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Tales of port abuses (Part 2)

Imposition of multimillion-peso deposit

ANOTHER serious problem port stakeholders encounter is the highly questionable imposition by international shipping lines of multimillion-peso deposits on containers and the very slow processes of getting a refund for such deposits.

With regard to this issue, a foreign shipping line mandatorily requires customs broker, importers or truckers to post a cash deposit ranging from P5,000 to P20,000 (amount varies depending upon shipping lines) for every container as security deposit.

Port stakeholders are complaining that such deposit is unreasonable. Why? The answer is simple: there is no more need for these deposits because before clearing a container for release by a shipping line, a customs broker is required to execute a letter of guaranty in favor of the shipping lines that stakeholders will return the containers once emptied.

On top of that, a broker or importer pays a premium amount of P20.00 for each container to the Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) as a sort of insurance to answer in case a container will not be returned, is lost or is damaged. There is an over-security here: container deposit, letter of guaranty and AISL insurance.

This container deposit has been abused and is continuously committed by these international shipping lines. In the ideal flow of circumstances, upon the return of an empty container, it is a must for the shipping lines to release without delay to the broker, importer or trucker his container deposit.

This deposit is only held in trust for its owner by the shipping lines as a security for the return of containers. Upon the return of its empty container, a shipping line has no more right to withhold refund of the corresponding container deposit.

Sadly, however, that ideal flow seldom happens. The prevailing practice is that, it will take a minimum of two weeks to even years before a customs broker, trucker or importer can get the refund of his deposit. This delay is unfathomable to say the least as brokers operational funds are usually depleted because of this unconscionable practice.

Millions of pesos deposits for still unknown reason

Recently, a stakeholder, MOF Incorporated, filed a Petition for Voluntary Liquidation which was granted by the Pasay RTC as several port stakeholders were not able to refund their respective container deposits amounting to more than P100 million for still unknown reason.

As the MOF liquidation documents show, it has only a remaining more or less 5 million pesos both cash and assets. With the grant of the said petition, the possibility that owners of container deposit will be refunded is zero.

With the absence of a government body that ought to have a regulatory power of these international shipping lines, port stakeholders are being continuously deprived of their hard earned money.

Had a regulatory body oversee and regulates the practice of these foreign shipping lines and their Philippine agents in collecting these container deposits, these problems could have been avoided.

Port stakeholders are also currently experiencing problems on the return of empty containers to various shipping lines. They are all aware that they are under obligation to return any empty containers within the prescribed period; otherwise, the shipping lines will impose on them corresponding detention fees or charges.

With regard to the return of empty containers, there are instances when the shipping lines refused to accept a returned empty container on the common pretext of lack of space.

Every time that empty containers are refused acceptance by the shipping lines, port stakeholders are forced to wait for a long time until shipping lines are ready to receive the same. What is alarming here is that when the concerned shipping line refused to accept empty containers notwithstanding stakeholders’ readiness to return the same, they (shipping lines) still imposed on them detention fees or charges based on the prescribed period to return.

This is a plain abuse on the part of these shipping lines, and this must stop.

If stakeholders are ready to return their empty containers within the prescribed date, they must not be penalized with detention fees or for reasons beyond stakeholder’s control. This is blatantly illegal and unfair to stakeholders.

Also, stakeholders are made to pay by these shipping lines the so-called pre-advice notice ranging from P200 to P300 per container. This amount is paid upon conferring with the shipping lines the projected return of their containers. What is objectionable here is that, the shipping lines do not issue receipts as proof of said payments. There is a wide implication of this non-issuance of receipts.

The totality of the above circumstances and other related problems clearly justifies the need for a legislative inquiry in order to craft a law that would empower a government agency to regulate these matters and protect the interest of the stakeholders.

References:

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