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dna exclusive: Courier consignments under scanner at Mumbai airport

Sunday, 15 December 2013 - 6:47am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

MIAL alleges diversion of consignments from cargo terminal to courier section leading to huge revenue loss.

The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), the operator of city airport, has accused many major courier firms of indulging in malpractices by diverting big consignments from the cargo terminal to the courier terminal, causing it to lose revenue.

In a complaint to the customs commissioner, MIAL has alleged that the big players, including DHL Express Pvt Ltd, were found to be indulging in this controversial practice. At the same time, some trade association members have named FedEx and a few other biggies in connection with the same.

The courier terminal is authorised to handle documents and samples weighing not more than 70 kg. A letter from Manoj Singh,  vice-president – cargo (MIAL) states that the firms are diverting about 1,000 metric tonnes of cargo to the courier terminal every month.

Sources said, MIAL, which handles the air cargo, is worried at the prospect of losing business as the courier terminal is managed by a different agency – Express Industry Council of India (EICI).

In view of the alleged discrepancy, which MIAL spotted after comparing cargo volumes of 2012 with that of this year, officials say they have lost crores in the past six months. Sources in the courier industry said such diversions may result in breach of security.

Both DHL and FedEx refuted the allegations. “We are not aware of this and so cannot comment.

DHL makes every effort to stay fully compliant with legal requirements,” said a DHL spokesperson. FedEx too maintained that they conduct their business and operations in strict compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.

The MIAL letter adds that consignments of many pharma companies were also found to be cleared at the courier terminal, which should ideally not be the case. “This diversion is observed since past six months and is happenning only in Mumbai.”

Trade association members said companies are taking advantage of the absence of an electronic data interchange system, which can track all details pertaining to a parcel, at the courier section, suggesting manual intervention. A few of them alleged that EICI, was helping the cargo companies in indulging in this questionable practice.

Industry insiders said following the MIAL letter, customs commissioner A P S Suri had in November issued an order, referring to a 1998 circular, stating that parcels weighing more than 70 kg and arriving in courier mode must be transferred to cargo terminal.

However, on December 4,  another notice from acting commissioner Roopam Kapoor stated that the earlier notice had been kept on hold. Sources attributed to hectic lobbying by cargo firms at the central government level.

While Suri remained unavailable,  additional commissioner of customs Milind Lanjewar said, “The latest notice was issued after our head office interpreted the legal standing of the case in the backdrop of all the amendments made in recent times as per the best global practices.”

COO Vijay Kumar of EICI said the weight limit had been made in the 1990s when the cargo section was located inside the passenger terminal. “Large consignments would create inconvenience to the passengers. But this is no longer the case. The weight cap for courier is not followed in any countries nowadays.”

How MIAL found the discrepancy
MIAL spotted the alleged discrepancy after comparing cargo volumes of 2012 with that of the current year. While officials say they have lost crores in the past six months, sources in the courier industry say such diversions may result in breach of security

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