The levy of light house dues on ships arriving at or departing from a port in India has taken a controversial flip following the divergent stand taken by the Customs Department on accumulating the statutory levy throughout crew change on ships on the outer anchorages of two ports in Kerala.

Light house dues should not levied on ships arriving on the outer anchorage of Central Government-owned Cochin Port Trust, which has develop into a favorite location for ship-owners and managers for crew change since April, in the midst of journey restrictions imposed in the course of the pandemic.

A number of nautical miles away on the Kerala Government-owned Vizhinjam port, close to the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, Customs authorities are demanding the cost of light house dues on ships calling for crew change. For Vizhinjam, which emerged on the world crew change map in July attributable to its proximity to the worldwide delivery route and deep draft, the light house dues have develop into an irritant in attracting extra ships.

Light house dues are levied on overseas going vessels at Rs 92 per twenty-foot equal unit (TEU) on container vessels and at Rs eight per tonne on ships aside from container vessels, as soon as in 30 days, in keeping with charges notified in the gazette on November 26, 2014.

The Customs Department is tasked with the gathering of light house dues. The levy provides a additional few lakhs to the price of crew change.

Two ship brokers in Vizhinjam have secured interim keep orders from the Kerala High Court in opposition to the demand for levy of light house dues by the Customs Department on ships calling at Vizhinjam for crew change.

Dowins Resources Pvt Ltd, a neighborhood steamer agent, contended in court docket that the demand of Customs was “illegal and arbitrary”. Dowins claimed that it was “not liable to pay light house dues” because the crew change was achieved on ships mendacity exterior the port limits of Vizhinjam port and therefore the Light House Act 1927 was “not applicable”.

In the interim order on Capital Holdings, one other steamer agent, the court docket directed the petitioner to submit a bond to satisfy the necessities of light due expenses if the petition is dismissed.

Light house dues are collected on ships in any respect the ports in India and Cochin “cannot be” an exception, a prime official on the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships, mentioned.

“Port clearance cannot be given without paying light house dues. Unless the port clears, the ship cannot move out,” he mentioned. “Port authorities can’t permit the vessel to leave the port unless all clearances are in place. The Customs have to give clearance because it is the agent for collecting the light house dues,” he asserted.

“I don’t know whether ships arriving for crew change at the outer anchorage of Cochin Port Trust will get covered under the light house dues; I have not applied my mind to that,” mentioned Mohammed Yousaf, Commissioner of Customs, Cochin, when requested why light house dues weren’t collected from ships throughout crew change on the outer anchorage of Cochin Port Trust.

He mentioned light house dues are “not a major levy, it is on the fringes”.

“Incidentally we are collecting this levy. And that is not the Customs levy; it is some other dues of the government, but it is regularly collected,” Mohammed mentioned.

“Normally, crew change does not become an issue; now that it has become an issue because of the coronavirus, let me apply my mind to that and look into the issue,” he acknowledged.

“Suppose, there is a short levy, then its not that I have to collect it immediately as arrears. I have to raise a demand, notify Cochin Port Trust and then I’ll do something on that by calling the steamer agents or issuing a notice,” he mentioned.

“Since you have raised the topic, let me see whether it is actually being collected or not from Cochin. And, if it is not collected, let me see what are the provisions,” he added, confirming that port clearance is just not given if the light house dues should not paid.

Ship brokers in Kochi mentioned that port expenses, light house dues and different expenses should not collected throughout crew change on the outer anchorage of Cochin Port Trust as a result of it’s not thought of cargo operations.

“Crew change is done to evacuate seafarers stranded on board ships due to coronavirus induced travel restrictions. To promote India as a crew change destination, the government should grant exemption from payment of light house dues to ships undertaking crew change,” he mentioned.