The island’s largest rum producer has over 400,000 bottles of rum stuck in containers in the Bridgetown Port awaiting shipment delayed because of the teething problems at the docks associated with the rollout of the new ASYCUDA World system.
According to Managing Director of Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd Raphael Grisoni the shipments intended for Europe and the United States have been there for two weeks. He believes some of the fallout could have been mitigated with better communication from Port officials.
This morning, he told Barbados TODAY, “We are the largest exporter of rum in Barbados and for 13 days we cannot export a single container of rum and we actually have 38 containers at the port waiting to be loaded on the ship. This is a major order for us. I understand that this thing will again open up next Friday, so it will be three weeks of non- export activity for us,” said Grisoni, who noted that his fellow rum producers were equally down-spirited by the same challenge.
He explained that while the delays have not so far resulted in the cancellation of orders, they certainly place the company at a disadvantage, as this shipment is the stock which retailers depend on in preparation for November and Christmas sales.
“It is a big problem because at this time of year we are shipping for the Christmas season for markets like Europe, so it is really painful. The problem is with the communication about when systems would be ready. It was not until yesterday [Thursday] that we learnt that the system would be up next Friday and while that is fine, there could have been better communication,” he contended.
Since switching to the new paperless platform on September 9, Customs has been plagued with several issues. Newly appointed Comptroller of Customs Owen Holder has promised it will take the Customs and Excise Department one more week to iron out any kinks it has encountered in upgrading its system from ASYCUDO ++ to ASYCUDO World.
“I am very familiar with implementing these systems and I understand the teething issues that will develop with a new system, but from what we are seeing in Barbados currently I can say this is a normal process of implementing the system. So I wish to assure the public that within probably a week’s time it will definitely settle down.”
However, Grisoni argued that while he is happy that things will be back on track and function with even greater efficiency than before, he is concerned that there was apparently no backup in place, which could have kicked in to prevent these counter-productive delays.
“You must realize that the country’s exports were paralyzed because of the system and I am surprised that we didn’t have a backup system or used the old one just for a couple of weeks, at least to export bulk and avoid congestion in the port,” he said pointing to the anticipated congestion by the backlog.
“Next week is going to be a type of traffic jam-like situation when things open up again and I expect that customs will be overwhelmed, so I don’t know if they have extra resources to clear this backlog. Will we have the resources to clear quickly or will we again miss the ship going out? These are the big questions which still need answering but I don’t have the answers right now. It is a real concern for us,” he stressed
Minister of Finance Ryan Straughn maintained that the upgrade to ASYCUDO World was especially critical to Barbados.
He said while its installation had been delayed since 2014, Government was pushing ahead in its bid to improve the ease of doing business in Barbados.
“I want to stress that as we go through this modernization of Customs that the upgrade to ASYCUDO World is critical to Barbados’ competitiveness.
“We do not want people waiting in the Port for any extended period of time, waiting on Customs to process goods unless there is a particular reason based on the risk management protocols that have been established, because whilst we are facilitating business there is a national security component that is critical as part of the Customs’ function…” Straughn pointed out.
This morning Minister Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, also made an appeal for patience from the business community.
“ASYCUDO World is just one of the activities in a whole list of activities that this Government will implement in terms of improving the ease of doing business and cross border trade facilitation, ASYCUDO World provides the foundation for something bigger to come, which we call the Electronic Single Window… As Minister of Small Business I am happy that we are to implement this because it would increase the ease of doing business and reduce cost,” said Sutherland.
He added, “We recognised that there were disruptions and customs has promised to put plans in place, so please just bear with us because it is not going to last.”
When contacted the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry BCCI promised to comment but up to time of publication none was forthcoming.