KARACHI: Traders and importers have castigated Maersk Pakistan, other shipping lines and authorities for not complying with government directives to facilitate them, causing huge financial losses to them and the country. Businesspeople also expressed dismay at the government for its failure to enforce laws aimed at boosting trade and improving the national economy.
They say Aruna Hussain, Maersk and other shipping lines authorities fleece them in the name of demurrage and detention charges, which causes huge financial losses to importers and businesspeople. The illegal charges collected by port terminals and shipping companies are creating obstacles to the clearance of shipments and are preventing businesses from running smoothly, causing great harassment and financial losses to them.
It is pertinent to mention that SRO 1220 (I) 2015 and Section 14-A of Customs Act, 1969 clearly state that no demurrage or detention charges would be taken after issuance of delay and detention certificates by customs authorities but port terminals and 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 in connivance with officials of the Customs Department, PQA, KPT, Ministry of Maritime and others. The detention charges even exceed the actual cost of a container by a whopping 1000pc.
They say the port terminals and 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 go to the extent of blocking the consignments even after the payment of duty and taxes and clearance by the customs department. The huge amounts looted from Pakistan are then sent abroad to foreign accounts. The total estimated losses to Pakistan in this connection are a whopping Rs 610 billion annually.
The businesspeople said the government had directed port authorities 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 as far back as March 31, 2020, to private terminals and shipping companies to waive demurrage and detention charges and give extra free time at ports for 15 days. The letter said, “It is requested that demurrage and detention charges may not be charged from the importers for a period of 15 days in addition to the free time already allowed by the port authorities.” However, the port terminals and shipping companies did not comply with the government orders nor did they facilitate businesses in this regard, which has resulted in huge financial losses as well as loss of health and lives for the operating businesses and their staff. Furthermore, due to non-compliance, the port terminals and shipping companies have become a catalyst in the spread of the virus, leading to many casualties. As a result, the traders have demanded lodging of murder cases against officers of Shipping companies such as Maersk with its MD Aruna Hussain, port terminals, for causing the deaths of more than 50 persons including staff of traders, clearing and forwarding agents, shipping agents, regulators etc.
They have also written letters to President Dr Arif, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, ministries and departments concerned to help save them from the exploitation of Maersk with its MD Aruna Hussain, other shipping lines officials. However, the accused persons are so influential and rich that no action is yet taken against them.
They asked the government to intervene in the matter and direct authorities concerned to ensure that Maersk, other shipping companies provide relief to the businesses in line with its directives regarding demurrage and detention charges and also ensure that consignments are released in a minimum time so that the issue of demurrage and unlawful hidden charges by shipping lines and terminal operators is resolved.
They say Maersk is robbing importers of billions of rupees every year under the garb of demurrage and detention. They also evade taxes worth hundreds of billions of rupees and send the ill-gotten money abroad through illegal channels, depriving Pakistan of precious foreign exchange. In view of the facts, the traders demanded strict action and recovery of ill-gotten money from the accused including 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, 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 and officials of audit & legal firms of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited.