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Jamaica Customs seeks to cut delays as Xmas approaches

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 26, 2018

In an effort to improve operational efficiency, including clearance time, at the Port of Kingston, the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) says that it has been having discussions with stakeholders since Monday.

The JCA in a release said Wednesday that it had convened a meeting on Monday with key players involved in the importation of goods as part of efforts to enhance service delivery at the port, which is threatening to become even more burdensome as the Christmas season approaches.

The JCA says that the meeting involved the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica (CBFFAJ), the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), and the Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL).

It also stated that the meeting explored strategies that could be used to reduce the delays being experienced by importers and customs brokers in clearing domestic containerised shipments at the KFTL, since mid-September.

The meeting also addressed several other issues, including delays in obtaining container examination appointments, having faster container positioning for customs inspection at the port after completing all other customs processes, as well as addressing issues affecting efficiency and productivity on the port.

The JCA release said that the parties also agreed to improve communications and facilitate better port coordination.

The KFTL committed to providing additional bays for the inspection of containers, and also making operational changes in areas which negatively impact clearance time and container examination.

“Moving forward, the parties have agreed to ensure that all outstanding issues are resolved speedily, in order that the importing public benefits from increased efficiencies and improved release times for the approaching Christmas season, and beyond,” the JCA reported.

This response comes several months after the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica (CBFFAJ) expressed “serious concern” over severe delays at ports in June.

The CBFFAJ contended then that continuous issues with the Jamaica Customs Agency's ASYCUDA clearance system, and additional challenges with the Trade Board and the KFTL, were stymieing commercial operations and the businesses of clients.

According to CBFFAJ president Mitzie Gordon Burke-Green, who made the statement, the problems have been compounded in recent months.

On one occasion, she noted the ASYCUDA system went down across the entire island.

“We are pleading with Customs to work assiduously to meet this promised target in the interest of our many customers across the island whose businesses are suffering from the inordinate delays from frequent system downtime,” noted the CBFFAJ president.

The CBFFAJ also found issues with both the Trade Board and the delays in the stripping of containers on the port.

“Over the last three months we have been having regular downtime with ASYCUDA and it takes a very long time for us to be able to log into the programme, and when the system freezes you lose all information on the customs declarations and have to start all over again. This is affecting the delivery of shipments to our customers,” Burke-Green said.

Regarding the Trade Board, the CBFFAJ says it is concerned about delays in obtaining import licences as well as delays in the pre-inspection of used motor vehicles being imported.

Describing the situation as “unacceptable”, the CBFFAJ called for a waiver of penal charges for the delays, and the extension of operating hours to facilitate the clearance of the current backlog of containers on the port.

Customs stakeholders are hoping that there will be some permanent solution to the issues, especially at this time as the Christmas season approaches and the port gets its busiest for the entire year.