Business leaders today charged that inefficiency at the Bridgetown Port as a major threat to the continued viability of local manufacturing companies.
They also insisted that unfair trading practices continue to hurt the sector.
The concerns were expressed by managing director of C & G Star Trading, Glendene Greaves, chief commercial officer at Banks Holdings Limited, Ray Chee-A-Tow and customs broker Louis Forde at a symposium organized by the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association at Almond Bay, Hastings, Christ Church.
Greaves said port costs and delays are threatening profitability in a big way.
“We just need to be real about these things and find solutions and don’t let us just talk about them; find solutions to fix them. I know there are others in this industry that suffer these same issues,” she said.
In his presentation, Chee-A-Tow lamented the “lack of efficiency” at the Bridgetown Port, which he indicated was adversely impacting the operations of manufacturers like Banks Holdings.
“You have a port; one door in. We all know the challenge. It opens at a certain time and closes at a certain time. I can’t tell my distributor in Antigua . . . or I can tell him, which I do sometimes, that we were unable to get in there before 4 o’clock because of the traffic jam or because of an issue somewhere along the line,” the business executive said.
“If we are seriously looking to export we need to operate under way more efficient formats, and that is, if you think of the number of containers across the entire country that need to enter the port on a daily basis, then you need to see if 7 o’clock to 4 o’clock is suitable to have the gate open when the port is operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
Prominent customs broker Louis Forde also addressed the symposium and argued that the biggest challenge at the port was Customs.
“There is this problem they have with getting manufacturers’ goods out in under three days,” he charged.
Forde suggested that because of the limited working hours of the port, management should set aside a special area to receive empty containers after 4 pm in order to help reduce the backlog.
Meantime, Chee-A-Tow was also vocal about what he said was unfair trading practices. He said while Barbados practiced an open-door policy when it comes to goods coming into the country, exporters here do not get the same courtesy in other markets.
“Everything is here on the market. Anything that can come, comes to Barbados. Sit on the other side and try to ship. How many of you all have tried to ship something to some market and have been told, ‘sorry’? . . . This is something that we need to deal with because at the end of the day, we understand it is not the responsibility of the customs officer at the port because we have standards. But then we hear the standards guys don’t have the resources to police the standards that are set,” he contended.
The BHL executive said this was a challenge exporters faced every day and while he did not want to stop “anybody from coming” here, there was an urgent need for a level playing field.
Chee-A-Tow said it could no longer be a case of different standards for different CARICOM states.
Greaves also expressed similar sentiments, saying that there were major challenges that hinder manufacturers’ growth, including technical barriers to trade.
She said there were several non-tariff barriers, for example “one word being bigger than the next on a package”, that stood in the way of manufacturers getting their goods out.
“These are things that we go through quite often not only in the Trinidad market, but international markets as well,” Greaves said.
“It’s the cost of complying with all the different barriers that they come up with, because each thing that they want you to fix is a cost attached.”