FIA To Probe Illegal Demurrage Collection
FIA To Probe Illegal Demurrage Collection: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has initiated probe in a shipping company, which brings imported goods, for allegedly delaying the clearance of goods in an attempt to collect additional demurrage and detention charges.
According to documents available, importers have lodged a complaint with FIA Karachi Corporate Circle that Maersk shipping service, its subsidiary Maersk Pakistan (Private) Limited and Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) were demanding higher demurrage and detention charges by holding off clearance of their imported goods.
“We are suffering heavily due to unavailability of goods along with loss of reputation and customers, and also the goods quality is deteriorating daily, which could lead to a heavy loss very soon if the goods are not disposed of in markets,” the importers said in a complaint letter.
According to SRO 1,220(I)/2015, according to the importers, shipping companies cannot charge any demurrage and detention fee where specifically it has not been agreed and also specifically not mentioned on the Bill of Lading.
Section 14A of the Customs Act 1969 also says the importer cannot be forced to pay any demurrage or detention charges if the Customs gives a certificate to the importer called the “Delay and Detention Certificate”.
But, they said, despite having the certificate, the importers’ goods were held “illegally for demanding heavy demurrage”.
“We have also long ago paid in full to the shipping lines the ocean freight charges as agreed between the parties. But despite repeated reminders and visiting offices of Maersk Pakistan and QICT, they have not issued us the delivery order/NOC without which our goods are not released. Now, they have verbally refused to release goods and started illegally demanding additional charges in the shape of demurrage/detention that were never agreed earlier,” the importers said in the letter.
They pointed out that the government, vide its certificate under Section 14A, had already advised not to charge importers any demurrage or detention fee.
“Both these points make your excuse of not releasing the goods under the pretext of demurrage and detention clearly illegal. Your actions … are tantamount to the breach of trust, cheating and mischief to cause losses. Your failure to release goods through the issuance of delivery order/NOC will only compel us to take necessary legal action,” the importers warned.
Responding to the allegations, Maersk Pakistan told that demurrage was collected when containers were still full and under the control of the shipping line.
Elaborating, it said, “In this situation, the container has not been picked up by the consignee and the free time for its lifting, set by the ocean line, has expired.”
The free period starts when the container is offloaded from the vessel and kept at the terminal. Demurrage is applied to the storage of containers at the terminal, rail terminal, inland depot or container yard.
On the other hand, according to the shipping company, detention charges are collected when the consignee holds on to the container outside of the port, terminal or depot beyond the allotted free time.
These charges become due when the container (regardless of whether it is full or empty) is in possession of the consignee and has not been returned within the allotted time.
Maersk insisted that it had applied the detention and demurrage charges according to the declared tariff and in line with international laws and regulations. “In the shipping world, demurrage and detention charges are a global practice in safeguarding equipment whereby the liable party is bound to pay legally,” it said.
Following constitutional petitions filed by Maersk Pakistan before the Sindh High Court, the court had issued a stay order, thereby approving the practice as legal until further notice, it said.
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