KARACHI: The clearance of hundreds of containers, stuck at ports under SRO 598/22 dated 19-5-2022, has become a mystery even after the go-ahead for their release, given by the Ministry of Commerce (MoC).
According to the details, the clearance of around 300 containers loaded with different goods including aerated water, juices, chandeliers, cosmetics, fish products, travelling bags, footwear, ice creams, tissue papers, chocolates, and others were stopped after the issuance of SRO 598/22 dated 19-5-2022 to curtail the import bill.
Later, the MoC issued an office memorandum, stating that the MOC has decided to allow the release of all those consignments, imported in violation of the SRO 598(I)/2022 dated May 19, 2022, and are pending customs clearance, provided the consignments had landed at any port across the country on or before June 30, 2022, subject to payment of a surcharge to be imposed on the C&F value of goods, which is between 5 to 15 percent.
Consequently, Pakistan Customs has also followed the MoC instructions and allowed the release of all those consignments, which are pending customs clearance at any port across the country.
Moreover, the customs department is also facilitating the importers in waiving all delay and detention charges on all pending consignments landed at any port of the country from May 19, 2022, to June 30, 2022. However, the clearance of all stuck containers landed at any port of the country from May 19, 2022, to June 30, 2022, is still pending, despite all the efforts. When contacted, Arshad Khurshid General Secretary, Karachi Customs Agents Association (KCAA), acknowledged the efforts of the customs department to ensure maximum facilitation in waiving all delay and detention charges on all pending consignments.
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He held the commercial banks responsible for the delays in the clearance of these containers, saying that banks were not retiring the import documents against the payment to curtail the outflow of foreign exchange from the country.
He said that although there was no such official circular issued by the central bank, the commercial banks were refusing to retire the import documents with the rationale that they had no instruction from the central bank to retire the import documents, causing delays in the clearance of stuck containers. He also urged the concerned authority to evolve the defer payment mechanism for the immediate release of these consignments.
On the hand, bank sources depicted a different picture of the delays in the clearance of these containers, saying that following the sharp rupee devaluation during the last two months, the importers were reluctant to pay the currency difference; hence, the import documents were not being retired.
They said that importers, who at that time had fixed the exchange rate, were now releasing their consignments while the rest of the others were seeking government intervention for the purpose.