The Freeport of Monrovia being the nation’s major seaport has for the past few weeks seen pockets of agitations from customers over what they term as delay in clearance processes.
These customers lament the implementation of a new clearance procedure instituted by APM Terminals and its partners as part of the Port digitization agenda. The agitations reached its crescendo last Thursday, May 12 when groups of agents and brokers were visibly agitated with the process.
Independent investigation into this recent menace at the Port however shows that the delays are more manual than technical.
As part of the digitization process, Customs Officers are to update the destination of containers in their Asycuda system and on the basis for which the container handling operator, APM Terminals can go-ahead to release the containers.
Close sources to the Port say some Custom Officers have been refusing to do this update thereby creating delays in the release process.
This refusal to update the system from their end means that other agencies in the value chain are unable to go ahead to facilitate their processes since it is a digital system with an input at one end feeding into another.
In last Thursday’s incidence, for example, it took efforts from APM Terminals and some agents to have customs correct the errors created by their officers’ negligence to update the destination in Asycuda. This occasioned additional delays causing the agents to agitate at the port.
An agent who spoke to this reporter based on anonymity further confirmed this; “we have been here waiting several hours only to find out that the delays have been caused by some people’s refusal to do their work. Some of these Custom Officers must be spoken to. Why should it take me more time to clear when we have moved from analog to digital? We cannot say we are driving towards port digitization when we refuse to do the simple things that will make the system work.”
It is further believed by some stakeholders that the process is being sabotaged by some Custom Officers because an efficient digital system will eliminate human manipulations which these officers have benefited from all these years.
“We know why some people in these agencies are resisting the changes- it is because it does not serve their corrupt interest” our source added.
Early this year, port operators APM Terminals Liberia together with its partners announced measures on clearance processes in line with its new digitization agenda.
While the process has not come without initial implementation difficulties, Port Stakeholders continue to engage to fine-tune it.
The digitized release process has been shown to have reduced transaction time at the port substantially.
Further reduction in transaction time will be realized if all stakeholders play their part and in this instance if Custom Officers diligently update Asycuda, which is the system for updating container destinations.
It is important for the National Port Authority and its partners to pay keen attention to these issues as they go to the core of the efficiency of our Port and the Liberian economy in general.