Pakistan to waive demurrage charges as containers clog ports during lockdown

A Pakistani Naval personnel stands guard beside a ship carrying containers during the opening of a trade project in Gwadar port, some 700 kms west of Karachi on November 13, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2020

Pakistan to waive demurrage charges as containers clog ports during lockdown

  • Around 20,000 containers are stuck at the two Karachi ports due to virus lockdown, official says
  • Importers are using containers and terminals as storage areas after closure of factories and retail outlets

KARACHI: Pakistan has decided to waive port charges to clear the containers piling up at Karachi seaports after the country entered strict lockdown amid rising coronavirus cases, maritime ministry official said Monday.
“The government has decided to waive demurrage and detention charges which will now be borne by national exchequer,” Mahmood Moulvi, adviser to ministry of maritime affairs, told Arab News. “The decision would be notified in the next few days,” he added. 
A large number of imported consignments are piling up at port terminals due to absence of transportation.
“Around 20, 000 containers with import and export goods are estimated to be stuck at the ports due to lockdown,” said Khurram Ijaz, vice President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).

“Many traders may go bankrupt if the government did not intervene in time,” Ijaz said, adding that relevant authorities including the ministry of ports and shipping and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) are silent as “no official decision has been announced regarding port charges.”
Pakistan’s port city of Karachi which houses two main harbors — the Karachi Port and Port Qasim — is almost under complete lockdown since March 23 following the virus outbreak, which has infected more than 3,500 people and claimed over 52 lives. 
The lockdown and restriction on mass movement has resulted in imported raw materials and finished goods to pile up at warehouses and factory outlets that has compounded the situation at Karachi’s ports, which handle an average 1500 to 2000 containers on a daily basis. 

Stakeholders say the importers are unable to move the containers as warehouses and factories have no space to accommodate new cargoes though the ports operate as per routine.

“Importers are not lifting the cargoes and now the pressure is mounting on the container terminals,” Aasim Siddiqui, Chairman of All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) told Arab News. “They want the demurrage and detention charges waived and are using containers and terminals as storage area.” 

Exporters are also adversely affected by the lockdown as most of the export orders are either being canceled or pushed for postponement.
“Some buyers are asking for shipment of goods but we don’t have the orders ready due to closure of factories,” Shabbir Ahmed, chairman of Bedware Exporters Association (BEA), a major component of textile exporters, told Arab News. “The containers cannot be loaded and unloaded as no labor is available due to lockdown,” he added.

Pakistan expects the global economic meltdown and trade tensions to further impact the country’s economy which is now projected to grow at 2.6 percent during the current fiscal year, according to ministry of planning. 

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

Updated 03 December 2020

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

  • Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 
  • Deliberate vilification and negative stereotyping of Islam perpetuates ‘clash of civilizations,’ Pakistan’s envoy to the UN says

ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from the European Union and other western nations and India, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted a Pakistan and Philippines sponsored resolution on inter-religious dialogue that emphasized the need to respect “sacred religious symbols,” Pakistan’s state news agency reported on Thursday. 

The resolution received a majority of 90 votes, none against, with 52 abstentions, APP said.

Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over France’s response to a deadly attack in October on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to pupils during a civics lesson.

For Muslims, depictions of the Prophet are blasphemous.

Pakistan has condemned the recent re-printing of the cartoons. The French president has paid tribute to the murdered teacher, fueling further anger in the Muslim world. 

“Facing strong opposition from the powerful western bloc mainly based on freedom of expression, the Pakistan Mission worked hard to rally the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and other developing countries to garner support for inclusion of new elements in the resolution,” APP reported. 

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated calls to the international community and the United Nations to counter Islamophobia and promote respect for religious sensitivities.

“Ambassador Akram also emphasized that the deliberate “vilification and negative stereotyping of adherents of one of the largest religions in the world –Islam — only perpetuates dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies such as the ‘clash of civilizations’ and must be addressed on urgent basis,” APP quoted the ambassador as saying. 

“After some intensive lobbying, the resolution acknowledges — for the first time — the significance and respect for religious symbols,” the state news agency added. “It also stressed that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and must therefore be subjected to legitimate restrictions.”

“The resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination,” APP said, “and underlines the importance of interrelgious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, and peace and development in the world.”