Maritime Authority to confiscate cargo

Unless promptly cleared from Djibouti Ports

The Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA) announced that it will start taking action against importers who left their imported commodities at the port of Djibouti for over two months.

The directive that was amended a few months ago gives the authority, responsible for port related issues, the right to confiscate imported cargo that are not cleared from the port of Djibouti for more than two months. Maritime specialists said if the authority takes this step, it would be the first action taken since the directive was issued.
EMAA also announced that importers of steel and other commodity must transport their cargo to Ethiopia immediately upon arrival so as to clear the area at the port of Djibouti and avoid congestion.
The volume of imported steel not yet cleared from the port is continuously growing. However, it is not only steel that is clogging the port; different items imported by private businesses have also been piled at the port for more than two months.
Steel that was imported using the uni-modal scheme is on average growing by 170,000 tones every day. According to the notice issued by the authority, half of the steel stock at the port has been there for more than three months. “The long storage period will affect the sector and the country,” EMAA’s notice states.
The authority has also invited importers to communicate the challenges they face during the transit process that leads them to leave their goods at the port for more than 30 days.
Freight forwarders in anonymity told Capital that lack of financing is the major challenge importers face to transport the cargo from the port on time.
“The long cargo storage problem is not only affecting the importers but the entire country as well; due to that the authority should facilitate loans,” maritime experts proposed to accelerate the cargo transportation in to the country.
In the past few years the government has implemented various techniques to minimize the number of days goods are stored at the port and some solutions for the country’s imports and exports have been identified.
Mekonnen Abera, Director of EMAA, told Capital that it is not only the increase in the amount of cargo but also the number of storage days that is growing and the situation is creating problems at the port.
“To make the country benefit we have to use the port as a transit rather than a storage area,” he said.
Mekonnen explained that when the storage time is extended, not only the quality of the products/commodities will be affected but it will also harm the country in a number of ways, including the additional expense that is paid for storage fees. “It affects both the country and the final users (consumers),” he noted.
The situation will create more congestion at the port, which may also contribute to rendering the port busy and crowded when other huge shipments like fertilizer or food aid imports arrive. This problem may also create a shortage of transport in to the country.
The director accepted that the biggest challenge for importers is lack of finances, which delays the transport of commodities. “The lack of markets and other issues related to the transit system are some other challenges that lead to the piling of the commodities at the port,” he clarified.
He claimed that importers have to solve these problems. “They have to consider their financial capacity, market and other related issues before they decide to engage in the import business,” he explained.
“Still the government should facilitate or solve problems that are unrelated to their capacity,” he added. “Importers are responsible for importing their own commodities, but we will consider and facilitate solutions if they raise sound and genuine reasons for the delay of their cargo,” the director explained.
“Based on our study we have to implement stricter rules on the sector. Due to that we have to start the implementation of the directive that was amended at the beginning of this year,” he said.
The directive that was amended in March 2013 stated that importers have to transport their cargo in to the country within two months. If importers do not transport the cargo based on this time frame, the EMAA will confiscate the imported commodities.
Even though the directive was amended along with various other rules about eight months ago, the authority has not taken any action relating to the confiscation of commodities.
If the importers do not respond immediately to the notice, it is expected that the authority will make its first confiscation.
“We are flexible in the resolution of these problems, as long as the importers have viable reasons,” the director reiterated.
According to Mekonnen, project equipments, materials and vehicles are some other cargoes stacked up at the port of Djibouti

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