The practice of charging demurrage and ground rent on importers by the container freight station at the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) in violation of a Union government advisory during the lockdown has almost doubled the financial burden of operators from north Kerala.
Several importers have received bills to the tune of ₹5,000 to ₹2 lakh. It is at a time when major ports in the country are refraining from levying any such charge in compliance with the directives of the Ministry of Shipping.
According to representatives of importers’ forum in Malabar, ground rent or demurrage is not being charged in Mumbai and Chennai ports. The service provider at Vallarpadam is levying the charge, claiming that the facility is under the private sector, they alleged.
Munshid Ali, an importer from Kozhikode and a functionary of the Calicut Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said container movement by road had been stalled in the State. “There is no way to clear containers that have already arrived. It was in such a context that the Shipping Ministry came up with a specific order in support of exporters and importers,” he pointed out.
The Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations has already raised a complaint about reckless charging of demurrage and ground rent with the Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. Traders’ forums are also planning to take up the matter with other government agencies for quick action.
Meanwhile, representatives of various importers’ forums said that the exemption from payment of demurrage and ground rent was in accordance with an order issued under Section 111 of the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. The order also makes it clear that the container freight station is an extended arm of the port, and that it functions as the dock. Hence, all service providers are liable to comply with the order and waive service charges, they pointed out.