NATO containers will now be put under stringent clearing system including scanning and sealing of each box by customs and a clearance from the security agencies before being allowed to leave the port area.

Unlike in the past when little or no documentation was required particularly for the US army containers, the new customs rules and procedures would require entries at different stages, besides, filing of Goods Declaration (GDs) ( content of a container).

The new customs rules and procedures will be equally applicable to containers lying inside the bonded areas of the Karachi and Qasim ports and even for goods that were already cleared by the customs prior to the imposition of embargo but had not crossed the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Prior to the discontinuation of ground lines of communication (Glocs) by Pakistan for Nato/Isaf/ US supplies from its two ports at Karachi, the containers were allowed to move out of the port area without meeting even minimum customs rules or procedures adopted anywhere in the world.

Pakistan closed its borders to the shipments after a US air raid in November 2011 along the Afghan border which left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. Around 70 per cent of Nato’s supplies in Afghanistan had been moving over land routes from Pakistani ports.

Now the trucks carrying cargo belonging to Nato/Isaf or US army are to be weighed before and after loading containers.

There would be full documentation and declaration of goods to identify lethal and non-lethal cargo before getting customs clearance as Pakistan has only agreed to give passage to non-lethal cargo meant for allied forces in Afghanistan.

Dr Fareed Qureshi, additional collector appraisement, Karachi, when asked as to how customs authorities will define the two category of cargoes, said as per customs definition any cargo which can cause human casualty and death will be considered as lethal cargo, such as weapons of all sorts.

The security and intelligence agencies will give clearance and the National Logistic Cell (NLC) will issue no-objection certificate (NOC) to trailer trucks prior to the customs clearance process of containers starts. The Pakistan Rangers will be deployed to escort containers. At the exit points of ports, the gate passes will be issued to vehicles carrying Nato/Isaf or US army containers.

Customs authorities say that the cross border movement and fresh clearance of containers still lying inside the bonded areas of the Karachi and Qasim ports will only start after the new rules and procedure are finalised and implemented as some clarifications are being sought from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The movement of Nato/Isaf and US army cargo was targeted to start from Friday.

The collector of customs Port Qasim, Robina Wasti, said “So far not a single container belonging to the Nato/Isaf or US army has moved out of the port areas or crossed Pakistani border since the announcement of the reopening of the Nato routes on July 3.”

She further explained there were three categories of transit cargoes which included non-commercial Nato cargo, diplomatic and commercial cargoes of the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT). The diplomatic and commercial cargoes of ATT were being cleared by the customs as usual but the Nato’s cargo was stopped after government decision to withdraw Glocs facility. Since the collectorate of preventive and appraisement at Port Qasim operate under one collector, there would not be any difficulty in implemention of the newly laid down rules and procedures.

However, at the Karachi customs Dr Fareed Qureshi said both the collectorates operate under different collectors, therefore, the working would be somewhat difficult and will have to be synchronised. He explained that appraisement collectorate could only handle containers lying inside the port area for clearance purposes and those outside the port area would have to be called back through the clearing agents and re-entry task would be looked after by the collectorate of preventive wing.

After the re-entry of such cargo which was cleared by the customs during post November 26, 2011 period but did not cross border it would once again undergo through the new rules and procedures which would include scanning, sealing etc, he added.

Mr Nasir Paracha clearing agent for Nato/Isaf said that around 1,200 containers cleared earlier did not cross border and were lying at different places between Karachi and Chaman and Torkhum customs check posts.

He further said those containers which had left Karachi or were near Afghan border would be scanned at Jamrud, a town located in the Khyber Agency. The scanner is operated by the NLC.

According to official figures around 7,834 containers and vehicles are stranded at Karachi and Qasim ports for the last seven months. Out of these 5,834 containers and vehicles are in the Karachi port area and 2,000 boxes in the Qasim port.

Official sources said that around 3851 heavy military vehicles are stranded at the Karachi port. However, it is interesting that around 350 Humvee vehicles widely used by the US army in Afghanistan are also detained at the ports.

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