The Department of Shipping yesterday instructed foreign shipping lines and their local agents not to impose container detention charges on the import containers because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It also asked them to return the charges that have already been collected.
The decision came in a meeting with stakeholders chaired by Syed Ariful Islam, director general of the Department of Shipping.
Representatives of the Bangladesh Containers Shipping Association, the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, foreign shipping lines and local shipping agents attended the meeting.
Detention charges include the money that merchants pay for the use of container within the terminal beyond the free period and the fee that merchants pay for the use of container outside of the terminal or depot beyond the free period.
Usually, containers can stay from five to 21 days without incurring any charges depending on the contracts with shipping companies. After that, $5 to $120 are charged for a container per day in detention charges.
Importers had been demanding the waiver on the container detention charges since they had to pay a huge amount for holding the import containers beyond the agreed period as they could not be taken out of the port during the shutdown.
On April 29, the DG Shipping issued a notice advising the shipping lines not to impose the detention charge for March 26 to May 5. Later, the general holiday has been extended to May 30.
The global shipping lines and their local agents refused to comply, saying the sector is bleeding because of the pandemic.
The World Shipping Council on May 5 sent a letter to the principal secretary to the prime minister and the executive chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority requesting the removal of the advisory.
Since the shipping agents continue to collect detention charges, the Department of Shipping convened the meeting.
"Every sector has been hurt in this pandemic and all the stakeholders of the export-import activities need to make sacrifices," Islam said.
The agents would inform the foreign shipping lines, who are the authorities to impose or waive the detention charges, about the outcome of the meeting, said Ahsanul Huq Chowdhury, chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association.