Shipments that have registered with the online cargo release system (OLRS) and have paid terminal and shipping charges are soon to get automatic booking under the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS) at Manila ports.
This development follows the signing on November 7 of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Manila South Harbor operator Asian Terminals Inc, the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Aduana Business Club, Inc. (ABCI).
The MOU orders ATI to “confer with its system developer (1-Stop) and ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services, Inc.) on opportunities to modify its TABS on or before 9 November 2015 to allow automatic booking upon registration with the OLRS and payment of arrastre, wharfage, storage and shipping line charges.”
ABCI had earlier called a strike on November 9 against the implementation of TABS specifically at the Manila South Harbor. Instead of facilitating port transactions, TABS caused delays because of the difficulty in booking slots.
Following the signing of the MOU, ABCI called off the strike.
TABS is an online system that enables port stakeholders to select the time slots for delivering and withdrawing cargoes. ATI along with Manila North Harbor operator ICTSI began implementing the system on October 1.
The November 9 strike was also supposed to be in protest of a BOC plan to accredit truckers, noting this will be additional “red tape to the trucking business.” ABCI said there is nothing under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines that states the customs commissioner can regulate truckers. The group added that truckers already undergo numerous accreditations such as with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Land Transportation Office, port operators as well as truckers’ organizations.
ABCI president Mary Zapata said that with the MOU, customs brokers and truckers will no longer have to wait for days to secure a slot under TABS.
Customs brokers and truckers will, however, have to pay a penalty in case of “no show” despite a confirmed booking, according to the MOU.
A meeting with truckers and customs brokers was held on November 9 at ATI’s office in Port Area to finalize guidelines for implementing TABS.
Zapata said another meeting with Lina has been set on November 11 for other concerns.
She said it was Malacañang that tasked DOLE to meet with BOC and ATI to settle the TABS issue. DOLE had previously sponsored reconciliation meetings among ABCI and other government offices.
The ABCI chief noted they wanted the issue settled before road closures during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings to be held in Manila next week.
Under the just-signed agreement, ATI will inform stakeholders on November 11of the progress of modification of its TABS system.
The MOU also required ATI to set up a desk starting November 9 to assist clients going through difficulties booking with TABS.
The MOU was signed by ATI’s Jun Hermes Balita, Customs commissioner Alberto Lina, ABCI’s Zapata, and DOLE undersecretary Atty. Rebecca Chato.
While TABS is being tweaked, ATI will allow on-site booking by stakeholders upon presentation of the gate pass, the MOU said.
Moreover, the port operator will install a wide-screen monitor at the Transport Office, Gate 7, and consider putting up a call center for TABS to provide easier access to information and assistance.
The MOU said ATI, ABCI, and other stakeholders will continue to discuss other issues such as the return of empty containers.
ABCI earlier said that despite having a TABS appointment, empty containers being returned to the port are then “given instruction to deliver to container yard outside the port.”
The group is contesting the “inefficiency of shipping lines to manage the return of empty containers despite payment of fees of different nomenclature.”
The problem of prompt return of container deposit by shipping lines is a long-standing issue in the logistics community, with some stakeholders complaining that deposits are returned only after three months, sometimes more. – Roumina Pablo
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