South Asia
Afghanistan traders are demanding demand clearance of transit cargo at Karachi ports

Bangladsh Live News | @banglalivenews | 01 Jun 2020

Islamabad: Afghanistan traders have said their transit cargo is lying at Karachi ports under severe demurrage and detention charges since the first week of March 2020 and they are now demanding a clearance of it.

The traders have argued that both Afghan transit trade and bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan suffer losses of billions of rupees.

Ahmad Shah Yarzada, member of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who imports goods under transit trade, told Daily Times they encounter delays up to 5-12 days for cargo clearance at Karachi, whereas the domestic cargo is cleared within 1-4 days based on the available evidence. 

“This causes considerable losses for Afghan traders because shipping company generally provides only 21 days free detention including clearance time, but it takes at least 25-30 days to complete the cycle of returning the empty container back to the shipping company owing partly to transit and customs delays,” Yarzada  said.

Incidentally, Pakistan and its landlocked neighbour Afghanistan had signed transit trade agreement in 1965 that was revised in 2010.

Afghan  traders have been accessing ports in Karachi since then.

Pakistan also allowed Afghan traders to import goods via the Gwadar port in Balochistan province.

Pakistan last month announced to allow import of the Afghan bulk cargo of wheat, sugar and fertilizers at the Gwadar port and onward transit to Afghanistan in sealable trucks, instead of being limited to containers, reports Daily Times.

Abdul Razak Dawood, advisor to Pakistani prime minister on commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment says that a cargo ship, carrying 16,000 tons urea for transit to Afghanistan arrived at the Gwadar port on Friday. The China Overseas Port Holding Company, which operates the Gwadar port, also confirmed arrival of the Afghan cargo ship, reported the newspaper.

Welcoming the move, Afghanistan envoy in Pakistan Atif Mashal tweeted:"Thank you@razak_dawoodSahib for your efforts. This will certainly have a positive impact on Afghanistan-Pak trade & transit ties. We must extend support to each other for revival of commerce & connectivity in Central and South Asia that will surely benefit people in the region."

Yarzada said that Afghan traders are going to benefit from the 6 days and round-the-clock opening of the border if their cargo at Karachi ports is cleared.

Yarzada told Daily Times an Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement only up to 5 percent examination of consignment is allowed based on risk management basis, but unfortunately 80% is done without taking into consideration nature of the cargo, which he termed as violation of the APTTA. 

“There is no justifiable reason to make both physical examination of the cargo and scan,” he said, adding there is only one scanner machine installed at each of ports in Karachi while hundreds of Afghan transit consignments arrived to Karachi on daily basis from different countries.

“Since the capacity of Scanner Machine is not enough to scan such huge numbers of containers/consignment, therefore Afghan transit cargo is delayed for 5-10 days at Karachi ports exposed to heavy detention and demurrage charges,” he said.

When asked about Pakistan’s complaint that Kabul is not convening the long pending meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Coordination Authority (APTTCA), which oversees implementation of the transit agreement, he said Afghan side argues Pakistan has not implemented decisions in the previous APTTCA meetings and another meeting will be useless.

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