Govt port charges being collected from importers despite waiver

PESHAWAR: Despite the government’s announcement to waive all charges on containers that have been stranded at the port, the Pakistan Shipping Corporation has directed importers to pay demurrage charges, creating fear of food shortages and further inflation.

Federal Minister of Commerce Naveed Qamar and Federal Minister of Maritime Affairs Faisal Subzwari had made the announcement of waiving the charges  and clearing the stranded containers. 

Despite this, the shipping corporation has asked importers of edible oil, ghee, tea, medicines and other imported goods, to pay all charges which will lead to an increase in prices of raw materials and the risk of inflation and food shortages.

Due to the failure of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to issue letters of credit (LC) on time, thousands of containers of imported goods were stuck at the port, against which the former president of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mian Anjum Nisar, has also started a protest movement. 

Shahid Hussain, Senior Vice President of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) — a platform representing KP industries and businesses — said that, on the one hand, traders are buying dollars from the open market at Rs 265, and, on the other, banks are taking the same dollar at Rs 228 to open LCs. As a result, traders and importers are facing a loss of millions of rupees.

According to Hussain, goods worth Rs 108 billion are stuck at the Karachi port. He said despite the announcement of waiving port charges, it is being collected from importers which is “unfair”, because traders in Pakistan had already been affected by the COVID-19 and various restrictions imposed by SBP. 

The Frontier Customs Clearing Agent KP President, Zia-ul-Haq Sarhadi, told Profit that the government had failed to implement its decision of waiving port charges. He said that various charges are being collected in dollars from more than 3,000 containers most of which are loaded with raw materials, food items, and Afghan transit trade goods. 

Sarhadi added that traders are forced to pay extra in dollars to foreign shipping companies. He said that after the arrival of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, traders are unable to send dollars due to closure of banks in Afghanistan which is severely affecting our exports.

In this regard, Malakand Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mohammad Shoaib Khan said that the shipping corporation collects port  charges while clearing containers as statements of federal ministers are only limited to public announcements. Khan said that if the government’s attitude towards industrialists does not change,  there will be shortage of food items and a further increase in inflation during Ramadan.

 

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Aziz Buneri
Aziz Buneri
Author is a senior journalist and working in the field of journalism since 2004. He covers Financial, Social, Political and regional issues for Pakistan today and Profit. He can reached at [email protected]

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