ISLAMABAD: The per-day clearance of trade cargoes at the Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT) reached 51 per cent in August from less than 40pc last year, a development that will help reduce the cost of doing business.
The information was shared during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Maritime Affairs presided over by Amer Ali Khan Magsi on Thursday when members of the committee directed the Collectorate of Customs Appraisement (East) Karachi for removal of blockage and congestion of containers at the PICT.
The committee was also briefed about the land encroached upon in the jurisdiction of Karachi Port Trust (KPT). The meeting noted that the encroachment has been going on for several years and the KPT administrations have willfully let it happen.
It has been done with the connivance of officials of different organisations, including the KPT, police and revenue department, etc. Although some land has been recovered, a cohesive effort is still needed by the KPT to resolve the issue, the committee recommended.
NA committee briefed on steps taken for clearance of imported consignments
Collector of Collectorate of Customs Appraisement (East) Karachi Fayaz Rasool Maken briefed the committee on the steps taken for the clearance of imported consignments. The automated Web-Based One-Customs cargo clearance system has ensured that 51pc of the consignments are cleared within one day.
High freight, congestion
He informed the committee that global disruptions in vessel schedules and container tariff created congestion at the ports during January and February 2021. Disruption in the international supply chain and a shortage of containers substantially increased freight charges, which further disrupted vessel schedules affecting the entire business cycle.
This resulted in the clustering of vessels calling in at the ports at non-scheduled times, causing port congestion due to the increased container traffic. These factors coupled with the capacity issues of the PICT aggravated the situation, the collector said.
Special emphasis was placed for the disposal of overstayed cargo through rigorous auction proceedings by constituting dedicated teams of the Customs officers. The auction of overstayed containers reached 1,540 containers in 2020-21 from 787 in the previous year.
He said despite lack of proper infrastructure and equipment at the PICT, Customs took several initiatives to address the issue of port congestion and ensure expeditious clearances at the terminal.
The meeting was informed that additional space of 7,000 square metres was allocated for examination out PICT area in KPT bounded area.
Moreover, the collectorate staff conducted examinations / assessments even on consecutive Sundays and extended working hours on regular weekdays, from February to July 2021. The customs has submitted a string of proposals for further increasing the clearance of cargo and reducing the congestion at the port. It was recommended that the KPT may like to provide more space to the PICT after making a necessary arrangements with them as per law; terminal operator should significantly improve their capabilities in terms of equipment.
It was also suggested that skilled and adequate labour should be employed by the terminal operators to pre-empt any port delays.
The ministry of ports and shipping may consider deputing an independent audit agency to evaluate and improve clearances/ performance by the terminal operators in regard to their operations at the ports, the collector said.
The committee observed that the KPT is also not fulfilling its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It will ascertain the facts behind the land encroached in the KPT, not fulfilling the obligations under CSR and not giving lower grade jobs district wise.
The committee was told about the financial performance of the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC). IT was informed that the PNSC has prepared a Fleet Development Plan to enhance its carrying capacity keeping in view its available financial resources.
In short term, the PNSC is working on the acquisition of Aframax crude oil tankers and Ultramax bulk carrier for which international tenders have already been floated in compliance with the requirements of Public Procurement Rules, 2004.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2021