Bangladesh: Govt set to extend waiver period as liners oppose

The country’s maritime regulator is set to extend its restrictions on realising container detention charge for the entire shutdowns period, despite opposition from the shipping sector lobbyists.

The advisory, issued on April 29, had asked the shipping lines not to collect container detention charge until May 05 on import and export shipments.

But the shipping liners had been baulking at following the advisory since its issuance.

Even the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association or BSAA had skipped a meeting on the issue held on May 11 at the Department of Shipping.

The department met again on Sunday and decided to enforce the advisory from March 26 to May 30.

At Sunday’s meeting, the shipping agents argued that the container detention tariff is a contractual agreement between customers and the shipping lines and is also part of freight tax ranging from 4.0 to 8.0 per cent paid to the government.

They insisted that their vessels stayed at the Chittagong port for several weeks due to prolonged congestion at the country’s main maritime facility, which caused huge financial losses to the shipping lines during the period.

Chairman of the association Ahsanul Huq Chowdhury told the FE on Sunday that they did not agree to follow the advisory since it will further raise their financial losses.

“It is an advisory, we are not bound to follow it,” he said.

Ahmed Shahid Chowdhury, a director of the BSAA who attended the meeting, made a written submission where he said the shipping agents have to reach out to their individual principals at the headquarters to take any decision.

Director general of the department Syed Ariful Islam told the FE shipping lines will have to follow the advisory to help businesses overcome the crisis period.

“The government has given the store rent waiver for the sake of trade and industry. Shipping lines also need to withdraw the container detention charge,” he said.

The department will, however, allow the liners to start realising such charges from the preliminary slab from June 01.

There are many slabs of such charges, of which the preliminary is usually lower.

The official argued that India and other neighbouring nations also waived such charges considering the coronavirus impact on trade.

He said many importers are not taking the delivery of goods from the port following high detention or demurrage charges.

Chairman of Chittagong Port Authority or CPA S M Abul Kalam Azad told the FE on Sunday shippers can no way to ignore the advisory and they should comply with it.

He said only a few vessels suffered due to the congestions at the port and “we could address it quickly and bring down the turnaround time at a tolerable limit”.

Mr Azad also said in some cases, it was noticed that detention charge has reached a level that the fee is much higher that the value of goods imported through a container.

For this reason, the importers are not taking delivery of the containers, fearing massive financial losses.