With complaints from traders of overcharging, damages and loss of goods at Mini Dry Port (MDP) and truck parking and following an investigative story by The Bhutanese, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) has advised the southern taskforce and relevant management to take up various initiatives to help ease the situation.
MoEA Minister, Loknath Sharma, said that it is difficult to manage, as everything has to be routed through the biggest commercial hub, Phuentsholing. The Southern Taskforce that comprise of members of all the relevant agencies facilitate with such matters.
Lyonpo said, “We have received a few of the traders complaining of extra charges (above the set rate), damages and loss of goods from the MDP and truck parking. I have immediately talked with the Customs in Phuentsholing, and somehow, looking from the other side, I was told that it is the traders, themselves, who spoil the loaders by paying a few extra bucks to have their job done fast.”
When one pays the loaders with the extra money then the demand and expectations among the loaders increases, he said, adding that he has heard of such competitions among the traders. The cause of damages could be because they have to trans-ship the goods fast, and there are damages caused by machines, he said.
With this regard, Lyonpo said that the ministry has asked the management of MDP, truck parking and the Southern Taskforce to see how they can minimize the damages.
The ministry is in talks with a loader agency, Dhendup Enterprise, handling the MDP, to minimize such issues, and to see if the number of loaders can be increased.
He said, “They are trying to ease the issue. As one way, we are encouraging 14 and 16 wheelers detachable truck which can directly come to MDP, attach their head to other truck and move towards Sorchen for transshipment.”
This is expected to decrease the cost of loading and unloading. The ministry welcomes traders to use the modality and minimize demurrage charges.
For the vehicles coming in with hydropower items, which come in larger quantities, the burden on MDP will be eased if they can unload the goods and keep it at the hydropower warehouse, he said.
Also to ease the burden on MDP people, Lyonpo said that they have initiated single item goods, such as hardware, to be directly unloaded at their respective warehouses or at truck parking but following the strict COVID-19 protocol.
An alternative is being looked into where the truckers need not have to wait outside the MDP, paying high demurrage charges, in Jaigaon, India.
Lyonpo said, “We have already asked the Southern Taskforce as well as the management to come up with an alternative, as we are expecting an increase in number of vehicles entering the country after the lockdown in Phuentsholing.”
The Southern Taskforce and the MDP management will do the overall coordination, and the customs office will also find ways to ease the situation, Lyonpo added.
“Traders in the country have suffered as they are doing businesses through Phuentsholing. Indeed, everyone, in general, has suffered. Because of the demurrage charges, loading and unloading charges in MDP and switching modality of drivers at Sorchen, the consumers, at the end, are suffering with the rise in costs.”
Lyonpo said that it is difficult and quite tricky to control the rise in the price of commodities. But if the current protocol while importing the goods is not followed, then the risk of transmission of COVID-19 can be very high.
“The livelihoods of the people are impacted in many ways. Nevertheless, everyone is bearing it and the whole economy of the country is in a difficult state,” Lyonpo added.
Hereafter, with the completion of second dose of vaccination, the ministry is hopeful that the economy of the country will get better. Lyonpo said that everyone involved is trying their best to address the issues, and no one can be blamed at this point of time.