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Licensing regulations for freight forwarding companies in the courts
Special Correspondent

The process of introducing and establishing a regulatory framework for registration of freight forwarding companies has reached crescendo. The National Board of revenue ( NBR) has issued a Statutory Regulatory Ordinance (SRO) dated Wednesday June 7th, 2006. The Bangladesh Garments manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) welcomed this move with a broad congratulatory declaration. The freight forwarding fraternity trade bodies -- Association of Cargo Agents of Bangladesh (ACAB) and International Freight Forwarders Association of Bangladesh (IFFAB) -- have petitioned the courts to stop implementation of the SRO. As a result, A High Court division bench of the Supreme Court issued a rule nisi upon the government to show cause as to why the impugned rules of the recently gazetted regulations for freight forwarders should not be declared illegal. The court order also allowed the freight forwarding fraternity to continue their business under the permission granted by the Bangladesh Bank, subject to renewal of licenses. The recently-issued SRO therefore is not workable at this moment.
The NBR formulated a licensing Rule for freight forwarders of the country and issued a S.R.O. in July 2000. There was another S.R.O. dated 23.10.2001. In the S.R.O s mentioned herein, there was provision for constituting a licensing authority. That licensing authority was not formed. The freight forwarding trade bodies continued their discussions with the NBR. Other bodies like the BGMEA also remained active in this issue and opinions remained on the table.
Many ACAB members submitted application forms in the prescribed forms of the NBR. While consultations in, various direct and indirect ways continued, the SROs issued in the years 2000 and 2001 remained unimplemented.
In a joint meeting participated by the members of ACAB, IFFAB, BGMEA and FBCCI held in Chittagong on March 29, 2005, it was decided that the freight forwarding bodies would give their suggestions toward formulating a new freight forwarding licensing policy. The story of participatory discussions and suggestions of all concerned parties in this quest for a well-accepted body of regulations for licensing of freight forwarding companies ends here. The latest S.R.O. remains in litigation and the freight forwarding companies have objected to its various clauses and the litigation process continues.