The Shipping Ministry’s directive to chairpersons of ports does not cover vaccine imports.
A day after the government dropped the basic customs duty on the import of COVID-19 vaccines, medical oxygen and equipment needed for patients to use such oxygen, the government has directed all major ports to waive all charges for oxygen-related imports and accord them the ‘highest priority’ in the berthing sequence.
The Shipping Ministry’s directive to chairpersons of these ports, however, does not mention the import of COVID-19 vaccines as part of the proposed waivers.
“The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways will monitor the details of such vessels and cargo along with the time taken in the port from the time a ship entered in the port limits till the exit of cargo from the port’s gate,” a government statement on Sunday said.
Port chairpersons have been asked to personally supervise logistic operations to ensure unhindered movement of such consignments for berthing of such vessel on top priority in the port, unloading of oxygen related cargo, co-ordination with Customs and other authorities for speedy clearance and documentation for expeditious evacuation of oxygen-related cargo from the ports.
The list of items for which the government has asked for the swiftest possible clearance from these ports includes medical grade oxygen, oxygen tanks, oxygen bottles, portable oxygen generators, oxygen concentrators, and steel pipes for manufacturing oxygen cylinders and associated equipment.
The customs duty exemptions on some of these items will be in effect till July 31, as per a notification issued by the Finance Ministry. The Shipping Ministry’s directive to major ports, including the Kamarajar Port near Chennai, is effective for the next three months, ‘or until further orders.’
In cases where a shipping vessel is not carrying just oxygen-related cargo, ports have been instructed to waive their relevant charges on ‘a pro-rata basis, considering the overall cargo or containers handled at port’. Ports usually levy a vessel-related charge and storage charges for inbound and outbound cargo.