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Gate closure forces new clearance plan at port - Kingston Wharves secures customs bond for importers

Published:Wednesday | October 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Mark Williams, Chief Operations Officerat Kingston Wharves Limited.

Kingston Wharves Limited has decided to foot the cost of a customs bond for importers of full container loads, including freight-forwarders, who want to transfer those shipments from the neighbouring port operated by Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited to its facility for clearance.

The bond became necessary because the containers, after their exit from the port area, will have to be transported along three kilometres of public thoroughfare and then taken to Kingston Wharves for official customs examination, appraisal, assessment and evaluation.

"Previously, the transfer of cargo between both terminals was done through a gate that connected them," said Mark Williams, chief operating officer of Kingston Wharves.

However, Kingston Freeport "has taken the decision to discontinue the transfer of domestic cargo via that means, and this will require transfers to be done by exiting the port on to the public domain," he said.

Kingston Freeport, which operates Jamaica's largest cargo port - Kingston Container Terminal - did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the gate closure.

Williams explained that under Jamaican law, containers must have a customs bond in place in order to exit the port area before official customs clearance, even if it is a short distance.

Kingston Wharves said it used its own finances to secure the bond because the cost and the stringent requirements for its processing made it prohibitive for some individual freight-forwarders and local businesses to handle the expense and remain viable. But as to the precise cost, the chief operating officer would only say it was "a multimillion-dollar bond".

Asked why importers would want to have their goods transferred from Kingston Freeport for clearance, Williams, in response to Financial Gleaner queries, said that "domestic commercial operators have a choice of where their containers are processed".

He added that Kingston Wharves "has made considerable investments in its infrastructure, including the opening of its state-of-the art US$20-million total logistics facility, which offers a more efficient receival and delivery process".

Williams explained that both terminals are located on the Port of Kingston and there are times when cargo is shipped through one terminal and processed at the other.

Depending on the port of origin, a vessel may call at either of the two terminals at the Port of Kingston. Once the container is discharged at either terminal, the importer has the choice of which terminal the container is processed, he said.

Asked whether there was a danger that containers being transferred from Kingston Freeport to Kingston Wharves could be taken to other destinations without the requisite customs clearance, Williams said that "during this entire process, the custody, integrity and security of the containers remain the responsibility of Jamaica Customs".

"This is the reason KWL has put in place the customs bond, which is required by law in these circumstances. In addition, KWL has taken steps to mitigate the risks with stringent security measures and the engagement of reputable truckers," he added.

Previously, there was no need for a bond because containers did not have to exit on to the public thoroughfare to Kingston Wharves as that was done through the gate connecting both terminals.

"So to find a solution to the matter and to facilitate our clients and by extension the customers they serve, KWL has decided to put up the bond on their behalf. Additionally, to ensure that this is done in a smooth, efficient and safe manner, we have committed to engaging the trucking service and security to handle the transfer between the terminals," Williams said.

To be reimbursed for paying for the cost of the multimillion-dollar bond, Kingston Wharves will incorporate the cost into its operations and service charges.