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Aqaba authorities say no delays in clearing containers at terminal

By Dana Al Emam - Jun 23,2015 - Last updated at Jun 23,2015

Customs and inspection procedures on containers at the Aqaba Container Terminal last for five days on average, according to the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (Photo courtesy of ACT)

AMMAN — The Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) is working at 90 per cent of its capacity, with an average of 800 containers entering the Kingdom daily, according to the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA). 

Customs and inspection procedures on containers last for five days on average, ASEZA Deputy Chief Commissioner Yusuf Mansur said, refuting "rumours" that containers stay at the terminal for 20-30 days.

"These rumours don't help anybody and are used as excuses to increase prices of products," he told The Jordan Times in a phone interview, noting that the amendments to the Competitiveness Law entail strict penalties on merchants who increase prices, especially in occasions like Ramadan, therefore traders come up with such excuses.

Mohammad Obeidat, the president of the Consumer Protection Society, agreed with Mansur.

He said merchants are trying to make up for the modest demand on food items compared to last year, as people's purchasing power is lower with Ramadan coming in the middle of the month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset, started late last week.

Food and beverage consumption rises considerably during the fasting month due to a change in eating patterns.

However, Foodstuff Traders Association (FTA) President Khalil Haj Tawfiq charged that the delays and "intentional negligence" in clearing food containers at the port aims to increase fees collected from merchants, which could reach millions.

He claimed that thousands of containers with food items, including grain and meat, are stuck at the terminal, estimating the value of goods at tens of millions of dinars. 

Haj Tawfiq said containers that went through official procedures and obtained the required approvals since June 16 were only allowed to be unloaded into trucks to be transported on Monday, and the number of trucks in line exceeded 1,200.

"It is unfair for merchants to bear the delays if the company running the terminal wants to upgrade its electronic system," he told The Jordan Times over phone on Tuesday.

But Mansur said containers are exempted from fees for their first week at the port, while merchants pay JD5 per container per day for the second week, an amount that doubles during the third week.

The ASEZA official added that 19 of the 32 ships the association says are involved in clearance delays are still at sea and have not even reached Jordan, noting that some containers do not need to undergo inspection.

Nonetheless, work is under way to expand the current terminal to accommodate more ships and save time, according to Mansur, who said the terminal has some "minor" technical problems that are being addressed. 

He noted that the company running the ACT is one of the best companies in the world, with its annual revenues reaching $13 billion last year.

Commenting on the issue, Trade Ministry Spokesperson Yanal Barmawi said the ministry is following up with ASEZA and the concerned entities, adding that "large" quantities of meat have entered the market, including a significant amount daily from the port.

 

"Since the very beginning, the ministry highlighted the need for quick procedures at the terminal to guarantee that market needs are covered during Ramadan," he said, noting that customs and testing procedures "take time".

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