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Causeway trucks chaos 'hurting Bahrain traders'.

MANAMA: Many Bahraini enterprises have been hard hit by delays that have plagued trucks heading to Saudi Arabia for the last three years, traders said yesterday.

Speaking at an open meeting at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) yesterday, importers and exporters complained that their shipments are delayed, sometimes for weeks, due to traffic congestion on the causeway and inefficiencies in processing of certification and other documents needed to clear customs.

BCCI had called the meeting with top officials of Customs Affairs in response to demand from members.

Owners of many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who were present said they have had to downsize their operations, let go of staff and were running at less than half the installed capacity due to massive truck bottlenecks on King Fahad Causeway.

Former first deputy chairman of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Ibrahim Zainal said the issue was very grave and posed a serious threat to Bahrain's competitiveness as a business hub.

He said many SMEs had seen their markets shrink and expansion plans had been put on hold.

"I fear nearly 20pc of Bahraini SMEs may be headed for difficult times in the next two years, if nothing is done soon to resolve the issue," Mr Zainal added.

Concurring with him, BCCI board member Ahmed bin Hindi said urgent steps were needed to review procedures and cut red-tape to avoid hampering imports and exports.

Those worst affected by the delays are importers and exporters whose shipments require multiple clearances from governmental agencies including departments in charge of environment, health, commerce and so on.

Mr Bin Hindi said he felt many of agencies did not think that facilitating trade was a core mission for them.

Meanwhile, Customs President Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa sought to reassure BCCI members and the business community saying planned extensions to the causeway, and increasing the number of shifts as well as working hours of customs officials as well as other departments would help.

He said that the concept of customs had developed over the years and it was no longer limited to inspection and tax collection and also included attracting investment and supporting the national economy.

Shaikh Mohammed said the newly introduced system of ATA Carnets was a step aimed at enabling trade.

BCCI second deputy chairman Jawad Al Hawaj and BCCI chief executive Nabeel Al Mahmood said the meeting was the third in a series and was a sign of the keen intent of all stakeholders to resolve the problem.

"We are going to interact with the customs officials and share the proposals and suggestions to fix the problem."

GDN had first reported on delays faced by trucks crossing the causeway in November 2011.

Since then, the authorities have taken steps including the introduction of a ticketing system, setting up of a truck stop and streamlining procedures and co-ordination with Saudi authorities.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Jun 18, 2014
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