While the verdict is still out on whether the Nato supply will be reopened or not, transporters are pleading for their stranded trucks to be released.
The trucks with loaded containers have been abandoned since last November.
“More than 1,500 of our trucks are stranded for over six months and hundreds of families depending upon these trucks are suffering,” said Khan Dil Khan Niazi, the chairperson of the All Pakistan Goods Transport Welfare Association, a representative body of truckers who transport goods within the country and to the Nato forces in Afghanistan.
“These trucks have been laden with Nato-bound containers and vehicles for over half a year, and they have no other use,” Niazi said. “The heavy load has torn out the tyres and engines of our trucks.”
The trucks were recalled when Pakistan announced that it was closing the Nato supply routes after the Salala check post attack on November 26, 2011. “Around 1,500 to 2,000 of our trucks carrying Nato goods were on the way to Afghanistan via the Chaman and Torkham borders and had not crossed the borders yet when the supply routes were closed,” said Niazi. “We had to bring them back ourselves as per the order of the government.”
After being recalled, the trucks were to be parked in two special terminals in Karachi – at the Karachi Port Trust and Port Bin Qasim. Niazi says the containers had to be offloaded after checking their seals and the trucks would be delinked so they could be operated elsewhere in the country. “The containers were not provided terminals nor were the trucks were delinked and they are still holding the containers.”
While some trucks reached Karachi, others are parked at different places across the country including the Super Highway, Chakwal, Qilla Abdullah and Quetta in warehouses. They have not been provided any security.
A matter of offloading
Niazi said that in Pakistan, people only talk about reopening and closing of Nato supply routes and no one ever talks about offloading the containers.
The truckers need professional assistance to remove the containers.
“Around 75 per cent of the trucks are holding their loads. Even if someone has either offloaded the containers themselves, they are still useless because they are not unsealed and delinked from the system properly due to which they can’t enter the ports for loading,” explained the chairperson. “It is the responsibility of the customs authorities to release our trucks from the system and give us clearance so we can go back to work.”
Some of the ‘freight forwarders’ – private companies who have contracts to transport Nato-bound containers from Pakistani ports to Afghanistan – have offloaded some of the containers from the trucks without paying their dues.
These companies have to pay Rs4,000 detention charges per day and the transportation expenses that were paid by truck owners to bring the containers back to Karachi when the borders were closed.
The total dues of a single vehicle have reached Rs1 million in six months. “If the supply routes are opened, we will not move our vehicles until we are paid our dues.”
The vehicles also require repairs because of the damage to the tyres and engines. Estimated repairs for a truck are about Rs200,000 but Niazi asks how transporters will manage to get these done without being paid. Answers to their list of woes are still contingent on politicians and security officials and the trucks remain stranded while the impasse continues.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2012.