Thu | Oct 21, 2021

Kingston Wharves launches portal for contactless cargo clearance

Published:Wednesday | March 31, 2021 | 12:06 AMKarena Bennett/Business Reporter
Mark Williams, CEO of Kingston Wharves Limited.
Mark Williams, CEO of Kingston Wharves Limited.

A year after developing an online appointment platform to ease wait times for clients processing less-than-container load cargo, Kingston Wharves Limited, KWL, has upgraded its services with the launch of an online portal that allows for...

A year after developing an online appointment platform to ease wait times for clients processing less-than-container load cargo, Kingston Wharves Limited, KWL, has upgraded its services with the launch of an online portal that allows for contactless clearance of shipments.

The system, dubbed Click N Collect, now offers clients processing items such as pallets, boxes and barrels sent by sea a new level of convenience. Its roll-out comes amid a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions amid a rise in cases, but CEO of the Kingston Wharves Mark Williams says the move to contactless clearance has always been on the agenda of the port business.

The company, over the past year, has met with customs brokers, agents, freight forwarders, and the Jamaica Customs Agency with the aim of launching a “simplified cargo clearance option”.

“This has always been apart of the plan to increase our business efficiency. What has happened is that like many other businesses, COVID-19 has expedited the process. It has been in the making for a while but we need to have all the payment platform in place and all the stakeholders, including Customs Agency, on board,” said Williams in an interview with the Financial Gleaner.

Click N Collect allows for clients processing less-than-container load cargo to pay agent fees, customs charges, and KWL charges online via a single payment window. The system also gives clients the option to schedule the pickup of their cargo, ultimately eliminating an average two-hour wait time spent by clients at the Wharves – which tend to be even longer during the busiest commercial period of the year, the Yuletide season – at no additional cost to clients.

Jamaica’s second-largest port company also has a team in place to assist in cases where shipping agents may not have an electronic platform to facilitate the new service.

“What we are trying to do is ensure that clients can get this process done within half-hour. Basically, all the client will do is make all the payments on this platform and it goes to all the stakeholders like Customs and the agents. Because its contactless, all they are required to do after the payments are made is come to delivery area and collect the cargo,” Williams said.

Prior to the launch of the new service, Kingston Wharves moved to ease wait time for customers with the launch of an online appointment platform that allowed customs brokers, agents and freight forwarders to directly make reservations for both commercial and personal customers who have cargo to be cleared from KWL’s Total Logistics Facility, Kingport Warehouse Complex or Berth 5 Warehouse.

The cost for the development of the Click N Collect portal was not disclosed. The online process is said to have better positioned the company to meet its goal of becoming a 24-hour logistics facility.

“When we constructed the total logistics facility, we had in mind that this would become a 24-hour operation. We are not there yet, because there are different players including the JCA. But what we expect is that this system will have cargoes moving faster so that when we do get to that stage, we are ready,” Williams said.

Click N Collect is targeted at wide cross-section of clients. The service has got the nod from members of the micro, small and medium-sized business community as opening up a new convenient channel for them to do cross-border transactions.

“Most of our entrepreneurs presently use air freight. However, we are in a global business landscape where all our processes must marry technology to make business and trade much simpler, easier and efficient,” said president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association, Cordell Williams-Graham.

“We celebrate this move by the Kingston Wharves. It’s another step in the right direction for entrepreneurs operating in the space and for the economy,” she told the Financial Gleaner.

While work is carried out to allow for simpler cargo clearance, the issue around goods security still lingers at the ports. It’s another area Williams said the Kingston Wharves has been continuously working to resolve.

“We are aware of the concerns. If someone sends 10 cans of corn beef, the recipients want the 10 cans. We have improved the security infrastructure right around the terminal, in particular warehousing, so that everything will be under surveillance. And it is not just by Kingston Wharves; the JCA also has footage,” Williams said.