ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has implemented several measures to clear more than 11,071 containers loaded with goods stranded at Karachi ports or en-route to border stations for crossing into Afghanistan, Dawn has learnt from knowledgeable sources.
A senior Customs official said a strategy was devised to minimise the container traffic at port stations in line with the recommendations made by the National Assembly Committee. The committee led by Speaker Asad Qaiser.
The strategy was devised after a meeting between officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the meeting, Afghan side had shown concern over the tedious procedures adopted in Pakistan for the clearance of Afghan cargoes.
Official statistics showed more than 7,321 Afghanistan-bound containers were stuck at Karachi ports since the movement of goods was halted by both sides to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Another 3,750 transit containers were stranded en-route or at various border Customs stations after provincial governments closed down stations. Of these, 3,128 containers were stuck at Torkham whereas 622 were at Chaman.
A Customs official while speaking to Dawn said the pace and number of cross-border cargo processing has now increased significantly. He said that the container processing will be geared up to increase the number to 800 containers per day.
At Torkham border stations, the flow of containers reached 448 on September 11. The number will increase further over the next week, the official added.
The government on April 5 resumed trade of transit goods for three days a week and later extended it to seven days as lockdowns were gradually eased for trade. Earlier, on March 2, the Pak-Afghan border was closed for all types of movement including cargo — exports and transit trade.
As per the measures taken to process held up containers at various stations, it was agreed that weight and scanning of containers will be carried out at NLC Terminal, Jamrud. The details will either be emailed or sent through WhatsApp once 30 vehicles are weighed and scanned.
Moreover, several other steps were also taken to speed up the clearance of cargo for onward movement to Afghanistan.
“The priority is that the containers piled up at border stations should be allowed to cross at the earliest to ensure the reduction of en-route congestion,” he said. Meanwhile, food, medicines and other essential commodities are being prioritised for speedy dispatch to Afghanistan. “Close watch is being kept on cross border statistics to assure smooth transit traffic flow without en route stoppage”, the official said.
The official said container pendency will be minimised at Karachi ports to help reduce demurrage and detention charges. “We will clear all the stuck up cargo at ports in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
In the last 10 days, as many as 2,150 new Afghan cargo containers arrived at Karachi ports.
Pakistan has become one of the most expensive countries for transit trade.
It is estimated that 70 per cent of Afghan transit trade has shifted away from Pakistan to Iran.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2020