Customs agents prohibited from freight forwarding

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The Maritime Affairs Authority (MAA), a maritime operation supervisory organization, has excluded customs clearing agents from being involved in forwarding operations with the goal of halting the traditional operation system, Capital learnt.
The authority has ordered the customs clearing agents to engage only in services stipulated in a 2004 Customs Clearing Agents Regulation, sources said.
According to experts, agents who have a license for customs clearing were also working in the freight forwarding business, which also has its own laws and procedures. Under the new rules that MAA disclosed this week, the customs clearing agents will not be able to work in the forwarding business.
The country’s law stated that customs clearing agents are only allowed to work in customs issues inside the country and cannot be involved in international transportation activity.  
The Customs Clearing Agents regulation issued in 2004 stated that  ‘Customs Clearing Agent’ means a person authorized to deal with the customs, for and on behalf of another person, to carry out customs formalities related with the importation, exportation and in general with the movement and storage of such goods within the customs territory of Ethiopia.
The regulation also indicated that ‘Customs Formalities’ means any customs operations carried out in connection with importation, exportation or transit of goods from the time of arrival at the customs port until released from the customs control.
However there was a growing trend, until a week ago, for agents with a customs clearing license to get involved in the forwarding process from the port of Djibouti or other similar facilities to import their customer’s cargo.
“The previous trend was very wrong and it is the right decision taken by the authority to exclude the stated type of agents from the forwarding business,” experts stated.
It was unclear how the customs clearing agents were able to simultaneously get involved in the freight forwarding business. Because there are different criteria needed to transport cargo from international ports; for instance the agent must open a letter of credit  to settle the payments in the third country (Djibouti) and only freight forwarding agents are allowed to open a letter of credit “But customs clearing agents were carrying out this business previously,” an expert said.
Individuals who are involved in the freight forwarding business that Capital interviewed said that it is the right decision taken by the authority, because their business was affected by the involvement of the customs clearing agents.
Since the authority declared the new system the business community engaged in the customs clearance claims they have discontinued freight forwarding.
MAA was established in 2007 in accordance to the proclamation No. 549/2007, but it began operating in November, 2008. The authority is accountable to the Ministry of Transport and is engaged in expanding the maritime sector with a modern system.
Ethiopia, which is the most populated nation in world without a seaport, is mainly using the port facilities at Djibouti which is rapidly expanding the number of ports and services to meet the growing cargo of east African landlocked countries, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Capital’s efforts to get details about the issue from Mekonnen Abera the director general of the authority, on Friday July 11, were unsuccessful.