March 26 - Indian Customs is likely to start collecting light dues of INR8 (USD0.2) per tonne for on-deck cargo after the Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA)'s plea to exempt containers from the duty for ships engaged in international trade arrivi

The rules come into play under section 13 of the Light House Act, 1927, and will be made applicable for both containers and heavy and/or over dimensional cargoes. The CSLA pointed out that the Light House Act was framed in 1927 before the advent of container ships, with the first box movement at Indian ports taking place in 1956. CSLA emphasised the fact that a container ship is designed to carry two thirds of its cargo on deck and that imposing the dues would be adding an extra burden on the Indian trade.

Customs at Mumbai and Nhava Sheva first issued public notices about the levy in 2007, but the Mumbai and Nhava Sheva Ship Agent Association (MANSA) opposed its implementation on the grounds of it being unfair. Customs put the notices in abeyance referring the matter to the office of the Director General of Shipping which decided against MANSA's argument.

Captain Dinesh Gautama of Forbes Sea Consortium and advisor to the CSLA said, "The levy is effective only at Mumbai, Nhava Sheva (JNPT), Kandla and Mundra. In our meeting with Customs on March 16, they refused to accept our argument. We have taken up the matter with the Ministry of Shipping. Customs stations at other ports, including Kochi, are now likely to follow suit and collect the light dues."

According to sources in the shipping business, ships are already paying light dues to Customs at INR8 (USD0.2) per NRT (net registered tonnage).