O P Arora : Shape up the shipping line

Importers, exporters and CHAs are facing harassment from one more quarter — the shipping lines. 

It begins with their demand for security deposit. While reputed shipping lines do not insist on any security for 20’/40’ containers and believe  more in providing real services, there are many that behave in quite an unwarranted manner. They seek a security deposit at the rate of Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 for every 20’/40’ container in the form of bank pay order.

The ideal procedure should be that as and when empty containers are returned to the shipping lines at their yard, the same bank pay order, which was submitted as security deposit, should be returned in original at the earliest.

However, some shipping lines, instead of returning the bank pay order, encash it and use the money for their own purpose. 

The shipping lines that have been found to be indulging in this practice are: Yang Ming, K-Line, Crescent Shipping Agency India Ltd, Sea bridge, Maritime Agency India Pvt.Ltd., United Arab Shipping Agencies India Pvt. Ltd and MSC Agency India Pvt. Ltd.

At times, return of the security amount is delayed by two to four months even after the deposit of empty containers in the yard of the shipping line and submitting an application for the return of security amount.

The delay is on the one pretext or the other so that the shipping lines can utilise the money for a longer  duration. Some flimsy objections cited by them for delaying the return of the security amount include non-submission of original letter head of the importer, deposit of application after 11 am, etc.

Some shipping lines such as, Hapag Lloyd India Pvt.Ltd., CSAV, APL, NYK, Mitsui OSK Lines, CMA CGM have another modus operandi. They return the bank pay order to the CHA whereas others issue a fresh cheque in the name of importer or exporter and not the CHA, who had actually given the security from his own account.

The CHA is harassed since cheques are not issued in his favour. He is asked to obtain NOC from the importers/exporters in a particular format, unique to each shipping line which is time consuming and complicated.

Many shipping lines demand

“security” even if goods are removed after destuffing from containers at ICD and container  is not taken out at all.

Service-oriented attitude

Government departments, statutory authorities, customs department, custodians, bank, transporters, etc. dealing with export/import trade have all shed their rigidity to adopt a courteous and service-oriented attitude. 

Shipping lines, however, continue to be arrogant doing precious little in respect of hospitality.

They are unconcerned about the  convenience and welfare of their clients and CHAs, and do not house necessary infrastructure to discharge their responsibility efficiently and in a time-bound manner. Their offices function from 10 am to 5 pm and do not operate in a flexible manner to serve the  clients.They are closed every Saturday, thereby deliberately keeping  public dealing hours to bare minimum. There is also no public dealing after 3 pm. They neither entertain any security withdrawal request after 11 am.

While there are no extension  counters at ICD, Tughlakabad, New Delhi, the offices of shipping lines are located at far-off places in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to suit their own convenience.

Remedial measures

The concerned ministry, controlling authorities, including Customs Department and Ministry of Commerce, should immediately enforce a code of conduct in the interest of boosting economic activity in the country. As regards security deposit by CHAs, all the shipping lines must return the same to CHA on its own within one week from the date of return of containers.

Shipping lines should do away with the complex formalities and come out with simple and convenient solutions, atleast for the prominent CHAs and importers/ exporters with whom a large number of  dealings take place every month.

The shipping lines should upgrade their infrastructure and their attitude  should be service-oriented.

Their office should be operational throughout the day, from 10 am to 6 pm, including Saturdays, as is the case with all other agencies dealing with export and import activities.

Whenever customs is open, shipping line office should also be open for the facility of trade. No security deposit should be insisted where clients do not take out the containers from ICD/CFS.