KARACHI: All Pakistan Customs Agents Association (APCAA) has urged the government to direct shipping companies to accept insurance guarantee as containers’ deposits to facilitate the trade during Covid-19 crisis.

Arshad Jamal, chairman APCAA said that financial problems of the trade became worse as no major facilitation in terms of tax and port charges relief was given to the trade since the lockdown was placed on March 23, 2020.

He said that terminal operators had waived port charges till April 6, 2020 as they had no space left to park the containers due to lockdown. However, shipping companies had outright refused to facilitate trade during this hard time.

Arshad further stated that shipping companies, which collected US$ 150 per day on each container as detention charges and that was main source of concern for the importers, were not addressed by the government so far.

Moreover, he said that the trade and clearing agents had no option but to pay all taxes and other charges to maintain the uninterrupted supply of all essential items for the public during lockdown at their own expense because concerned departments considered the extension of free period to 15 days as unprecedented facilitation to the trade.

“We don’t want any financial assistance from the government but it is requested to the concerned ministry for playing its part to restrict shipping companies for accepting insurance guarantee as containers’ deposits, which we believe will assist trade to sustain financial shocks during covid-19 crisis.”

Arshad said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) allowed submission of insurance guarantee on Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) cargoes to secure its revenue. He questioned that why shipping companies could not follow the same to facilitate the trade at maximum.

He said that these shipping companies, which declared US$ 50 per container as insurance in customs department to pay minimum amount as tax, collected between US$1000 to US$ 4000 from trade on each container as ‘surety deposit’.

He said that during current covid-19 crisis, traders were unable to deposit such exorbitant amount against each container, requesting the authorities to direct shipping companies for accepting insurance guarantee as containers’ deposits, which he termed as huge relief for the trade.

Moreover, he said that these shipping companies should allow 50 percent of the relief given to the trade in India and added that customs department which had to ensure ease of doing business during this hard time reportedly increased examination of containers. He said that containers examination should have been done on profile basis to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential items to the markets.