Customs clerks, brokers complain of delays at the port

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago,
Dock Road, Port of Spain – Photo by Roger Jacobs

A GROUP of Customs clerks and brokers has called on the Port Authority to address their concerns about alleged managerial inefficiencies and disorganised protocol by port staff at the Spectrum Yard in Port of Spain.

Attorneys for the group have written to the Port Authority seeking immediate action.

In a letter on May 21, attorney Mylene Findlay-Saunders, of the law firm Victorem Law Chambers, said their clients have been left frustrated.

She said when the appointment/quota system at the Spectrum Yard was introduced during the covid19 pandemic in 2020, the clerks and brokers were severely restricted to clearing a maximum of 50 vehicles a day, exclusively through pre-scheduled appointments which was a departure from the previous walk-in system.

This, she said, has led to contracts and obstacles for the group since rental fees are incurred after a five-day grace period.

“These fees have become prohibitively burdensome due to the restrictive quota system.

“Previously, our clients could manage to clear most vehicles within the grace period, thus avoiding excessive rental costs.

“However, the implementation of the quota-based system has severely hindered this process, resulting in unpredictable and often exorbitant rental charges.”

Findlay-Saunders said as a result, the client’s relationships with their customers have been jeopardised since they were forced to impose higher and unpredictable rates because of delays and the inefficiencies caused by the quota system.

She also said the clients have complained of losing valuable days for vehicle clearance and called on the authority to address this, the hurdles and delays of having to obtain an appointment stamp before paying rent on the vehicles and the delays at the cargo accounts section.

Findlay-Saunders also raised an issue with the small number of clerical staff to deal with appointments and assist with processing bills which, she said, results in a substantial backlog.

“It should not require a formal complaint to highlight the necessity of adequate staffing. The gravity of these issues cannot be overstated.

“The current operational framework at Spectrum Yard port lacks essential oversight and regulation, leading to unnecessary costs, operational disruptions, and profound inconvenience for our clients.”

Findlay-Saunders called for an immediate investigation of the clients’ complaints, an immediate and comprehensive review of the port’s policies and client engagement to address their concerns.

The Port Authority was given 28 days to address the issues raised. The attorney said failure to do so would compel the clients to “escalate the issue” to the Integrity Commission and other relevant oversight bodies.