NAB likely to probe alleged fleecing of importers at Port Qasim

Pakistan Today

KARACHI: The illegal holding of imported goods continues unabated at Port Qasim, as importers are being allegedly “conned” in the name of “additional demurrage and detention charges” by the customs officials, port terminals and shipping lines, it was learnt on Sunday.
Well-informed sources privy to this development told Pakistan Today that owing to the “nexus” of some customs’ officials, port terminals, and shipping lines, the importers are being asked to pay additional demurrage and detention charges despite providing the ‘delay and detention certificate’.
They said the importers are being forced to pay huge amounts on each consignment as shipping lines fearlessly hold their containers, adding that despite several complaints in this regard, the Customs Department has remained reluctant to act against the alleged fleecing of importers.
Importers are facing heavy losses on a daily basis due to the unprofessional behavior of the port staff, sources said, adding that apart from professional losses, such illegalities are also denting the importers personally, in terms of reputation of their businesses and delays in deliveries.
According to the section 14A of the Customs Act, 1969, an importer cannot be forced to pay any demurrage or detention charges if the Customs Department issues a certificate called the ‘delay and detention certificate’. However, sources confirmed, despite showing the certificate, the importers are being charged of heavy amounts as demurrage.
Sources informed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is likely to start an inquiry against the alleged collection of demurrage and detention charges from the importers, following complaints against the customs department, shipping lines, and port terminals.
They further revealed that an application against the staff of Maersk lines and Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) for registration of a First Information Report (FIR) has also been submitted with the Port Qasim police station.
Reportedly, importers have complained that Maersk shipping line, its subsidiary in Pakistan, Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd, and Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) were robbing them of billions of rupees through criminal breach of trust. Importers have decided to book the Maersk and QICT in criminal cases due to which Maersk and QICT could face complete closure in Pakistan.
In a letter to Maersk lines and QICT, the importers said, “We, through our shipper/agents in China, handed the goods to Maersk shipping line as trust to be delivered and released at QICT, Karachi. The Maersk shipping line nominated Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd as their agents in Karachi for the delivery of goods. We also paid in full to the shipping lines the ocean freight charges as agreed between the parties. But despite repeated reminders and visiting the office of Maersk Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd and QICT, we have not been issued the delivery order/NOC without which our goods are not released yet. To our surprise, now they have verbally refused to release our goods and have started demanding additional charges in shape of demurrage/detention that were never agreed earlier.”
Importers further stated that none of the charges of demurrage/detention, as being demanded by Maersk, were specifically agreed between the shipping lines and the shipper which is necessary under the law to put any such charges on us.
It is pertinent to mention that the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) had already raised its voice against the charging of additional amounts from importers. The chamber had also demanded the establishment of an independent regulatory authority to give an end to the problems being faced by the importers of the country.

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