Clearance of Afghanistan-bound cargo up 54pc

Updated 26 Sep 2020

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Pakistan’s closure of borders with Afghanistan led to a piling up of over 12,500 containers at port and border stations. — Reuters/File
Pakistan’s closure of borders with Afghanistan led to a piling up of over 12,500 containers at port and border stations. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The clearance of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) cargo posted a growth of nearly 54 per cent in the past couple of weeks, bringing down overall container congestion significantly at Pakistan’s ports and border stations, Customs official told Dawn on Friday.

Pakistan’s closure of borders with Afghanistan led to a piling up of over 12,500 containers at port and border stations. However, the pendency of these containers now fell to 5,800 on September 25. “The situation is better and the clearance of ATT cargo increased day by day”, a senior Customs official told Dawn.

“The average time for transportation of a container from Karachi to Torkham on September 9 was 27 days because of congestion, which was brought down to five days on September 20,” the official said, adding the reduction in dwelling time will further facilitate the movement.

The staging areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have virtually become vacant due to recent efficiency in the clearance of Afghan transit cargo, the official said. He added that it took Pakistan Customs 15 minutes to clear a container.

The closure of Pak-Afghan border almost for a month from March 16 to April 9 to contain the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in complete halt of ATT cargo movement from Karachi to Torkham. Complete closure of Border Crossing Points (BCPs) at Torkham and Chaman caused piling up of transit cargo at Karachi ports.

3,500 containers are still pending at Karachi ports because of high demurrages issues, and 2,300 containers are en-route to border stations. The importers are demanding from government to waive off the demurrages.

According to the official, Customs clearance procedures at the Afghan side are excessively time consuming because of which the rate of clearance is still below the target.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is expected to take up the issue with Afghan government for speedy clearance of containers at their end.

The major pendency pertains to the months of July-Aug 2020, for which the Bonded Carriers are awaiting additional payments from Afghan importers as they are reportedly working on done basis.

Moreover, the Afghan importers/bonded carriers and clearing agents are aware of Pakistan government’s deliberations on demurrage/detention waiver, therefore they are awaiting decision in this regard, the official said.

According to the official, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs has moved a summary in this regard. These containers will also be cleared quickly when government resolved the demurrages issue, the official added.

At the same time the clearance of containers at border stations also helped in swift clearance of export containers to Afghanistan. The goods transported via trucks to Afghanistan between March 20 to April 20 was 41 with export value of $0.36 million at Torkham border station.

The trucks crossing into Afghanistan via Torkham reached to 854 with an export value of $17.41m between April 20 to May 20. With the gradual increase in the following months, the trucks loaded with goods reached 4,706, with an export value of $48.12m between July 20 to August 20.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020