The Port of Port-of-Spain.

There are concerns as operations across all ports of entry have grounded to a halt following issues arising out of the upgrade of the Asycuda platform, a data processing system, used to facilitate the clearance of cargo.

The upgrade which was intended to improve the process used by Customs and Excise to clear cargo was scheduled to take place between December 31 and Monday, January 4, however, the transition aimed at improving revenue collection and efficiency of the clearance system at the ports has reportedly not been smooth and just days after the Ministry of Finance’s sanctioned upgrade, teething issues threaten to cripple the process, leaving importers in limbo.

Shaun Rampersad, CEO of Ramps Logistics, a freight forwarding and shipment company said the situation could become dire if there is no timely resolution.

He said, “In grand total we have been able to use the system for about an hour, we haven’t been able to clear any shipment, we haven’t been able to enter any new data into the system and the biggest issue right now is we don’t know what to tell importers because nobody knows when the issue will be resolved.”

According to Rampersad, the consequences are now borderline dire, “Every day your cargo sitting at a port there is a cost to carrying that capital so people aren’t able to access the stocks they would have brought in, the bigger risk to the country is where you have perishable items or medicine sitting down at the airport and you can’t get it out, that’s where human lives become significantly more impacted.”

In a release, AMCHAM TT said small gains made through dialogue with the Ministry of Finance, Customs and the express logistics committee over the last year could be eroded if problems at the ports were not rectified. The organisation said it was alarmed that companies were being charged overtime for a delay they are not responsible for.

“It is obscene that in the absence of a proper, centralized, risk-based management system this creates the conditions for which the need for overtime is determined by the officers who will benefit from this overtime.”

Guardian Media contacted Finance Minister Colm Imbert for an update on the port delays but all questions were unanswered. Meanwhile, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning said he could not comment on the issue and had to research it.