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BIBM workshop told

Most bankers doubt authenticity of bill of lading, transport docs

Experts suggest formation of taskforce involving relevant stakeholders

FE Report | December 03, 2018 00:00:00

Bankers have identified genuineness of bill of lading, non-identification of carrier and non-shipment of goods despite compliant transport documents as major operational challenges in handling transport documents.

The other challenges included non-availability of shipping companies' signature booklet and mismatch between copy and original transport documents.

Bankers said shipping lines/ freight forwarders should have well equipped tracking system, providing status of consignments and uploading copy of transport docs in website.

The forwarders should be aware about international trade regulations. They

should always provide updated specimen signature and develop database about route, the bankers said.

Other policy expectations of bankers from customs included facilitating updated specimen signature, real time information about arrival of vessels and checking unwanted release of goods.

The findings and recommendations were revealed at a research workshop on 'Transport Documents in Trade Facilitation by Banks: Challenges and Way Forward," organised by Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) held at its conference room in the city on Sunday.

BIBM director general Toufic Ahmad Choudhury presided over the workshop with banking reform advisor and former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank (BB) SK Sur Chowdury as chief guest.

Customs Valuation and Internal Audit Commissionerate commissioner Moinul Khan, Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited managing director and chief executive officer Md Mahbub-ul-Alam, Eastern Bank Limited deputy managing director Ahmed Shaheen and Ocean Network Express (Bangladesh) Limited managing director and CEO Fayyaz Khundker, among others, spoke at the workshop.

Transport documents are the core of international trade transactions which involve transportation of the goods in different countries, SK Sur Chowdury said. International transportation systems have been under increasing pressures to support additional demands in freights volume and the distance at which this freight is being carried, he said.

In response to the global development, the BB has strengthened requirements to enhance the trade quality, he said adding "Our policies are developed according to market needs and risks. New Guidelines for Foreign Exchange Transaction have already been published in 2018."

"Eighty per cent of the surveyed bankers have opined that genuineness of bill of lading as one of the major challenges faced by them in handling transport documents," BIBM professor and director (training) Shah Md Ahsan Habib said while presenting the draft findings of the opinion survey.

Some 50 per cent and 43 per cent have found non- shipment of goods though compliant transport documents submitted and non-identification of carrier as challenges respectively, he noted.

"… the beneficiary often submits two bills of lading, one from the port of loading to port of transshipment and the other from the port of transshipment to port of discharge. This risky practice is inherently made the respective presentation discrepant and therefore not consistent with the international standard documentary credit practice," Mr Habib explained.

The survey pinpointed a number of risks and challenges including lack of appropriate regulatory framework for transportation of goods by land, data conflict between house bill of lading and master bill of lading, illegal benefit using country of origin as Bangladesh, excessive bargaining power of shipping lines in both export and import and apparent inconsistencies for drawing attention in domestic regulations associated with the transport documents and transportations in international trade in Bangladesh.

It also revealed that most of the discrepancies are related to transport documents.

In regard to change in freight charges, 60 per cent respondents experienced an increase in freight charges in 2018 as compare to that of two years back trading with the USA, Canada and Europe while 50 per cent opined for increase trading with Asian countries.

Speakers suggested that bankers should be more cautious especially related to handling bill of lading, airway bill, truck receipts in international trading.

BIBM chair professor Barkat-e-Khuda said with the increasing volume of export-import activities, trade related complexities have also been rising.

He stressed for formation a taskforce, including all stakeholders such as central bank, customs, freight forwarders, shipping lines, commerce ministry and trade bodies, to prepare a roadmap and prevent fraudulence activities and address any untoward trade related problems.

There are few solutions to the complexities related to trade though they existed for several years, Ahmed Shaheen said suggesting for a working group consisting of all stakeholders to find out the ways.

About 80 per cent of the money laundering is trade related while there are growing incidents of imports under mis-declaration, said Moinul Khan.

He suggested coordination between banks and customs to prevent such incidents.

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