By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamian merchants were yesterday scrambling to clear last-minute Christmas shipments due to combination of bad weather and compliance issues with Customs’ new system.
Tribune Business was told that some companies had run into the perfect storm as delays to both air and sea freight, due the unseasonal weather, were compounded by being “locked out” of the new Electronic Single Window (ESW) due to repeated attempts to take “short cuts” in the clearance process.
This newspaper understands that, in efforts to speed up the release of their goods, some merchants were constantly failing to enter all the necessary details required by the new Customs system. As a result, they were being flagged as chronic offenders and blocked from logging in to the Click2Clear-branded platform.
Marlon Johnson, the Ministry of Finance’s acting financial secretary, confirmed to Tribune Business there had been “some issues” yesterday morning with passwords being rejected and persons unable to log in to the system.
He added, though, that based on a report from Dr Geannine Moss, the Customs comptroller, the problems had been resolved within the hour and could not be attributed to any fault with the Electronic Single Window.
“This morning there was a report that some of the passwords weren’t working, and there were some log-in issues that users were having,” Mr Johnson said. “That was resolved in the hour.
“Outside of that, there are issues with boats and planes coming in late because of the inclement weather. They’ve [Customs] been working with the major suppliers to clear freight on the air and sea side, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It isn’t the system; it’s a stretch to conclude it’s a system issue. We’ve had a run of bad weather.”
Tribune Business sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that some merchants and brokers had been “locked out” of Customs’ system because they had not been consistently compliant in providing all the import shipment details now demanded.
“That was happening more frequently this week because people were taking short-cuts because of their desire to get shipments in,” one contact said. They added the traditional Christmas import volumes, together with the bad weather, had combined to create a backlog of goods waiting to clear and leave the Arawak Port.
“You had ships laying in wait. Because the weather was so bad some of these ships had to go past Nassau to find smoother waters,” one source said. “Air freight, seaside freight, everything has been an issue. Flights were delayed, cancelled. They’re working through it. There were no technical glitches; it was compliance that was the problem.”