The world’s second largest cargo shipper has warned Bahamian companies that their imports will be delayed “until the next sailing” if manifests are not made for compliance with Bahamas Customs’ new requirements.
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), in a June 24, 2016, letter to its Bahamian private sector customers, expressed particular concern about the 25 per cent “processing fee” that will be levied if last-minute changes are made to cargo manifests.
MSC, which is one of the two main cargo shippers serving Nassau, together with Tropical Shipping, called on its Bahamian clients to work with it to avoid the implementation of such fees.
Yet the letter, which has been obtained by Tribune Business, warns that companies unable to supply MSC with a complete cargo manifest by its desired time may see their containers removed from the vessel and left until the next sailing.
This, potentially, could result in a three-day delay to cargo being shipped out of Port Everglades to Nassau, and possibly a week’s delay to freight coming out of Jacksonville.
“Effective July 1, 2016, the Bahamas Customs will implement a new regulation regarding C-10 (local Manifest Correction) requirements,” MSC’s letter warned its customers.
“We should work together and accurately co-ordinate our actions on this subject, as each amendment to the manifest filed with Customs will generate a penalty of 25 per cent of the cargo value.”
MSC added that should such a ‘processing fee’ be levied, it would be applied to the “wrongdoer’s account” - implying that it would pass the extra charge on to the ‘consignee’, or ultimate owner of the imported goods, rather than pay it itself.
“In order to comply with such, and protect our customer interests by avoiding any applicable fine, we must review our procedures and enforce strict deadlines,” MSC warned, setting out the new timelines its Bahamian clients must adhere to.
For MSC’s service to Nassau from Port Everglades on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the final cargo manifest or ‘master bill of lading’ must be received by the shipping company no later than midday on the day of sailing.
No “exceptions” or “dummy bills of lading” are allowed, and MSC warned of failure to comply: “If final master bills of lading are not received on time, these containers will be rolled on to next sailing regardless if unit is already in gated.”
The same applies to MSC’s service to Nassau and Freeport from Jacksonville, where all final cargo manifests must be presented to the company by midday on Thursday for Friday sailing.
Otherwise cargo will again be left for the next sailing.
MSC’s requirements, which have been forced by the changes to the Customs Management Act and its regulations by amendments accompanying the 2016-2017 Budget, are likely to further strain the ‘ease of doing business’ for many Bahamian companies.
The shipping company’s policy response will impact logistics and supply chain management, especially where ‘perishable’ goods such as foodstuffs are concerned, if they are left on the dock.
One private sector source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tribune Business: “This is going to be another big problem.
“We have no control over the shippers. What about food, perishables? There’s all kinds of ramifications, and they [the Government] don’t take the time to think it through.”
Michael Maura, Arawak Port Development Company’s (APD) chief executive, previously told Tribune Business that the shipping industry had legitimate concerns regarding the penalties that could be incurred as a result of using the C-10 declaration form, and if prohibited or restricted goods were discovered, as such situations were not necessarily its fault.
Apart from the 25 per cent ‘processing fee’ that will be levied on the “value of goods” listed in C-10 declarations, which are used to make late amendments to cargo manifests, the Budget has introduced a whole raft of increased charges and penalties on both the air and sea cargo industries.
For sea cargo, shippers/importers who fail to provide the manifest and loading list “at least 12 hours” before the ship lands in the Bahamas hit will be hit with a $2,500 fee. That represents a major increase from the current across-the-board $75 fee.
A fee equivalent to 25 per cent of the imported good’s value will be levied on the parcel list used by cargo ships, while a $5,000 per good charge will be levied on shippers “if prohibited or restricted goods are found on board their vessels”.
Mr Maura said there were “a lot of reasons” for C-10s to be employed, given that shipping companies were dealing with clients and suppliers where English was not the first language, and which often described physical freight differently.
He added that suppliers were often shipping product to different locations in the Bahamas, and sometimes confused manifests for one destination with those for another, requiring last-minute changes.
“There are a lot of situations that take place on a regular basis that require C-10s,” Mr Maura said.
“This is something that needs watching carefully, but Customs indicated it would be fair and transparent with the process, and will not be levying fines and penalties in a manner that causes more uncertainty.”