New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Directive Worries Port Authority

Walvis Bay — The Namibian Ports Authority, Namport is concerned that the directive issued on July 24 by the Ministry of Finance prohibiting small clearing and forwarding agents from removing shipments from bonded warehouses without bonds, will portray it in a negative light to the rest of the world.

The directive stopped at least 76 clearing and forwarding agents in Walvis Bay who do not have bond facilities from operating ever since it was issued. The government moratorium of August 10, prohibits principal bond users from availing their bonds to third parties. Clearing and forwarding agents made use of third party bonds in the past to remove imports, mainly vehicles, from bonded warehouses.

However, the process was discontinued with the implementation of the directive, since it is illegal. Most imports are destined for landlocked countries such as Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola.

The Customs and Excise directive prohibits smaller clearing agents from making use of a third party bond to remove or transport any imports from bonded warehouses at Namport. According to Namport's corporate communications manager, Liz Sibindi the directive affects cross-border cargo, especially vehicles. At least 90 percent of the imported vehicles handled by the Port of Walvis Bay are destined for neighbouring countries and small clearing and forwarding agents normally handle their clearing and forwarding.

"However these vehicles must move in bond within the borders of Namibia as per the directive. It is also worth mentioning that throughput at Namport has increased, because of the increase in SME participation," said Sibindi.

Sibindi added that although Namport currently operates at 70 percent capacity with a 30 percent buffer, should small clearing agents not continue to trade, the slow clearance of the vehicles against the tight schedule of vessel arrivals may result in space challenges in the near future.

New Era also learned that soon after the directive was issued, a RoRo cargo vessel offloaded about 875 vehicles. There are still 300 cars in the harbour which are delayed for clearance and attracting storage fees at the expense of clearing and forwarding agents.

Although there are currently no delays in terms of offloading of vessels, a delay in clearance of cargo is experienced. Three RoRos are also expected to arrive at the port of Walvis Bay this week. The first one arrived on Saturday with 835 vehicle units, while the second one will arrive today with 497 units on board and the last one is expected to arrive on August 25 with 396 vehicle units.

Sibindi is of the opinion that word will go out that client options in this regard are becoming less, which might be interpreted as Walvis Bay becoming expensive.

"A perception which has potential to adversely affect the business Namport enjoys currently if such a perception is created and spread widely," she said.

She also said clearing and forwarding agents play a vital role in the entire logistics chain and that Namport is satisfied to see that SME's can also share in the lucrative business opportunities offered by the industry.

According to Sibindi consultations between Namport and the Ministry of Finance continue and that the port remains positive that a mutually satisfactory decision would be reached that will benefit all parties.

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