Moot to review shipping rates on December 20

KARACHI (December 19 2002) : The Ministry of Communications has summoned a meeting of the Shipping Rates Advisory Board (Srab) to review the exorbitant rates, charged by the shipping agents and cargo consolidators, in Islamabad on December 20.

Other important items on the agenda include -Formation of committees to frame rules and regulations to regulate illegal charges.

-Registration of shipping companies, shipping agents, cargo consolidators and the NVOCC's.

Besides, the working and terms of reference of the Srab and its legal authority in the light of Section 79-A will also come under discussion.

The Section reads as under: “79-A Regulation and determination of port charges by the shipping companies and shipping agents etc. (1) The Federal government shall regulate and determine the port charges and other local charges, other than the charges leviable under the Ports Act, 1908 (XV of 1908), to be levied by the shipping companies and shipping agents in respect of the cargo handled at ports.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the licences to the shipping companies, shipping agents and non-vessels operating carriers and cargo consolidators shall only be issued after grant of the NOC from the Shipping Rates Advisory Board, constituted under Section (2) of Section 79 or by an authority authorised by the Board.

“Only those shipping companies and shipping agents, non-vessels operating carriers and cargo consolidators, who are registered with the ports and shipping wing of Communications Division shall be allowed to work in the ports.

“Explanation: For the purpose of this Section “port” means the port specified in the first schedule of the Ports Act, (XV of 1908) or any port which may be notified by the Federal government for the purpose of this Section.

“In the case of default under Sub-Section (2) by any shipping company/shipping agent, non-vessel operating carrier or cargo consolidation, the Federal government shall have the power to cancel the registration, forfeit the security or impose penalty or fine as may be prescribed.”

According to a working paper, prepared by the Ministry of Communications, various organisations/companies (like textile, paper merchants, pharmaceuticals, importers/exporters, etc) have been complaining about the additional/illegal charges, being levied by the shipping companies/agents.

These organisations/companies are against various shipping companies or their agents in Pakistan, who allegedly charge additional/illegal charges not specified in the Bill of Lading or other papers. These illegal charges result in a considerable financial loss not only to the importers/exporters, but also create bottlenecks in increasing the exports.

As a result, the importers become slaves to these agents and their documents cannot be released unless they pay the dues.

The matter was given due consideration in the Ministry of Communications and efforts were made to resolve the issue by holding a number of meetings under the chairmanship of the Director-General, Ports and Shipping, with the shipping companies/agents and traders' representative associations.

However, due to severe differences in the viewpoints of both the sides, the matter could not be settled amicably.

At present, the shipping lines are being issued licences by the Customs authority and the Board of Investment (BoI) to operate their business according to their acts and requirements.

They can suspend/cancel the shipping lines license in case of any violation of their acts.

The Ports and Shipping wing of the Ministry of Communications was helpless to initiate any action against the shipping companies, as it has no power to curb the over-charging.

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