MULTAN: Importers of South Punjab demanded National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) to take stern notice against M/s Maersk Line Shipping Company for charging exorbitant demurrage and detention charges from genuine importers through blackmailing.
These views were expressed by Abdul Khaliq Qandeel, Central Chairman All Pakistan Power Looms Association during an exclusive interview with Customs Today.
He said importers are confronting serious blackmailing of Maersk Line and its subsidiary in Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd for clearance of their shipments after payment of unnecessary demurrage and detention charges.
Collection of illegal detention and demurrage charges by shipping company Maersk Line from genuine importers is sheer blackmailing and violation of SRO 1220(I)/ 2015. He said that textile is the most important manufacturing sector of Pakistan and power looms industry has significant importance due to its longest production chain, with inherent potential for value addition at each stage of processing, from cotton to ginning, spinning, fabric, processing, made-ups and garments.
He said that power looms produced more fabric than the weaving mills of the country. The sector contributes nearly one-fourth of industrial value-added, provides employment to about 30% of industrial labour force, and consumes more than 40% of banking credit to manufacturing sector and accounts for 8% of GDP.
But importers and exporters of power looms face blackmailing from Maersk line for payment of demurrage and detention charges during import of their raw material and machinery parts, he added.
He expressed that textile products have maintained an average share of about 60% in national exports and we are almost 4th largest producer and 3rd largest consumer of cotton globally.
But Pakistan power looms industry is ignored sector because government failed to provide any incentive to industry already facing huge energy crisis due to load shedding of electricity and gas in the country. Power Looms Industry is playing its crucial role in boosting export of the country but owners of industry are facing obstacles in doing business due to blackmailing of shipping line companies like Maersk Line Pakistan and others.
He said that importers are suffering heavy losses each day because of delay in release of imported goods due to extortion of Maersk Line Pakistan on import shipments. These additional charges are against the law because Customs issued certificates to importers for specific period and shipping company Maersk Line Pakistan is bound to work under the Customs law, otherwise the government could take serious action against them to stop collection of exorbitant charges on consignments.
Shipping company Maersk Line is openly violating rule and regulations by charging illegal detention and demurrage charges which enhances our business cost, he added.
He expressed that according to SRO 1220(I)/ 2015 and important Section 14-A of the Customs Act, 1969, officials cannot charge any demurrage or detention charges on their import shipments if Customs has already issued delay and detention certificate to importer but they are breaching laws. He said that importers face heavy losses due to exorbitant charges of demurrage and detention from Maersk Line and importers demanded from NAB and higher judiciary to take action against Maersk Line for robbing huge amount from importers.
Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) received a complaint seeking probe to ascertain role of employees of Maersk Line in country’s biggest shipping scandal involving 610 billion rupees.
Importers lodged application against Maersk Line and its subsidiary in Pakistan Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd for conspiracy, cheating and criminal breach of trust under PPC 407, 409, 420, 427, 506 and others so that these fraudsters are stopped to blackmail genuine importers by demanding ‘illegal’ additional charges.
The complaint received by the NAB and the FIA demanded legal action for recoveries of amounts looted and recovering losses of Rs. 610 billion to the national exchequer per year while also stopping such further losses from the accused persons of Maersk Line and M/s Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd including Søren Skou, Claus V. Hemmingsen, Søren Toft, Vincent Clercp, Morten H. Engelstoft, others of Maersk Line and Arslan Khan, Hazanfar Khan, Raheel Salim, Maqsood Ul Hasan Khan, Fuad Khan, Hasan Faraz, Shakeel Masih, Omer Khan, Ali Jawad Alvi, Zafar Iqbal, Ayesha Chowdhry, 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.
As per the complaint received by the FIA and the NAB, the nexus of some Customs staff, shipping lines like Maersk Line along with its agent Maersk Pakistan Private Limited, including its owners, managers & staff are making illegal money through malpractice.
“Firstly, customs department delays goods of majority of containers that arrive in red channel. 80% of the goods cleared in red channel take a duration which is more than the free days provided. These shipping lines also force the importers to pay huge illegal sums. The customs staff and shipping lines as mentioned above delay the clearance and delivery of the goods to the importer. Due to this delay, the revenue collection of duty and taxes is slowed down drastically of the actual speed. Like where these goods were to be cleared and delivered in 2 days then it takes an average of 20 days to clear and deliver,” the complaint said.
The complaint received by the FIA and the NAB said, “The total revenue collection by customs department is Rs. 610 billion. If the process of revenue collection is not slowed down by the above-mentioned parties then at least the revenue collections could be doubled. Hence, total loss to national exchequer due to above nexus and illegal acts of the subject accused is Rs. 610 billion”.
“The shipping lines are not allowed to collect any demurrage and detention amounts from the importer when the importer provides ‘delay and detention certificate’ under section 14 A of the Customs Act, 1969. Despite this, the port terminals and shipping lines blackmail and harass the importer to collect hundreds of thousands of rupees per single consignment. Since this is illegal money demanded from the citizens of Pakistan and hence it can be termed as an ‘extortion’ amount,” the complaint said.
The complaint said, furthermore, under rules 603 (Q), 603 (R), 604 (Q) and 607 (E), others of SRO 1220 (I)/2015, the shipping lines cannot charge any demurrage or detention charges where it is not specifically written on the B/L. But still in violation of these rules and laws, the shipping lines fearlessly hold the containers of the importers and charge them exorbitant detention charges. These detention charges even exceed the actual cost of container by a whopping 1,000%!
“The shipping lines charges only 30% of its cost from the importer to allure importer to give his containers to them. All remaining 70% of cost and huge profits are made through illegal means and black money. Like China-Pak cost of shipment for a 40HQ container is charged USD 300 whereas the actual cost to the shipping company is USD 1,000. Pak-China freight is almost USD 0 to USD 10 which is even more surprising. When white income of these shipping lines is only 30% of their cost then it is obvious that they are indulging in many illegal and black activities to cover cost and also make huge profits,” the complaint said.
“When complaints are made to Customs department then they do not take action against the accused which is mandatory under sections 156 (1) 7A of the Customs Act, 1969 and also rules 603 (Q), 603 (R), 604 (Q) and 607 (E), others of SRO 1220 (I)/2015. The nexus of some Customs officials and Maersk Line has made these active provisions of law entirely redundant and they should be severely punished for the same,” the complaint said.
The complaint demanded from the FIA and the NAB to take legal action against the subject accused persons, recover amounts looted by them, recover losses suffered by national exchequer to the tune of Rs. 610 billion per year and stop further losses.