Customs officials in Chennai have instructed all authorities handling import consignments originating from China not to clear them until further notice.
The Chennai Commissionerate has issued instructions internally to port terminals, the airport, and all container freight stations (CFSes) to hold all cargo from China, even those shipments which have been cleared with an OOC.
A shipment given an OOC, or Out of Charge order is cleared by customs and found to have no discrepancies. However, even these shipments will be allowed to be delivered only after a re-examination by customs authorities.
According to sources, GV Krishna Rao, Chief Commissioner of the CGST and Central Excise of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry informed importers that the cargo will be subject to re-examination due to intelligence inputs received by the excise authorities.
The intelligence received by the department could be based on breach of anti-dumping rules, inferior or wrong items in the shipment etc. Given the Covid-19 pandemic and the standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies in Ladakh, there is speculation over the grounds for re-examination.
In this case, the Chinese shipments in Chennai were put on hold and a re-examination ordered after Tamil Nadu police reportedly found crystal meth in tea bags with Chinese lettering, in two separate incidents in the state.
The Chennai Customs Brokers Association wrote to members asking them to prepare for delays in clearance of China-origin cargo arising from ports, CFSes, and airports. In a letter to members, it said, “An official trade notice/circular is still awaited from customs. Our association is in touch with customs officials to get further instructions on releasing the cargo which is under clearance”, it said.