The Financial Express

Court stays DoS order, questions its authority

Realising container detention charge by shipping lines

| Updated: June 30, 2020 10:13:39

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The High Court has stayed an order of Director General of Department of Shipping (DoS) which had asked the shipping lines not to realise container detention charge during Covid-19 pandemic linked holidays.

The Bangladesh Container Shipping Association (BCSA) had moved to the court after they were barred by DoS order to collect the fees.

After hearing the plea the virtual court last week stayed the DoS order saying the director general has no authority to issue such a directive. A further hearing on this issue will be held in regular court once the pandemic linked barriers are over, according to officials.

The country's maritime regulator on April 29 issued an advisory asking the shipping lines not to realise container detention charge for the period between March 26 and May 5 on import and export shipments.

Latter, the DoS issued an instruction to shipping lines again and asked to waive detention charge until May 30.

They were also forced to refund/adjust the fee they already collected as detention charges during the government declared Covid-19 linked holidays.

Being aggrieved by DoS's directive, the BCSA moved to the high court raising question about the DoS's authority to ask the association members not to realise the container detention charges.

They said the shippers and the shipping companies are two business entities and the container detention charge is a contractual agreement between them and also part of freight and freight tax ranging 4-8 per cent paid to the government.

They also said the DoS has no authority to intervene between their business contracts.

Contacted Sunday a BCSA official, however, did not make any comment over the issue.

DoS director general Commodore Syed Ariful Islam told the FE he has heard about the high court order on the issue, but is yet to receive a written document.

"We will make appeal after receiving the verdict formally," he said adding the department has authority to issue such order as the maritime regulator.

It could be learnt that Mr Islam in mid-May sought authority from the government to punish the shipping companies who would not comply with its orders.

He submitted the plea after the shipping lines or their local agents were dillydallying to comply with the instruction of the department relating to container detention charge realisation.

Even he suggested for canceling license of shipping agents who would not follow the instruction of the department.

Presently, the shipping agents are given license by the national board of revenue for doing business in Bangladesh. But, DoS, being the regulator of the maritime sector, has no controlling authority on shipping agents.

"The no objection certificate from DoS needs to be made mandatory for issuing or renewing the license of shipping agents to avoid any difficulties in the future," wrote Mr Islam.

He also recommended to reinstate the section 76 of Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Ordinance, 1983 to prevent the imposition of 'irrational" detention/demurrage charge by shipping companies in the future.

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