying the grounding. He said they have cleared the backlog till November 24. They are clearing 200 containers per day, he added.
KCCI President Abdullah Zaki while talking to Customs Today on this issue said that demurrage and detention charges were waived off but the decision was not implemented in its true spirit. He urged the customs officials and terminal operators to clear the containers as soon as possible to save the economy from further losses.
Sources from Ports and Shipping Ministry told Customs Today the Ministry had waived off all demurrage charges after consultations with business community.
Sources from Ministry of Finance told Customs Today that after the directives of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, authorities concerned are striving to clear the backlog to facilitate the business community.
One of CEO of the terminals while talking to Customs Today said that the Customs Officer at KICT aggravated the situation by increasing volume as KICT has no space for grounding more containers. But he assured that the backlog of containers would be cleared within few days.
Customs Officer and Ports authorities are putting blames on each other but are not seriously trying to resolve the issue on war footing as it is the economy which suffers at last.