Chairman Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Syed Syedain Raza Zaidi, after listening to the grievances being faced by the business community due to exorbitantly high and unjust charges, grilled Shipping Companies for terribly looting traders by overcharging under various headers without any justification. KPT will go very tough against the highhandedness of shipping companies. Hence, they should submit details of their registration, license, relevant laws or any agreement within ten days which authorised them to take excessively high charges; he added after representatives of shipping companies failed to defend their position and kept giving flimsy excuses during a recent meeting held at KPT Office.
The meeting was also attended by the Karachi Chamber’s delegation, which comprised of President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh, Member KPT Board of Trustees Asif Nisar Vohra, Chairman Maritime Affairs Subcommittee M. Farooq Zahid, Chairman Customs & Valuation Subcommittee Waqas Anjum, Former Vice Presidents Nasir Mehmood & Younus Soomro, Managing Committee Member Aslam Pakhali while representatives of Karachi Customs Agents Associations (KCAA), All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) and Pakistan Ship’s Agents Association (PSAA) along with Chief Executive Officers of Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT), South Asia Pakistan Terminals (SAPT) and Karachi Gateway Terminal Limited (KGTL) were also present on occasion.
Chairman KPT, while seeking details of any agreement between Shipping Companies and the State Bank of Pakistan for remitting dollars outside Pakistan, opined that it seems that shipping companies were engaged in a ‘big offence’ by acting against the interest of Pakistan and creating more problems for the country by remitting billions of dollars outside the country which requires special attention.
“Who has permitted to charge such hefty freight charges, rentals, DO Charges?” he asked after reviewing all the evidence shared by President KCCI during the meeting. Still, no adequate response was received from the representatives of shipping companies. “KPT is the right authority to whom businessmen in distress could seek assistance in dealing with shipping companies, and we’ll make sure that no injustice is being done”, he added in response to KCCI’s concerns over the absence of an effective authority, which could be approached for lodging complaints against shipping companies.
On occasion, President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh demanded that free days should only start when the vessel completes the discharging process rather than from the date of the vessel’s arrival. In contrast, Saturdays, Sundays, and all public holidays must also be exempted from being treated as free days, as Shipping Companies remain closed during weekends and holidays. “Some shipping companies even demand advance rent for ten days during free days, which is illegal, and it clearly shows shipping companies’ intention to deliberately delay the process for making extra money”, he added.
“If shipping cannot operate on Saturdays and Sundays, then they should either enhance several free days from the existing five days to 15 days or come up with a mechanism which is capable of accepting documents and issuing DOs electronically on weekends”, he said, adding that it was really strange that KPT and Terminal Operators remain operational round the clock. Still, shipping companies remain open during office hours only for five days a week to accept documents and issue Delivery Orders (DOs), which creates more problems, particularly in cases when the original documents arrive on a Friday afternoon whose DO will not be issued before Monday, resulting in wasting three consecutive days.
He further stated that when all the containers owned by shipping companies were insured, why traders were compelled to pay damage charges, which should be immediately discontinued as any damage to the container can be claimed by an insurance provider. “All types of charges being taken under various heads should be publicised by posting them on websites and made uniform in consultation with stakeholders so that traders could be aware of the likely expenditures on their consignments.
Underscoring the need to bring down Shipping Charges, which vary from $70 to $150, and lower Security Deposits as well, Iftikhar Sheikh stated that as per the Ministry’s Order regarding Refund of Container Security Deposit, shipping companies were bound to refund Security Deposit within seven days. Still, it was not being complied with, and the Shipping Companies usually take a month to release a refund, which is returned as a cheque instead of a pay order.
“Only a few shipping companies comply with this condition, but the majority of them do not refund Security Deposit within seven days”, he said, adding that it was alarming that several shipping companies impose fees in the form of late DO Charges if a DO was not taken within a specified period which was illogical. Hence, such unnecessary charges should be immediately abolished.
“Some kind of rental lock must also be applied as delay in release of container often results in substantially raising the payable rental which even surpasses the value of container in many cases”, said Iftikhar Sheikh, “The terminal operators have also raised their delivery charges from Rs110,000 to Rs130,000 which must also be withdrawn as they were too high. Any appreciation for such charges should be imposed after consultation with KCCI. The Delivery Charges by Terminal Operators also include Terminal Handling Charges (THC), which is purely their domain, but strangely, shipping companies are also charging THC. Hence, these should be taken by any one of them.”
President KCCI believed that most of the time, traders have no idea to whom they should get in touch at a shipping company to discuss the progress of Delivery Orders and refunds. Shipping companies must notify the focal person(s) designated for such inquiries, whose contact details must be shared with KCCI to facilitate trade.
In the end, he appealed to the government to establish an autonomous regulatory body so that the activities of Shipping Companies could be strictly monitored.