Patriotic Entrepreneur of Liberia Trade Union (PATEL) National Chairman Dominic Nimely, decries high tariffs at the Freeport of Monrovia, including strenuous regulations against businesses, describing the Freeport as a “slaughter zone.”
“Freeport is like a slaughter zone for we the business people. We had 21 days to put our containers out from Freeport, that is, if you import a container. It was reduced to 14 days, from 14 days it was reduced to seven days, from seven days now we have five days. It even threatens to reduce … to three days which of course we told them no,” Mr. Nimely explains.
Addressing a press conference at PATEL’s Newport Street office on Friday, 6April he says the organization is asking President George Manneh Weah to intervene for the Port to give businesses at least 20 days to clear their containers as it is reportedly done in other African countries in the region.
But National Port Authority (NPA) Spokesman Micolm Scott says “the Port can’t be a slaughter house,” noting that the new administration has been trying over the past time to hold discussions with stakeholders to ensure that “We undo those bottlenecks”, for customer services.
Mr. Scott explains to this paper on Sunday, 8 April via mobile phone that the actual information is that the NPA does not handle cargo clearance. According to him, APM Terminal, as a concession company, deals with cargo clearance, while the NPA provides oversight.
“NPA does not handle cargo, it’s customs-related and it’s APM Terminals’ because they are the administrators of the cargo or clearance,” he clarifies.Notwithstanding, PATEL Chairman Nimely reemphasizes the group’s call for a hundred percent retail rights for Liberian – owned businesses, urging foreigners that came here as investors “to sit on investors’ bench” and stop selling retails.
He complains against high tariffs at the Freeport of Monrovia in the face of high interest rates imposed against local businesses that take bank loans. According to him, it takes about two months to import goods from America or China, and custom would be charging about $25,000 to $30,000 at the port to clear a container loaded with “fake” goods.
“So, please stop killing our people. If you keep doing that to us, the banks and other institutions out there will be spoiling Liberians’ names that we can’t pay debt,” he notes.
He wonders how Liberian businesses will pay debt if they bring containers with a principal of $15,000 and they are required to pay $25,000 to clear them.The PATEL chair laments that businesses are “forced to do BIVAC” which is a pre-designated inspection, before their goods arrive in Liberia. But he says when the goods arrive here, customs would inspect them one by one at the Freeport of Monrovia, sometimes allegedly exposing goods to rain.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne