The government has come up with more measures to make life easier for exporters and importers during the lockdown
The Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) had issued an advisory on March 29 asking shipping lines not to impose container detention charges or any new or additional charges for the lockdown
period from March 22 to April 14 over and above the agreed free time availed of as part of negotiated contractual terms. Two days later, the DGS directed all the major ports to consider exemption or remission of demurrage, ground rent beyond allowed free period, penal anchorage/berth hire charges and any other performance-related penalties that may be levied on port activities for the reasons attributable to lockdown
measures. On the same day, the DGS advised shipping companies or carriers (and their agents by whatever named called) to pass on the benefits extended by the ports to non-containerised (i.e. bulk, break-bulk, and liquid) cargo also. However, some shipping lines or their agents did not feel bound by the advisories, leading to complaints from the importers and exporters.
Last week, the DGS issued a binding order that the shipping companies or carriers (and their agents by whatever name called) shall not charge, levy or recover any penal charges, demurrage, ground rent, storage charges in the port, detention charges, dwell time charges, additional anchorage charges, penal berth hire charges, vessel demurrage or any performance related penalties on cargo owners/consignees of containerised or non-containerised cargo, whether LCL or not till May 3 due to delay in berthing, loading/unloading operations or evacuation/arrival of cargo. Major ports also must remit penal charges, demurrages, detention charges, dwell time charges, anchorage charges, penal berth hire charges, performance relate penalties, etc. levied on the port users, including the shipping lines. Hopefully, these instructions will be extended to minor ports, inland container depots, and container freight stations also.
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has already extended the facility of automated clearance of bills of entry (BoE) to all customs formations where the Customs EDI system is operational, with effect from March 5. Now, the CBIC has enabled electronic communication of PDF-based Final e-OoC (electronic Out of Charge) copy of BoE and e-Gatepass to the importers/Customs brokers. The final e-OoC copy of BoE and e-Gatepass copy will be emailed to the concerned Customs broker and/or importer, if registered, once the Out of Charge is granted. The e-Gatepass copy will be used by the gate officer or the custodian to allow physical exit of the imported goods from the Customs area.
The CBIC has also instructed that the import consignments, where a preferential treatment of goods under a Free Trade Agreement has been claimed but the original hard copy of Certificate of Origin (CoO) has not been submitted or only digitally signed copy or unsigned copy of CoO is submitted, may be assessed and cleared provisionally in terms of section 18 of the Customs Act, 1962. The final assessment may be done subsequently on submission of the original CoO document by the importer. The temporary facility of submitting undertaking in lieu of bond has now been extended till May 15. The instructions regarding electronic sealing for deposit in and removal of goods from bonded warehouses has been deferred till the beginning of July.
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