Ahead of meetings tomorrow between the business community and the Comptroller of Customs, a major distribution company is reporting some improvement with the new Asycuda World system, which left dozens of containers stuck in the Bridgetown Port.
But some companies are bracing for thousands of dollars in losses if shipping companies refuse to waive storage fees incurred during the upsetting slowdown in late September. In addition, concerns have been raised about new customs tariffs, which could cause certain goods to increase by 100 per cent.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Trisha Tannis said she would be better able to address the issues after the discussions.
However Andy Armstrong, Marketing Director at major distributor, Armstrong Agencies Ltd told Barbados TODAY some operations at the port have “settled”.
“It has improved. They haven’t sorted everything out but it is a lot better and the project unit team has been very responsive so when we have a problem we can usually get someone from customs pretty quickly and they can walk us through the issues,” said Armstrong, whose company distributes an array of fast moving consumer goods including brands like chocolates, biscuits and over-the-counter medication.
The agency’s boss said numerous complaints, which were initially being lodged by his staff about the system over the last few weeks, have subsided.
Two weeks ago, Chairman of the Barbados Port Inc., Senator Lisa Cummins promised that businesses affected by the changes would have their storage fees waived, to the relief of numerous businesses.
However, Armstrong expressed concern that some cargo vessels have not agreed to waive their own charges, which resulted from containers stuck in the port for extended periods.
“We may be liable to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars extra, which the shipping liners charge if you keep the containers longer than they expect you to keep it,” he explained.
“Some shipping lines have said they will waive it and others have said they are not planning to waive it. So that’s still an area of concern and there is still a lot of negotiation going on with certain shipping lines.”
Businesses are reportedly waiting on port officials to employ moral suasion to assist in having the fees waived.
He however queried the new customs tariffs and a sharp increase in the duty charged on orange, grapefruit, apple and pineapple juice, which in some cases will increase to 100 per cent.
“We’re still seeking clarity on that because we don’t know if that is intended or if it was a mistake, so at this point I can’t tell you for sure,” Armstrong revealed.
“It would have a huge impact because in all cases we’re talking about duty going up to at least 100 percent and people would probably stop importing extra regional juices.”
Former BCCI President Eddy Abed said he would reserve any comments until after tomorrow’s meeting.