Minister for Maritime Affairs Faisal Subzwari on Monday said a formal notification would be issued later in the day – the statement coming after the federal government decided last week to waive the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Port Qasim charges for the stranded containers.
Earlier in the day, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) withdrew the requirement of prior approval of imports and instead asked banks to prioritise the import of certain essential items like food, pharmaceutical and energy, in order to facilitate businesses.
“The government has decided to waive off 100 percent charges of KPT and Port Qasim on the thousands of containers that remain stranded at the ports,” said Subzwari, adding that the ministry would issue a formal notification later in the day.
Subzwari, talking to reporters in Karachi, refuted reports that shipping lines are going to close their operations in Pakistan. “No shipping company is going to shut its business in Pakistan.”
“For clarity’s sake, nothing of this sort would happen. Secondly, we have had talks with the shipping lines and have asked them to facilitate our businesses,” he said.
“Soon, the Trade Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) would be given a status of an off-dock terminal, and all stranded containers will be shifted there, which will eliminate our port congestion and issues of the shipping lines and terminal operators,” said the minister.
He added that Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT), which had a 20-acre off-dock terminal, would provide these facilities to the business community for free.
No approval required for imports
Besides withdrawing the order for prior approval for imports, the SBP advised banks to provide a one-time facilitation to all those importers who could either extend their payment terms to 180 days (or beyond) or arrange funds from abroad to settle their pending import payments.
According to the SBP, banks are advised, until March 31, to process and release documents of shipments/ goods that have already arrived at a port in Pakistan or have been shipped on or before January 18, 2023.
The SBP also wants customers to inform their banks prior to the initiation of any import transaction to “avoid any complications in the future”.
Low levels of foreign exchange reserves was the reason behind the SBP placing restrictions on imports last year, much to the dismay of several importers and businesses in Pakistan that cited these curbs as the reason behind shutting down or scaling back operations.