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Cargo ship service yet to get Customs approval

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The inordinate delay in getting clearance from the Customs has come as major let-down for Kerala Maritime Board’s efforts to resume cargo ship service from the existing Vizhinjam Port to Mali to promote international shipping. The board has taken all measures to start the ship service and has also managed to get a ship from a private player. Only the clearance from the Customs is needed now to start the service.

The board gave a request to the customs in this regard in September last year, but the agency is yet to reply despite several reminders. Customs officers, when contacted, said they will look into the matter. The project is significant and is expected to clock in one million dollars in revenues every month. The board used to operate a cargo ship service from Vizhinjam to Mali from 2007 to 2017. It made profits for 10 years but later the private firm withdrew from it citing internal issues.

The search for a new private player ended up in Anand Freight Overseas Service Limited and the board entered into a pact with the firm for availing the ship service. “We have requested the customs to grant consent for conducting the service, but no reply has been given so far. It should not be delayed as it is highly beneficial for the exporters and a good source of revenue for the government,” said TP Salim Kumar IRS, chief executive officer of Kerala Maritime Board.
However, the officers of the board have learned unofficially that their request has been kept on hold by the customs citing that the port lacks International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).

“ISPS code is not mandatory for giving consent for the shipping service as no rule stipulates it. It should be noted that permission was granted to conduct the service from 2007 to 2017 and a Customs officer was appointed on duty during the period,” pointed out a board official. The board officials said they have also taken measures to get ISPS code for the port.
The exporters used to send rice, vegetables, electrical equipment, metals, and essential commodities to Mali through the ship service.
“Sending items via air is costly and we are forced to depend on ship services from Tamil Nadu for exporting. In Thiruvananthapuram district, there are nearly 30 exporters who do regular business in Mali. If the service is started, it will be beneficial for them as well as the government,” said Gopakumar M, a businessman.

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