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Minimal containers’ scanning at terminals despite directives

Minimal containers’ scanning at terminals despite directives

KARACHI: The three containers terminals in Karachi including Pakistan International Containers Terminal (PICT), Karachi International Containers Terminal (KICT) and Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) are reportedly unable to ensure 100 percent scanning of containers despite having directives from Pakistan Customs, it was learnt.

According to sources, after discerning the possibilities of the clearance of lethal cargos (arms and ammunition) from ports in the absence of proper containers’ scanning, Pakistan Customs had directed all three terminals not to release a single container for dry-ports across the country without scanning.

However, terminal sources said that the decision to carry out 100 percent containers’ scanning before the release of consignments for dry-ports was taken without taking the terminal operators on board causing hardships for them. They said that scanners installed at all the terminals combined had maximum capacity to examine 100 containers in a day and 3,000 containers in a month. However, the accumulated volume of both (imports and exports) containers was around 15,000 containers per month.

They said, “We have maintained 100 percent scanning only for Afghan Transit Trade while scanning the rest of the containers is beyond our capacity.” They said that Pakistan Customs should have taken the terminal operators on board before issuing such directives. “The decision cannot be implemented due to practical impediments,” the sources added.

It is pertinent to mention that a one-man Commission, appointed by the Supreme Court in the suo motu case no 16/2011 to investigate the alleged smuggling of arms and ammunition through sea and its spill-over effect on the upsurge of violence in Karachi, had recommended that all terminals should install more scanners and CCTV cameras.

The Commission in its report had said that the terminals should also be made responsible to provide the images of man and material involved in the clandestine removal of items. It was also proposed that the containers being moved from one dock/terminal/station to the other should be sealed properly and controlled by the officers sitting in a specially built control room.

Meanwhile, Arshad Jamal of Pakistan Economic Forum, said that Pakistan Customs had earlier issued the same directives in 2011 but it could not be materialised, due to lack of scanning capacity at the terminals. He said that the customs department instead of taking illogical decisions should restrict the terminal operators to carry out strict monitoring to avert the clearance of lethal cargos. He said that the possibilities of arms smuggling through ports could not be ruled out but this happening could be thwarted by adopting a proper mechanism like scanning of containers on profile basis.