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FFFAI Appeals to Government Regarding Effects of COVID-19 on EXIM Trade

Chennai:

Port Wings News Network:

The Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI) has sent out an appeal to the EXIM trade, which is affected due to Coronavirus outbreak across the world.

Below is the reproduction of the appeal sent out by Shri AV Vijaykumar, Chairman, FFFAI.

We are in the midst of the countrywide lockdown/people curfew – called by the Honourable Prime Minister to fight COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Central and the State Governments have been issued various guidelines, restrictions and some relaxations.

We, as FFFAI, fully support the ongoing initiatives of the Government of India including lockdown and curfew wherever implemented. What we are witnessing today is a passing phase and we have navigated successfully many such natural and unnatural calamities. We will sail through this also but after a struggling battle.

We as a Logistics player should be proud that even under such compelling and difficult conditions, have not been deterred, but have continued with our work to support the Government. I appreciate every member, their office and their staff to have risked their personal life to participate in the larger interest of the country. We have proved once again that we are one family that serves irrespective of the favourable or unfavourable conditions and have always believed in delivering.

We act as a catalyst to unite to support the country even when isolation today a solution. I am reaching out to every Member to share that let us be proud of what we are doing and we will definitely come out of this difficult times successfully.

It is pertinent to mentioned that due to the multiplicity of Circulars at various levels and for each State it is difficult for FFFAI to share a uniform advisory.

For example, as per the letter issued by the MHA No.40-3/2020-DM-I(A) Dated 29th March, 2020, even transportation non -essential goods has also been allowed.

However, with lockdown and curfew, there are certain problems faced by our Members. One of the main issues is of stepping out of house and travel. Many States are strict in enforcing curfew and hence it is difficult for CBs to carry out their day to day work. Whereas, some States are moderate that mobility to a limited extent is permitted.

While it is required to obtain a pass or permit to travel, there is neither set procedure nor clarity on the authority that will issue such pass or permits. This is done by some States online while others follow manual system.

Operations at Port, Airport, CFS, ICDs across various cities have been adversely affected due to minimum workforce available on account of travel restrictions.

Even though Customs have declared 24 X 7 working but they are functioning with very minimum staff/ Officers. Majority of Shipping Lines and NVOCCs have adopted work from home thereby limiting their normal work.

Unlike most other professions where online processing and work from home concept is possible, our profession requires manual presence of our staff at various stages and locations. This is avoidable exposure and is contrary to the appeal of the Honourable Prime Minister for social distancing.

The Federation has suggested that the entire process of clearance and handling of cargo – be it Customs or others – should be system driven to avoid human intervention. To achieve this target of paperless processing entirely, it will take some time to accomplish.

Another major issue faced is lack of transports/trucks. Most of drivers of vehicles operated in different parts of the country have travelled back to their native places to protect themselves and their family.

This is one of the main obstacles for movement of cargo. In certain places even when drivers have returned back to work, their functions become very difficult due to difficulties in obtaining travel permits. Hence, logistics activities have been affected across the locations.

Under these circumstances, FFFAI have advised its members the followings:

  1. Be safe, protect yourself, your family and your staff family
  2. Seek official pass or permit before venturing out,
  3. Ensure all precautions are taken – usage of protective gear, social distancing, avoiding crowded areas
  4. Check prevailing condition in each of your state / locality,
  5. Beware of the restrictions imposed and follow the guidelines.

The Office Bearers of FFFAI share / exchange updates daily through video conference facility and basis inputs received from various locations it is understood that:

  1. At Customs, Port, Airports, CFSs, ICD, Shipping / Air Lines availability of officials / staff available to carry on the routine normal work is very less
  2. The strength is far below normal attendance and almost skeletal staffing. With this strength it would be impossible to handle regular volume,

iiii. Authorities have taken this conscious step to maintain social distancing otherwise It would expose all stakeholders to possible COVID 19 virus,

  1. Availability of vehicles / drivers is almost nil or insignificant / negligible
  2. CBs are unable to discharge their normal duty due to restrictions imposed by the State thereby curtailing our normal working,
  3. Process of obtaining passes / permits is very difficult

Meanwhile, FFFAI has also made following representations to the Government to facilitate cargo operations.

1)      Representation to Chairman – CBIC and appeal:

  1. a) Waiver of late submission fee directly by Customs EDI System
  2. b) Going paper less effective use of RMS System
  3. c) Non-levy of interest on Custom Duty

2)    Representation to Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Civil Aviation and appeal

  1. a) Waiver of demurrage and detention charges, detention
  2. b) Ground rent charged by Custodians, Shipping Lines, Air Cargo Terminals etc.

3)  Representation to Special Secretary Logistics for support to the trade and industry on various issues

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