A container confiscation a day, keeps freight away


KARACHI: The provincial law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are indirectly inflicting massive losses on the shipping industry by using empty containers to block roads as part of their security measures during annual congregations like Muharram processions, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Sources in the shipping industry said that it has become a routine matter for the police department to use scores of containers for blocking link roads on the routes of huge gatherings.
The police always find it convenient to approach truckers at main transit points in the city like the National Highway and take dozens of containers in the name of maintaining security during ‘high-risk days’, sources told Pakistan Today. This year also, a large number of 20- and 40-feet containers were seen placed along the MA Jinnah Road to prevent miscreants from sneaking into the main Ashura procession, which is taken out from Numaish to the old city area of Kharadar.
However, such ‘forceful’ detention of containers or TEUs (twenty-equivalent-units), which are used for transporting exportable or imported cargo, create problems for their local and international owners from various shipping companies who, the sources believe, face huge losses on account of ‘hire’ and ‘freight opportunity’.
Pakistan Ship’s Agent Association (PSAA) Chairman Mohammad A Rajpar told Pakistan Today that every year over 150 containers of local as well as international shipping lines are confiscated by law enforcers.
The shippers face financial losses on two fronts. “They lose the daily hire or freight for transporting cargo from one point to another,” he said, adding that the average freight for 20- and 40-feet containers hovers around $10 and $20 per day, respectively.
Secondly, the shipping lines also lose in terms of freight opportunity, Rajpar said. “If you have confiscated my container, I cannot earn any freight out of it…for example, if I get a shipping order for London, the opportunity goes to waste,” the PSAA chief said, adding, “They (shipping lines) are losing daily hire as well as freight opportunity.”
Rajpar recalled that when Kamal Shah was the Sindh inspector general of police and Tariq Jameel the capital city police officer, the police was courteous enough to seek the shipping lines’ consent for using their containers.
“We used to provide them with the required containers voluntarily,” he said. “But now, they go to the transit points and confiscate empty containers at will,” he lamented.
The PSAA chairman said that nowhere in the world are containers used by law enforcers for security purposes and rather special steel barriers are used as blockades.
“This culture should change now,” he demanded, suggesting that “the police could use the auctionable container stock of Customs or acquire their own to meet their needs”.