KARACHI: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) lambasted shipping lines for not giving any relief to importers and traders on detention charges, and dubbed their claims as untrue.
FPCCI Vice President Khurram Aijaz said international trade had almost shut down and there were no export shipments from Pakistan. “There is no export to 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 shipping lines were foreign entities, Aijaz said these very lines were also operating in neighbouring India and most of them had waived detention charges there.
Referring to All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) letter to Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Customs, FPCCI office bearer said 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 Pakistan government,” Aijaz claimed.
He said that thousands of import containers were lying at ports, and the importers could not get these released, as there was no transportation, while the markets and warehouses had been locked down.
“The importers are already suffering due to closure of markets, declining value of rupee, and these additional charges by terminal operators and shipping lines. It is not fair for the shipping lines to meet their revenue requirements by penalising Pakistani importers,” the FPCCI vice president said.
Earlier, shipping lines expressed their inability to waive container detention charges, which was requested by the ministry as well as Customs, because the shipping industry itself is hit by the global lockdown.
All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) in a letter to Customs authorities and Ministry of Maritime Affairs mentioned the current crisis had impacted all equally, including shipping lines and terminals, globally.
“Shipping lines, container terminals and off dock terminals are foreign entities, who are themselves undergoing damage limitation on a much larger scale to survive this crisis globally. Over the past week, more and more shipping lines are being forced to cancel voyages due to a lack of availability of cargo, and thereby the financial impact caused by that ‘Blank Sailings’, are coming as a shock to shippers globally, leaving them with delays and a lack of options”.
APSA noted that they had no choice but to charge detention charges as the revenues were drying up. “Containers, which should be on the ships to generate revenue for shipping lines, are sitting idle on land. Concurrently, shipping lines are also paying lease charges for these containers on a per diem basis”.
APSA noted that if shipping lines were unable to function financially and continue to maintain presence in any country because of that reason, then their absence would bring the economy and trade of that country to a grinding halt.
However, APSA members would assess all matters on a case-to-case basis in earnest and will do the best they can, based on approval and consent from their overseas principals.
A large number of imported consignments are piling up at port terminals due to absence of transportation. Around 20, 000 containers with import and export goods are estimated to be stuck at the ports due to lockdown. It may be mentioned here that shipping lines charges around $150/day as detention charges after the free period of 5 to 10 days.