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Wednesday Apr 01 2020
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Ports getting clogged due to piling up of containers

KARACHI: The coronavirus-led lockdown has led to a piling up of import containers at the ports as importers have been unable to furnish essential documents to get their consignments cleared because of transportation difficulties, officials told The News.

An official at the Port Qasim told the publication that the importers were not filing goods declarations – a document that initiates the assessment and clearance process – because they did not have the transport available take the goods to their main destination.

“A large number of imported consignments are meant for upcountry, which are now piling up at port terminals due to absence of transportation,” the official told The English daily.

The port usually handles around 10,000 containers every day. However, the number has decreased by 30%. Despite the drop more than 6,000 containers are still landing at the ports each day, and not all of them are being cleared.

The official said traffic of vessels has slowed down, but the cargo is still coming. “There is no space at the terminal yards, and containers are now being dumped wherever the space is available,” the official said. “There is no marking or recordkeeping of these containers. After the lockdown is lifted, there would be a whole lot of mess in finding and assessing these containers.”

Also read: Coronavirus: Goods transporters facing hurdles due to lockdown

Sindh administration was the first to announce a lockdown in the province last month to contain the spread of coronavirus. While it exempted goods transportation from the movement ban, port operation has been disturbed as the provincial government was keeping a vigilant eye on goods going upcountry.

The government has not yet imposed a force majeure, and port operations are continuing. However, absence of transportation and non-filing of GDs by commercial importers have caused congestion at the ports.

An official at Karachi Port Trust said the port is operating efficiently. “Essential goods are being cleared and transported, while the non-essential goods are being stored separately to be cleared later.”

Government has extended the timeline for filing of goods declarations (GDs) to 25 days, which earlier was 10 days from the date of cargo arrival.

Also read: Coronavirus: Karachi not under lockdown, clarifies Sindh info minister

An official at DP World, an operator of Qasim International Container Terminal confirmed with The News that there is a severe congestion at the port terminal due to slow deliveries.

“At this point of time, customs should facilitate all terminals to obtain more space from the port authorities to discharge the cargo,” the official said.

Importer Syed Farhan said a significant portion of the country’s imports comprise raw materials, which are not cleared as the industrial units are closed.

“As the timeline has been increased, importers would file GDs at least after 20 days,” Farhan said.

Arshad Jamal of All Pakistan Customs Agents Association said port terminals are overflowing and the imported consignments are being dumped in empty spaces.

“Importers are not filing GDs due to non-recovery of funds from markets, shortened banking hours and unavailability of transport,” Jamal said. “Until the goods are cleared these are the responsibility of customs and port authorities.”

That government has already banned import of crude oil and refined petroleum products, while there has been no spot buying of liquefied natural gas in last three months.

Every segment of the shipping industry is affected, while cargo volumes are on the downward trend and clearance of imported consignments is going slow. Essential goods are cleared and transported and non-essential items and commercial imports are piling up at the country’s seaports.

Originally published in The News

Originally published in The News