With importers facing difficulty in clearing cargo from airports across the country due to the lockdown, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has waived 50 per cent of the demurrage charges payable to the airport cargo terminal operator till the end of the lockdown.

However, trade members are unhappy, and want 100 per cent waiver as announced by the Shipping ministry for imports through the ports.

Half of the demurrage charges will be waived if the goods are cleared and removed from the airport by 23:59 hours on April 16, said an order issued by Dinesh Kumar, Deputy Director (ER), MoCA.

The waiver of demurrage charges payable is for utilising storage facility at cargo terminals for storage of import cargo, goods, unaccompanied baggage, stores, courier bags, express parcels, postal mail for extended period beyond the stipulated free storage period for clearance or removal from the airport.

Logjam at airports

Imported air cargo that landed on or after March 20 could not be cleared from the airports, and this created congestion at cargo terminals. The lockdown caused impediments in removing the imported materials, including relief materials required for handling Covid-19.

To clear the backlog, airport operators/cargo terminal operators need to extend their support to the air cargo industry, the order said.

“It would be appropriate if the Ministry of Civil Aviation extend the waiver to all imports for 100 per cent of the demurrage without any conditions,” said G Raghu Sankar, Executive Director, International Clearing & Shipping Agency (India) Pvt Ltd, which is in to clearing of both sea and air cargo.

The Shipping Ministry in its advisory on March 31 intimated that: ports/terminals should waive all penal charges till April 14 without imposing conditions and even extended this to carriers and custodians like container freight stations and Inland Container Depots. In fact, the carriers and custodians – Shipping Lines and CFS – have unconditionally extended the free period up to April 14. It should be similar for the air cargo too, he added.

Sea cargo

AV Vijayakumar of Paramount Shipping said air cargo should follow the Shipping Ministry guidelines, which directed all major ports and other stakeholders related to Exim cargo not to levy any penalties, charges and fees on any port user for any delay caused due to Covid-19 till April 14. On March 24, it issued an advisory to all major port trusts for invoking Force Majeure clause on port activities and port operations.

Major ports were also allowed to extend completion of any project under implementation in PPP mode or otherwise. Moreover, major ports can permit waiver of all penal consequences with deferment of performance obligations as per concession agreement on case to case basis, for existing and operational PPP Projects, the Shipping Ministry said.

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