An advisory committee will be formed to resolve issues related to demurrage at ports and other related problems, announced Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi.

During his visit to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Friday, he said the body would consist of representatives of business chambers, the maritime affairs ministry and relevant departments.

The minister voiced hope that the committee would play a vital role in resolving the issues faced by the business community at ports of the country.

He invited meeting participants to visit Karachi Port, Port Qasim and Gwadar Port to explore the emerging opportunities for them. The minister pointed out that his ministry was facing multiple problems and was trying its best to resolve them.

“We will give great news to the nation about Gwadar Port very soon,” said Zaidi.

He clarified that ports in Karachi fell within his ministry’s domain but port terminals had been handed over to the private sector on a long-term lease.

The State Bank of Pakistan had allowed investors to apply for long-term financing for the purchase of ships and development of related infrastructure, he highlighted.

“Ships registered in Pakistan will be given preference in getting berths,” he said. “Similarly, the ships purchased under this policy can get exemption from customs duty, income tax and sales tax till 2030.”

The minister emphasised that Pakistani investors could purchase their own ships and hand over their management to Pakistan National Shipping Company, but in such a situation, bills would be paid in Pakistani rupees instead of US dollars.

He pointed out that Pakistan had five terminals for loading and unloading containers.

The maritime affairs ministry got various port charges waived, but it was unable to gain approval for the elimination of terminal charges, he said. The minister stressed that blue economy could change the destiny of the country.

“Pakistan is spending $5.5 billion annually in freight,” he told businessmen.

In concluding remarks, the minister announced another visit to the LCCI along with Karachi Port Trust chairman and Port Qasim Authority chairman to resolve the issues facing the business community.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah lamented that a few shipping firms were continuously violating their manifestations because they often offloaded containers at ports which were not mentioned in the designated route.

“As a result, the consignees bear extra costs in the form of demurrage and wharfage charges, which are paid in dollars,” he said.

“Officials at terminals and ports do not waive the fee, which makes the consignees helpless.”

He expressed concern that the terminal handling charges had surged during the tenure of current government.

Similarly, the port storage charges and container detention charges went up as well, which needed to be curbed, Misbah said.

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