KARACHI: Importers have called for setting up a special committee to ensure the implementation of laws to save them from the extortion, blackmail and exploitation of Aruna Hussain, Soren Skou and other officials of Maersk in a mega scandal of illegal collection of demurrage and detention charges.
Office-bearers of top chambers of commerce and industry have expressed their grave concern over the shipping lines flouting laws and the government’s orders to overcharge them in the name of demurrage and detention charges. They say the government has failed to protect their interests because the shipping lines bulldoze laws to exploit them. They call for setting up a new department or a regulatory body to ensure the implementation of the government policies in letter and spirit to protect their interests. They say their issues have compounded after persistent inaction of departments concerned. “We have been facing severe problems and raising our voice for many years and the situation aggravated after the onset of the pandemic. Our issues remain unresolved even after the passage of so many years,” they regret.
Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan requested the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to come up with some kind of a special policy to save the importers of various goods and commodities from facing huge losses. According to a report published in the Express Tribune newspaper, Agha Shahab urged the relevant authority to issue a notification in which port authorities and all terminal operators must be advised to refrain from imposing demurrage and detention charges on consignments which have already arrived at the Pakistani ports from China but were not being cleared. “Any demurrage or detention charges already applied to consignments must immediately be waived which would certainly be widely welcomed by the business community,” he added.
He said that many importers, while seeking KCCI’s assistance, complained that their imported consignments from China had been stopped at the ports. “Many import-related documents have also not been received or delayed by relevant importers, making it impossible for the importers to timely fulfill all documentation formalities which are required for the clearance of imported goods. Hence, their consignments remain blocked at the ports and are resulting in additional demurrage and detention charges”, he said, adding that the importers should not be penalised and relief should be provided to the perturbed traders by waiving demurrage and detention charges.
Earlier, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) also slammed shipping lines for not providing relief to importers under special directives of the government. In an interview to the Express Tribune, former FPCCI Vice President Khurram Aijaz also rubbished shipping lines’ claims that they would face losses if they provided relief to importers. He said international trade had suffered badly. “There is little export to the 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 the shipping lines were foreign entities, he said they were also operating in neighbouring India and most of them had waived detention charges there.
Referring to an All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) letter to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Customs, the former FPCCI office-bearer said the 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 the Pakistan government,” Aijaz claimed. He said that thousands of import containers were lying at ports, and the importers could not get them released. “The importers are already suffering due to slow activity, the declining value of the rupee, and the additional charges by terminal operators and shipping lines are the last straw. It is not fair for the shipping lines to meet their revenue requirements by penalising Pakistani importers,” he argued.
Earlier, the shipping lines, in a letter to the ministry of maritime affairs and customs authority, had expressed their inability to waive container detention charges.
Importers blame 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 and legal firms of Maersk Pakistan Private Limited for their exploitation.
Importers say lack of enforcement of laws and policies is the main reason behind their exploitation at the hands of shipping lines, especially Maersk, which is the biggest shipping company in Pakistan. They say a new regulatory body or department is needed to protect their interests, which would also benefit Pakistan and its economy.