Govt to waive containers’ demurrage, port charges: Sabzwari

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2023

KARACHI: Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Faisal Sabzwari on Monday announced waiving the demurrage and port charges of stranded containers at the ports.

A “decision has been taken and notification will be issued soon in this regard,” Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs announced at a press conference after meeting various stakeholders on the issue of stuck-up containers. The situation had made the business community restless after a shortage of dollars delayed the settlement of letters of credit for these containers. An estimated 8,000 containers are stuck at the ports.

The minister also refuted the reports that shipping lines were planning to wind up their operations from Pakistan. “Nothing of this sort would happen. We have held talks with them and have asked them to facilitate our businesses,” he added.

Sabzwari said that representatives of shipping lines and container terminals were also present in the meeting along with the other stakeholders, that deliberated upon the issue at length to resolve the issue. About the detention charges of shipping lines on the stuck-up containers, the minister assured that relief would be provided by examining them on a case-to-case basis.

The maritime affairs minister announced that the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) would soon be given the status of an off-dock terminal, and all the stranded containers would be shifted there, which would eliminate “port congestion and address the issues of the shipping lines and terminal operators.” The Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT), which has a 20-acre off-dock terminal, would provide the facility to the business community for free.

Sabzwari said that the current situation was due to a decline in exports and an increase in imports. The issue was not just related to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) but was an issue involving the economy. “When the issue of stranded containers surfaced, we decided to play our role,” he said, adding that although the business community was not appreciative of our actions, “we took these measures to facilitate them”.

Addressing the media, the SBP executive director said that the central bank has issued guidelines to banks to facilitate the importers. He said that SBP has advised banks to provide one-time facilitation to all those importers who could either extend their payment terms to 180 days (or beyond) or arrange funds from abroad to settle their pending import payments.

Earlier, Federal Commerce and Trade Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and Federal Maritime Affairs Minister Faisal Sabzwari co-chaired a meeting to address the issues related to detention, other levies and expeditious port clearance.

Qamar emphasised that procedures should be devised to solve the problems of stranded goods at the ports, and steps would be taken to open the letters of credit. He added that effective implementation of policies and a better regulatory environment was needed to increase exports and reduce the current account deficit for the country’s economic growth.