TRADE Minister Vasant Bharath yesterday disclosed that a major upgrade is coming for the country’s ports, through the acquisition of electronic scanners and new legislation to improve the efficiency of their operations.
Speaking at two separate fora hosted by the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), Bharath said there is no reason why a container of goods cannot be cleared from the nation’s ports within three days, once all of these measures are in place. He also said TT needs to become a more investor-friendly nation “or we will be left behind.”
Speaking with reporters after his presentation at the second annual India/TT Business Forum hosted by the TT Chamber in Westmoorings, Bharath said:
“By June or July of this year we should have scanners available to us – four. What has happened is that the American Government has gifted us with three scanners but we have to do some repair work on those. So we have those three available and we’re currently in the process of having a tender go out for a further four.”
Saying it was common knowledge that many illegal items enter this country and some come in containers at the ports, Bharath said the scanners mean that Customs officers will not have to do as much physical unstuffing of containers to search for contraband.
Bharath did not foresee any problems with the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union regarding the installation of scanners at the Port-of-Spain port or the Point Lisas port. He said tenders have been issued for the four scanners Government is trying to obtain and he did not know what the cost for this equipment would be.
Reiterating this point later at Amcham’s 20th annual general meeting at the Hilton Trinidad, Bharath disclosed that in two weeks time he will pilot the Customs Amendment Act 2013 in Parliament.
He explained that through this legislation “we will see the ASYCUDA system run by Customs and Excise being merged for the first time with the Single Electronic Window that is run by the ministry.”
In addition, Bharath said the legislation will permit an advanced manifest “to be delivered to the Customs prior to a vessel arriving.” He said this will give Customs the opportunity to scrutinise a vessel’s cargo before it arrives “with regards to security.”
The minister said once this happens, “when the vessel does arrive there will be no holdups or delays on this end.”
Bharath then disclosed that he has received a commitment from the Comptroller of Customs that once the legislation is passed and the scanners are in place, “there is absolutely no reason why we cannot clear a container off the docks in TT in three days.”