Extending opening hours might not be the answer to a more efficient Bridgetown Port, the chairman of the Barbados Port Authority, Senator Lisa Cummins, has declared.
But while acknowledging that improvements are needed to make the seaport more efficient, she suggested the problem lay with the port’s “regulatory agencies” and not the port itself. HM Customs and the Barbados Revenue Authority are the main regulators governing operations in the port.
Senator Cummins appeared to be pinning her hopes on the results of a study to point the way ahead for the port, which opened in 1961.
She said the port had recently hired a consultant to conduct a study and prepare a report outlining how operations could be made more efficient and effective.
The findings of that report are to be presented to a small working group of the Social Partnership on Tuesday.
But in a reveal of preliminary findings, Senator Cummins said businesspeople were spending excessive amounts of “wasted time” in the port as they waited to receive their goods.
Senator Cummins said: “On average you are spending a total of four hours minimum in one of our sheds, which now is Shed 4.
“If you are unlucky you are spending upwards of six hours in one of our sheds.
“And 85 per cent of that time you are spending in our sheds at the port is wasted time because it is not value added.
“This is what we have been able to identify.
“Waiting between process steps and physical movement of cargo between those steps account for 85 per cent of what we now will call without apology, wasted time – your wasted time.”
She said the report had identified that unnamed “regulatory agencies” were at fault and not the Port.
The port authority boss declared: “People are quick to say the Port, the Port, the Port, because the Port is the easy name to call.
“But when you break it down from gate in to gate out the challenge is very seldom the Port.
“The challenge is often times the regulatory agencies functioning within the Port.
“So we have to have that reform taking place very urgently in order to minimize the costs of doing business and the time it takes to export, but most definitely the time it takes and the costs it cost you to import.”
The chairman said while some people were calling for the Bridgetown Port to extend its opening hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., she said for that to make sense then businesses would also have to extend their hours.
Cummins questioned whether those business would be willing to incur the costs of operating those additional hours
She said: “That means you the manufacturers would have to open your offices to receive this cargo for overtime hours and also you will have to keep your offices open.
“What we found through the analysis is that the port opens at 7 a.m., the shed opens at 7 a.m., but the regulatory agencies don’t start functioning until 8:45 a.m., so in the first part of the morning there is a significant gap between the functioning times.”
The chairman further revealed that between 8:45 am and 2 p.m., there were “flat lines” where very little was moving.
She noted that after 2 p.m. there was a spike in activity, which showed that this was the post’s busiest period.
Senator Cummins queried: “Are you as a company going to open your company longer, until 7 p.m. and pick up those costs when you can see that there are those flat lines within your existing operating times?”