Although the air cargo community is demanding an unconditional 100 per cent waiver of demurrage charges at all airports across the country, the civil aviation ministry has waived 50 per cent of the penalty levied by airports to encourage the air cargo community to clear the backlog of imported cargo and facilitate smooth transport of essential items amid the nationwide lockdown due to the COVOD-19 outbreak.
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) at Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
In its April 1 order, the civil aviation ministry said the imported cargo could not be cleared creating congestion in terminals. With a view to prioritise and facilitate necessary imports of essential commodities and in order to maintain proper supply lines, the charges are being reduced as a onetime measure.
Imported air cargo that landed on or after March 20 could not be cleared from the airports, and this created congestion at cargo terminals. Immediately after that, the implementation of the 21-day lockdown caused impediments in removing the imported materials, including relief materials required for fighting COVID-19.
To clear the backlog, airport operators/cargo terminal operators need to extend their support to the air cargo industry, the order said.
Non-essential shipments have also clogged the ports and airports with customs agents or brokers not turning up due to unavailability of logistics partners and transportation. In fact, in many cases, duties are not being paid with importers citing lack of requirement due to temporary closure of manufacturing facilities.
The country’s shipping ministry in its advisory on March 31 instructed ports/terminals to waive all penal charges till April 14 without imposing conditions; it even extended this to shipping lines and custodians–Container Freight Stations (CFSs) and Inland Container Depots (ICDs). In fact, the shipping lines and CFSs have unconditionally extended the free period up to April 14 considering the 21-day lockdown and shortage of manpower.
Demanding the same, the air cargo fraternity believes it would be appropriate if the civil aviation ministry extends the waiver to all imports for 100 per cent of the demurrage without any conditions.