The civil aviation ministry has ordered a 50 per cent waiver in demurrage charges in order to unclog import warehouses and facilitate smooth transport of essential items during lockdown period.
However, the customs department feels that this will only discourage more importers and brokers from lifting their consignments and cause further congestion of ports.
Demurrage refers to the penalty levied on importers by air cargo terminal operators for delays in clearing shipments and is collected on per-kilogram basis.
The reduced charges will apply to goods which are cleared by midnight of April 16 and subsequently normal rates will apply.
“With anyway no demand of imported items amid lockdown of manufacturing facilities, the waiver will basically incentivise importers to continue keeping the shipment at the airports itself,” said a senior customs officer.
In it’s April 1 order the civil aviation ministry said the imported cargo could not be cleared creating a 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 an one time measure.
Despite round the clock customs clearance for three months, non-essential shipments have 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 Indian Customs EoDB Dash (ICEDASH) for customs clearance show that about half of air cargo is taking more than three days to get cleared while about 75% of cargo would get cleared within 72 hours in normal circumstances. ICEDASH is an interactive visual dashboard, enabling comparison of the time taken for import cargo clearance at various customs ports and airports. Consignment cleared within 48 hours blinks green, up to 72 hours, amber and beyond that, red.
In Mumbai and Delhi airports, number of consignments getting cleared in less than 48 hours is down by 22 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.