DOHA: Importers are battling heavy odds as they say they cannot meet the increasing demand for foodstuff and construction materials due to slow clearance by Doha Port.
The port being old has a limited ship and container handling capacity, so import volumes cannot be increased. Also, the customs clearance procedures are time-consuming, they claim.
The result is huge wastage, especially of fresh and perishable food products, and rising prices.
The Qatar Chamber, representative body of the private sector, has, thus, urged the port authorities to take steps so it can handle more ships and speed up goods clearance.
“We have suggested that warehouses be built so the (food) containers can be taken directly there instead of leaving them in open space in the port premises,” said Mohamed bin Ahmed Tawar Al Kuwari.
Al Kuwari, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Chamber, said this was the only solution to tackle the problem of congestion at the container yard at the port.
According to him, delay in goods clearance is mainly due to a lack of space for containers at the port. “With so many mega development projects being launched and the population of the country surging literally by the day, imports have been rising feverishly due to increasing demand,” Al Kuwari told local daily Al Raya in remarks published yesterday.
The pressure was particularly on the import of foodstuff (since the population has been increasing) and raw materials used in the booming construction industry,
Businessman Ali Hassan Al Khalaf said that goods clearance procedures are time-consuming since several agencies are involved in the process.
The Customs Department, Environment Ministry and the public health authorities are involved in the clearing process.
The result of the delay in releasing the imported goods is that food items, especially, are spoiled in large quantities, he said.
It is tragic that importers have to face such odds at a time so many mega infrastructure development projects are being launched in the country, he hinted.
Al Khalaf said that the various state agencies also levy fees on the importers and that pushes up the cost of goods. Another businessman, Kazim Al Ansari, said that Doha Port can only handle two ships at a time. “The third ship must remain anchored as long as unloading of these two vessels is going on,” he said.
Businessman Ghassan Al Salem said that the New Doha Port, which is under construction at a huge outlay between
Al Wakra and Mesaieed, is expected to be ready only by 2016.
“Only then can we expect importers’ woes to end,” said