SHC enters wrangling over berthing disputes at ports

Published December 12, 2020
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the port authorities to permit berthing of vessels of a leading cement/clinker exporting firm and some oil seeds importers as per ports rules and policy till Dec 23. — File photo
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the port authorities to permit berthing of vessels of a leading cement/clinker exporting firm and some oil seeds importers as per ports rules and policy till Dec 23. — File photo

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the port authorities to permit berthing of vessels of a leading cement/clinker exporting firm and some oil seeds importers as per ports rules and policy till Dec 23.

A single bench of the SHC headed by Syed Zafar Ahmed Rajput also issued notices to the port authorities and other authorities concerned named as defendants in the suit with the direction to file their comments till next hearing.

Attock Cement Pakistan Limited and others filed a suit before the SHC against Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Port Qasim authorities asking to allow berthing of their vessels that had been held up due to priority being given to wheat and sugar cargoes. The bench, while issuing notices said, “Meanwhile, defendants No.2 and 3 are directed to permit berthing the vessels of the plaintiffs as per ‘Karachi Port Manual for the Traffic Department’ and’ Berthing Policy of the Fauji Akbar Portia Marine Terminals at Port Qasim, Karachi’ till the next date of hearing.”

The government had asked the port authorities to give top priority berthing of vessels carrying wheat and sugar to speed up the arrival of these commodities in domestic markets to control their spiralling prices. As a result, activities relating to exports and imports of different commodities were seriously hampered resulting long delays in clearing of vessels carrying clinker for exports while oil seed importers and fertiliser manufacturers had also complained about delays in clearing of the vessels carrying their imports.

Chairman Pakistan Ship’s Agents Association (PSAA) Mohammad A. Rajpar welcomed the decision.

Speaking to Dawn, he said that at the KPT not more than three wheat vessels should be berthed at any given time after ascertaining availability of transportation, adequate equipment and labour. Presently seven wheat vessels are berthed hence expenditure discharge of each is impossible. To compound matters, a gearless wheat vessel (MV Cic Epos) has been berthed by the KPT which would further diminish the average discharge rate.

He said wheat, whether imported by the public or private sector, is Pakistan’s cargo and the policy of first come first served (within wheat vessels) should be implemented. As soon as the current wheat crisis ends, the present practice of priority berthing should be stopped.

Till Dec 9, 2020, 1.7 million tonnes of wheat had been imported and there are no more requirements for berthing priority, he said.

Rajpar said MW-1 and MW-2 at Port Qasim are highly stressed. PQA should utilise MW-3 and MW-4 for cargo handling after making necessary arrangements the Chinese operator as well as ensure dedicated terminals only handle the dedicated cargoes.

He said off port situation at KPT for oil tankers is “terrible” with vessels waiting for 3 to 7 days due to indefinite closure of Oil Pier 3 since Nov 29, 2018 and deteriorating condition of Oil Pier 1 to the extent that pilots have declined berthing.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2020

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