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February 25, 2020

Traders bewail haunting demurrage as Chinese consignments quarantined


February 25, 2020

KARACHI: Dreaded importers pleaded the authorities on Monday to waive and put on hold the detention charges piling up against them for painfully-slow clearance of Chinese consignments in suspicion of deadly global outbreak.

Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Agha Shahab Ahmed said goods consignments are slowly being cleared at Pakistani ports, while there is a slowdown from China – the epicenter of the virus and where the authorities are conducting disinfecting exercise before giving go-ahead to ships.

Ahmed urged the government to advise port authorities and all terminal operators to refrain from imposing demurrage and detention charges on consignments which have already arrived at the Pakistani ports from China, but were are not cleared.

“Any demurrage or detention charges already applied on such consignments must immediately be waived off which would certainly be widely welcomed by the business community,” he said.

Without sharing the figures, he said demurrages are variable and “we haven’t quantified the losses as yet”. “Some consignments, which are not carrier of virus or have a little catch-up probability, are being cleared,” Ahmed said.

“But, overall the process (clearance) is tad slow,” he added, citing unanimous complaints from importers’ community. KCCI president said around $6 billion worth of trade between Pakistan and China has been transacted in the first half.

“But, the downfall in trade would certainly appear by the end of the current fiscal year and the $12 billion mark will not be achieved due to complete suspension of trade between the two countries,” he said, referring to the last year’s trade stats vis-à-vis Pakistan’s biggest trade partner.

Last year, Pakistan imported $10.2 billion worth of merchandise from China in fiscal year 2018/19, while exports to the neighbouring country stood at $1.9 billion.

Ahmed urged the ministry of maritime affairs, Federal Board of Revenue and the State Bank of Pakistan to announce a ‘special policy’ to save the importers of various goods and commodities from suffering severe losses due to ban imposed on imports from China because of the outbreak of corona virus.

KCCI president said the importers are seeking the chamber’s assistance to thwart the negative fallout.

The traders said consignments from China have been put on hold at the ports to prevent the outbreak of deadly corona virus in Pakistan which has terribly affected capital of Hubei province, Wuhan and resulted in hundreds casualties so far besides spreading further in more than 20 countries.

“Many import related documents have also not been received by relevant importers as no parcels were arriving from China and other affected countries, making it impossible for the importers to timely fulfill all the documentationformalities, which are required for clearance of imported goods,” Ahmed said, voicing the importers’ concerns.

“Consignments remain blocked at the ports and are resulting in additional demurrage and detention charges,” he said. KCCI president said the government would have to take stringent measures to save the country from the eruption of deadly virus.

“We fully understand the sensitivity of the issue and support the government’s moves to save Pakistan from the outbreak of the COVID-19 (corona virus),” he added. “But, the importers should not be penalised and relief has to be provided to the perturbed traders by waiving the demurrage and detention charges.”

Ahmed hoped that the relevant departments would realise the gravity of the situation and relief would soon be provided to the importers as soon as possible. He urged the port authorities not to demand any demurrage and detention charges from the importers whose goods are arriving from China, “which would certainly be welcomed”.