CBIC instructs field units to free up shipping containers amid global shortage, industry demands


The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has asked field units to expeditiously dispose of unclaimed or confiscated goods and move import cargo pending inquiry to warehouses, in order to free up shipping containers.

The Board has also asked field units to give monthly updates on containers that have been held up by intelligence agencies or stuck in court cases, and have been subsequently freed up.

“Dispose expeditiously the unclaimed/uncleared/seized/confiscated goods including that are holding up containers… whenever it becomes necessary to detain the imported cargo, pending completion of enquiry/investigation, such cargo should be removed to a customs warehouse and the container can be released for further use,” the Board said in instructions issued to field units late Friday night.


The Board added that field formations should encourage the activity by offering it to importers. Monthly progress reports have been sought by the 5th of every month.

“It is guided that proactive steps enabling release of such containers should also be adopted,” the Board said.

The instructions come amid a global shortage of shipping containers – triggered by the temporary closure of sea ports including those in China due to Covid 19 pandemic – which has lead to a massive increase in freight rates and an imminent slump in exports.


Industry has sought government intervention, seeking that movement of empty containers out of India be curtailed and a freight support scheme. However, the government has asked container shipping lines to be transparent in their levy of various charges and accept payment in free foreign exchange, in a meeting held by commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal earlier this week on the issue.

The government also cautioned that arbitrary levy of charge may attract the attention of the Competition Commission of India. Shipping industry has in turn said that orders for new containers and container ships were being placed, besides repositioning of existing containers.

The CBIC said Saturday that it has taken various measures over last year to address container shortages including a special drive to free up all available containers which resulted in the release of nearly 14,000 containers.


In July this year, the Board circulated an updated list of long standing 13,104 containers received from Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA) to the field formations.

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