KARACHI: Port terminal operators have agreed to waive demurrages on the import containers arrived from March 20 to April 5, 2020 in order to facilitate importers during the lockdown announced by the Sindh government to avert the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

According to details, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in its letter had requested all port terminals and port authorities to not to charge demurrage from the importers for a period of 15 days in addition to the free time already allowed by the authorities. The request is made in order to facilitate the importers who are unable to lift the cargos from the ports during lockdown, despite the lapse of free time period. However, the terminals have extended demurrage-free period from existing five days to 10 days on the import containers arrived during the period from March 20 to April 5.

Qasim International Containers Terminal (QICT) in its advisory informed that the terminal in order to facilitate trade in the current scenario announced additional 5 storage free days in addition to normal free days as per tariff which would be applicable on cargos arrived from March 20 till vessel arriving on April 5 and deliveries up to April 15, 2020 after that will be charged as per actual invoice.

In addition, they will also facilitate the customers who can clear the cargo but are facing issues in storage, allowing storage of such cargoes at 25 percent of its normal storage tariff in addition to handling/transportation costs as per tariff. Moreover, the advisory said that they would allow 100 percent relief in storage charges to the NGOs authorized by the government, who were engaged in humanitarian work related to COVID-19 pandemic.

Similarly, Pakistan International Containers Terminal (PICT) in its circular stated that the terminal, which already waived all its charges on the imports containers pertaining to hand sanitizers, surgical gloves, protective masks and COVID-19 testing kits, has now extended demurrage free period from existing 5 days to 10 days on import containers of vessels arrived between March 20 and April 6 to further support trade during the lockdown and logistics challenges.

When contacted, Arshad Jamal, chairman of the All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA), while appreciating the FBR and terminals for extending free period, requested the board to convince the shipping companies for waiving off detention charges.

He said the shipping companies collected US$150 per day on each container as detention charges, which was the main source of concern for the importers while demurrages were at higher side around Rs3,000 per day hence if detention charges were waived, it would be a huge relief for trade.

In addition, he also urged the FBR to allow the clearance of all consignments on previous valuation rulings to ensure trade facilitation during this hard time.