KARACHI: A ban on imports from China, slapped by the government in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus to Pakistan, has resulted in imposition of “unfair” demurrages on importers whose merchandise is waiting for clearance at Pakistani ports.
They have urged the government to introduce a special policy for extraordinary circumstances like this.
“Many importers have stated that their consignments from China have been put on hold at ports in order to prevent the outbreak of deadly coronavirus in Pakistan,” said Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan.
In a statement on Monday, he pointed out that many documents pertaining to import consignments had not been received by relevant importers, which made it impossible for them to meet the documentation requirement timely for the clearance of imported goods.
Hence, their consignments had remained stuck at ports due to which additional demurrage and detention charges were piling up, he highlighted.
“We fully understand the sensitivity of the issue and support government’s moves to save Pakistan from COVID-19 but importers should not be penalised,” he said. “Government should provide relief to the perturbed traders by waiving demurrage and detention charges.”
The KCCI president requested the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to devise a special policy to save the importers from heavy losses on the import of goods and commodities.
Khan urged relevant authorities to issue a notification to stop port authorities and terminal operators from imposing demurrage and detention charges on those consignments which had already reached Pakistan from China but awaited clearance.
“Any demurrage or detention charges already applied to such consignments must immediately be waived, which will certainly be widely welcomed by the business community,” he added.
He underlined that out of the annual bilateral trade of around $12 billion, goods worth $6 billion had been transacted so far and the $12-billion mark would not be achieved in the current fiscal year due to the complete suspension of trade between the two countries.
“The outbreak of coronavirus is an opportunity for the local industry because we have to look into the possibility of what we can produce on our own which was being imported from China prior to the suspension of trade,” he added.
The KCCI president stressed that the lethal virus had been spreading rapidly around the world and had reached countries bordering Pakistan, therefore, the government would have to initiate stringent measures to save Pakistan from the epidemic.
He hoped that relevant departments would realise gravity of the situation and relief would soon be provided to the importers.
Economist Muzammil Aslam suggested that if some shipments had reached Pakistan’s ports from China, the government ought to increase the number of days before demurrage charges were imposed because the importers were not at fault.
“The importers did not purchase banned items. It is a post-delivery ban from the government to protect the country, therefore, the importers should be provided relief,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2020.