WALVIS BAY: The Namibian Ports Authority (Namport) stands to lose clients if a solution is not found on the ban prohibiting clearing agents from using the bonds and guarantees of third parties as security when moving goods out of the country.
A consignment of 1 600 cars is expected to arrive in Namibia in the next two weeks, said Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), Johny Smith in an interview with Nampa on Friday.
Smith is concerned about the overall situation in the harbour town for the past three weeks between clearing agents and the Ministry of Finance’s Customs’ office, and stated that Namibia stands to lose revenue from imports if the situation persists.
“We tried to grow the industry and to grow the SME, and yet we are trying to destroy it. We have to be careful to grow the business and create a support system to support the growth,” he expressed.
Last month, the Ministry of Finance stated in a letter addressed to clearing agents, bonded warehouses and companies in Walvis Bay 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.
“I agree with the directive from customs, but they have to provide a solution, because one customer lost means that client will never come back,” Smith warned.
He further explained that the WBCG and the Ministry of Trade have injected a lot of money in growing business in Walvis Bay, so that the Port becomes known as the best port in the Southern African Developing Community (SADC) Region and in the world at large.
Currently, more than 1 000 imported cars are going through the Walvis Bay harbour per month. This means that the industry is overwhelmingly benefiting from the marketing done and the involvement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The Walvis Bay importing industry is receiving revenue of an estimated N.dollars 3 000 per car on a daily basis and if those 1 600 expected cars are diverted to the Durban harbour in South Africa, Namibia could lose a lot of money, he said.
Approach for comment, Manager of Corporate Communication at NamPort, Liz Sibindi said that the Port is not congested at the moment.
“There is no major impact currently. Cargo throughput at Namport has increased, hence the increase in SME participation. Although Namport currently operates at 70 per cent capacity with a 30 per cent buffer, should this continue, the slow clearance of the vehicles against the tight schedule of vessel arrivals may result in space challenges in time to come,” she said.
Considering the continuous increase in cargo volumes, she added, Namport has already embarked on an expansion project long before the directive in question was issued and the implementation of the expansion project will enable Namport to handle one million plus Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) throughput for the entire port with more storage capacity for the vehicles.
However, clearing agents here 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 Tuesday with the dissatisfied clearing agents to hear their side of the story.