WALVIS BAY: The dust is refusing to settle here and clearing agents are becoming more impatient, awaiting response from Government on a ban that prohibits them from using third-party guarantees and bonds as security when moving goods out of the country.
The ban which came into force on 24 July this year, has built up tension among clearing agents for more than three weeks now, after they handed over a petition to the Ministry of Finance’s Customs and Excise Department in Walvis Bay, asking them to lift the ban, but they are still waiting for an answer.
More than 70 clearing agents have now sought the assistance of the Governor of the Erongo Region, Cleophas Mutjavikua to intervene in the situation.
The governor confirmed to Nampa on Thursday that a meeting is scheduled for next week Tuesday with the dissatisfied clearing agents to hear their side of the story.
“I want to bring the two parties together in order to solve the existing problem,” Mutjavikua said.
Clearing agents indicated that consignments are piling up at Namport, as the ban has prevented consignments from being collected.
Reports indicated that the Namibian Ports Authority (Namport) is experiencing a slowdown in movement of cargo out of the port, as only a handful of freight services have bond security to remove the cargo, while unconfirmed reports indicated that a vessel with a consignment of 900 cars is expected to dock next week.
“With the arrival of the consignment of 900 cars, the port will be congested, and the cargo will be delayed to their final destinations,” a source told Nampa.
They said the problem will be exacerbated when various vessels containing about 7 000 vehicles arrive over the next few weeks.
Efforts to get comment from Namport proved futile, as questions were sent to the relevant authority and were not answered at the time of writing.
Clearing agents were disappointed when officials from the Ministry of Finance’s Customs and Excise Department failed to address their concerns at a meeting held on Friday.
The gathering was called after clearing agents expressed their unhappiness with a ban prohibiting them to use the bonds and guarantees of third parties as security when moving goods out of the country.
The Commissioner of Customs and Excise in the Ministry of Finance, Bevan Simataa, told Nampa on Thursday that they are still working on the petition handed to them by the clearing agents.
Among a number of other concerns, the clearing agents want to know why the Ministry of Finance (MoF) did not consult them when a decision of such magnitude was taken and implemented.
Last month, in a letter addressed to clearing agents, bonded warehouses and companies in Walvis Bay, Hans Garoeb, deputy director of Trade Facilitation, stated that guarantees and bonds may only be used by principals registered under the said guarantee or bond, meaning that permission should not be granted to other agents and companies to use such guarantees.
About 76 SMEs have been affected by the ban. Their work entails clearing any goods coming through Namport, and which are destined for land-locked countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe that do not have ports.
Clearing agents said it is a very costly and time-consuming process for the small companies to acquire their own bonds, which start at N.dollars 350 000, hence their reliance on bigger companies.
Garoeb, earlier explained that the decision to ban the clearing agents from using third-party guarantees and bonds to clear their consignments was taken because the customs and excise department experienced difficulties such as locating agents who had unpaid debts.
“It is illegal to rent guarantees and bonds, and it is the duty of Customs to protect and secure revenue,” he said.
The Namibian newspaper reported recently that Deputy Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein explained that the decision to ban clearing agents from using the guarantees and bonds of third parties was taken to protect the taxpayer.
Schlettwein indicated that Government stood to lose out on duties and customs through the practice, and said the taxpayer would have ended up having to pick up the tab.