AV Vijaykumar, Chairman, Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Association of India (FFFAI)

In a representation to the Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation on April 7, the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) has recommended for 100 per cent waiver of demurrage charges levied by cargo terminals of airports/custodians across the country. It is pertinent to mention that on 1st April 2020 the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Government of India issued an Order on demurrage waiver for import and exports consignments due to outbreak of COVID 19. Demurrage is payable to the Airport Operator/ Cargo Terminal Operator by a Shipper or Consignee or Carrier or Agent for utilising storage facility at Cargo Terminal for storage of import cargo, goods, unaccompanied baggage, stores, courier bags, express parcels, postal mail, etc. for extended period beyond the stipulated free storage period.

Observing that all the imported air cargo which had landed on or after March 20, 2020 at airports in India could not be cleared and removed from the airports thereby creating congestion at some of them for no fault of the air cargo community, and caused impediments to the swift clearance and removal from such congested airports of imported essential commodities and relief materials required for handling Covid-19 related issues across the country.

Therefore, during this critical hour of need for prioritising and facilitating necessary imports of essential commodities and relief materials, in order to maintain proper supply lines and strengthen the airport operations for their efficient handling, it is felt desirable to encourage the air cargo community to clear the backlog of imported cargo, goods, etc. and remove them from the congested major airports in India immediately. This would require airport operators/ cargo terminal operators to extend their support to the air cargo industry.

Therefore, for all Customs Airports, the following provisions for the treatment of demurrage charges are applicable on import air cargo:

 (a) Which had landed on or after March 20, 2020, but could not be cleared and removed from all the customs airports by 23:59 hours on the date of this Order, and for which Bill of Entries were filed with Customs and the imported cargo, goods, etc. are lying with or without Customs Out-of-Charge (OOC) in the Custodian Warehouses.

(b) For any delay in clearance and removal from the airport caused by reasons attributable to the aforesaid lockdown measures for the period up to and until 14 April2020.

(c) Demurrage charges on such imports shall be waived at 50 per cent by the airport operator/cargo terminal operator, provided that the cargo, goods, etc. are cleared and removed from the airport by 23:59 hours on 16 April 2020

(d) In case such imported cargo is not cleared and removed within these timelines, normal demurrage charges as applicable would be payable.

(e) During this period the airport operators/ cargo terminal operators/ concessionaires shall not impose any other or alternative charge by whatsoever name on the importer or trade agents concerned.

However, FFFAI raised some pertinent aspects especially on the judiciousness of granting waiver of demurrage charges only 50 per cent considering the prevailing scenario owing to lockdown/curfew across the country.

With the situation is beyond control of entire trade and impossibility of performance, charging trade for the demurrage is not rational. Our humble submission is for granting of 100 pc demurrage waiver. We should remember that the demurrage is deterrence and not the revenue, hence in such force majeure circumstances re-consideration is desirable.

Currently the situation remains the same, though with difficulty few vehicles are moving. As per the guidelines given by the Government, the manufacturing / production industries have to go through various requirements – including retaining the staff inside the factory, providing them with food / stay/ basic amenities, routine medical checks, etc., if the unit intends to commence their activities. Thus, the lockdown curtailed all normal activities and imposed restrictions that disabled routine actions. I urge for clarifications on the MoCA’s Order concerning actual date and time of its implementation or applicability and time given for filing of Bills of Entry.