Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Barrel backlog creating chaos in MoBay

Published:Wednesday | December 18, 2019 | 12:19 AMMark Titus/Staff Reporter

Veteran logistics expert Sonia Clarke Bowen says that customers’ failure to collect their barrels at the ports on a timely basis is causing a cargo logjam in the lead-up to Christmas.

Clarke Bowen, managing director of the newly formed RSD Shipping Agency Jamaica Limited, said there is limited storage capacity at the Montego Bay port and at the Seaboard warehouse.

“So what I would encourage customers to do is order early, so that you can clear early; and when you ship and the cargo is ready, clear it,” she told The Gleaner.

“Our people need to stop the practice of waiting until the week before Christmas to collect their shipment, because it is hampering the stripping of the other containers for other people who may have shipped after you.”

Clarke Bowen, who has more than three decades of experience in the logistics business, refused to be drawn into specifics, but Viviene Frankson, vice-president of the Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica, said that importers were having serious challenges.

“One word to sum it up is ‘crazy’. They (Customs) have not completed last week’s shipment, and this week is upon them,” said Frankson, the operator of C&V Frankson Custom Brokers, told The Gleaner last week. “I have one particular client that is going to be hopping mad because her shipment that came in this week will not be delivered until next week, because there is a backlog from last week.”

SYSTEM CLOG

“It is hard to console the client, because commercial clients want to get their goods as it has landed, but because of the amount of domestic items, that is what is clogging up the system,” she added.

Frankson lamented that despite numerous promises to iron out the problem, the issues have plagued the industry since the 1990s. She also said that the enlargement of the warehouse wharf did not have maximum effect because a section has since been allocated to facilitating cruise passengers.

To mitigate the Christmas rush, Customs has extended the end of the workday to 8 p.m. and will be open next Sunday.

But for Frankson and the membership of her association, it will be 12 months before another season of chaos.

When contacted Claudette Coombs, senior director, western and Montego Bay operations, referred The Gleaner to the private operators, Port Handlers Limited.

“The warehouse is not operated by Customs; they are privately owned,” Coombs said.

“We provide the service of examining, releasing or detaining. However, detention is dependent on other border regulatory agencies.”

Alrick Mitchell, port manager at Port Handlers Limited, acknowledged that the backlog would not be cleared till mid-January.

“We cannot keep pace with the volume sufficient to satisfy every customer trying to get their goods by Christmas, but it is a yearly feature,” Mitchell said.

“We strip after opening hours, and we have been operating for the past two Saturdays and when we open on Saturdays, we double up by stripping on Sundays.”

He also blamed the congestion on Jamaicans collecting packages late – sometimes long after they were shipped from overseas.

“So we have a mismatch in what the warehouse can hold, how fast we can turn it over to replenish stock, and that affects the backlog issue negatively ... but we have [got] used to it, so we use all kinds of strategies,” he said.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com