Despite being headed by directors of major overseas shipping companies and shipping experts, the group insists on receiving cargo with a Thai flag.
The state-owned Thapanghiaok Transportation (PTT) and International Transport Management Co (ITM) — both of which are under the purview of the Ministry of Transport — are trying to earn a profit by promising the cargo is carried on Thai vessels.
But the cargo could be a consignment of commodities shipped from China.
The Thai group claims that the cargo is “official in-transit cargo” and should be carried on Thai vessels while Thapanghiaok Transportation demands the consignment be moved to another group’s ships in Thai waters.
It is unclear whether the ITM’s freight is actually controlled by Thailand, while other members of the group have referred the cargo to Thailand’s customs authorities.
In a brief announcement on Wednesday, ITM said the cargo was transported “according to international regulations and standards, and was transported on Thai registered ships that had been approved by the customs authorities and the general administration of marine transportation of Thailand”.
Thailand’s Transport Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the customs authorities had approved the shipment of the cargo to Thailand. It also announced that all the cases were resolved at the international and maritime levels, and the relevant organisations could no longer take further action on the matter.
The maritime transport authorities had previously seized the cargo but then released it after the shipping company agreed to pay the necessary fees.
Lucky Shipping has been trying to move the consignment for two months after it was held by the Thai government, said Tapanghiaok Transportation, adding that it had met the authorities as required.
“The transport group agreed that it was necessary to carry the cargo at the country of origin in accordance with the international standards and regulations,” it said.
Thailand’s Customs Office also said that no further action would be taken, while citing a change in the cargo’s destination as the cause of the change.
Apart from the transport operators, local offices and shipping experts are also involved in the case.
Thailand is not new to cargo irregularities, with scams commonly reported. In 2014, the Shipping Industry Council of Thailand (SITK) had opened an investigation into several shipping companies over irregularities and scams, including cases of misconduct involving unauthorized agents and issuing false billings for non-existent cargo.
In February 2015, the Customs Department had asked the Customs Department of Thailand (OCD) to submit a report into an alleged incident involving importing 500 shipping containers with false and altered documents, costing taxpayers up to seven billion baht.
Due to this, the OCD is now investigating more than 300 cases related to import documents fraud involving false documentation and bogus cargo.
Authorities are investigating at least 25 shipping companies for importing fraudulent materials, while other cases have already been closed.