Truckers transporting cargo from the Bridgetown Port are fuming over a $500 “repositioning fee” to be implemented on July 1, arguing that it could drive them out of business.
And they’re warning that if officials go through with implementation, the price to importers, and ultimately the cost of goods, will increase significantly.
Notice of the new fee for removal of cleared cargo at shed four of the Bridgetown Port was given in a circular, dated June 12, 2017 and signed by Manager of Terminal Operations Ian Stewart, to consolidators, truckers and customers.
According to the correspondence, all cargo examined by Customs and cleared for delivery must be removed from the holding area within two hours of examination.
“Failure to remove cargo by the stipulated time will result in a repositioning fee of $500 per shipment,” it stated. “Please note that the gate pass to exit the Port will not be printed until proof of the payment of the repositioning fee has been presented.”
Management of the Bridgetown Port said the move was in an effort to enhance customer service by improving efficiency and reducing the wait time for delivery of cargo.
However, Hamilton Cumberbatch, a trucker of close to 20 years, described the move as counterproductive, saying that some days it was impossible to remove all cleared cargo at shed four since many of the delays were caused by the Port itself.
Lamenting that business was already down for truckers, he said “it is a cost that truckers cannot absorb. So some sort of agreement will have to be reached”.
“I can’t possibly see people getting out every shipment that has to be cleared within two hours,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Sometimes you got to wait long at the shed . . . . So a part of the process in the Port is time consuming, so I don’t see how we can do it all the time in two hours.”
Cumberbatch also explained that depending on the size of a shipment, it would take more than one trip to deliver cargo, with one trip taking up to an hour and a half depending on where in the island the goods were being delivered.
Managing director of Clarke and Associates Construction Inc., Wayne Clarke also pointed to the long wait for truckers doing business at the Port, saying that some days they were already subjected to a wait of three to four hours “just to get through the container gate, due to delays in stacking and unshackling containers”.
He added that part of the reason for the long wait sometimes was the Port having only one scanning machine for all containers.
Clarke told Barbados TODAY he was convinced the new measure had nothing to do with customer efficiency, and was simply the Bridgetown Port finding “another way to raise additional fees”.
“Additional fines borne by the truckers will be passed to the customers and then on to the consumer,” he cautioned.
Cumberbatch, lamenting that business has dwindled significantly over the years, with the traditionally high season not reaping their usual increased business, added: “They are just putting measures in place to try and kill the small man.”
“Things like this an individual voice really don’t make any difference; we need a body, a union or an association of sorts to speak as one,” he contended.
The veteran trucker said while he had a few suggestions to improve the situation at the Port and avoid the high fee, he was reserving them for the Port officials should they want to discuss the matter.