By NATARIO McKENZIE
BROKERS yesterday blamed delayed import clearances on repeated crashes of Bahamas Customs’ electronic single window (ESW) system, despite recent assurances from its Comptroller that “all the kinks” have been worked out.
Several businesses and brokers confirmed they have been impacted as a result of issues plaguing the ESW system, despite Charles Turner announcing last month that Customs was satisfied it would be able to facilitate electronic import document submissions.
The Department had even announced it would start to phase-out the manual submission of importer and broker documents as of June 1, leaving commercial importers in Nassau and others who choose to do so, to submit their manifest and declarations electronically.
One business confirmed to Tribune Business that it has been unable to clear its containers due to the ESW system issues, with its broker claiming that Customs was not accepting manual submissions.
David Humes, of Integral Logistics Brokers, told Tribune Business the ESW system “still has its challenges”, which he said was highlighted on Monday.
“The issue has been the same as last year. I don’t really know whether it’s been addressed. You have the good days and the bad,” he said.
“On Monday nothing happened. Monday was really bad. You really couldn’t do anything until late afternoon because of the system. It still has its challenges. I don’t need to tell you how this is impacting my business.”
Despite claims that Customs was not accepting manual submissions, Mr Humes said: “I don’t think that’s the case. When the system is down they have no choice but to accept the hard copy; the Government can’t afford to be loosing money.”
The ESW problems thus have the potential to setback economic activity, especially if brokers and businesses are unable to clear shipments in a timely manner, which raises the cost of doing business.
And, to add insult to injury, if containers are not cleared from the port within six days, the Arawak Port Development Company (APD) will impose a $20 per day charge, which increases to $30 after 10 days.
One broker, in an e-mail seen by Tribune Business, said: “The computers are down at Customs. They are having problems with the systems; it keeps crashing every minute and your shipment is not going through electronically.
‘This is the only way they will accept it. They will not take a hard copy. When the computers come up we will try again. All I can do is wait.”
Another broker, who chose to remain anonymous, confirmed: “Yes we have been affected by the issues with the system at Customs. It has caused a slow down. We are clearing goods but slowly. The system has been crashing a lot. It could be better.”
Another broker, who also requested anonymity, confirmed that there were issues plaguing the ESW system.
Floyd Moxey of Airsea Customs Brokers said, however, that he had not had any interruptions to his operations “so far”.
Detailed messages left for Customs Comptroller Charles Turner were not returned up to press time. Last month, Mr Turner acknowledged that the ESW system had its share of challenges, but said Customs was now satisfied with the system.
“We would have been working with the business community for the last two years. We would have had some challenges. We are now satisfied with the system. It is a benefit to commercial and non-commercial importers. The time to clear entries will be significantly reduced,” said Mr Turner.
“Once a person has submitted their declarations electronically, you will be in Customs no longer than five minutes. Hopefully, by year’s-end, importers would be able to pay their duty on-line.”