MANCHESTER: Port operators, freight forwarders and hauliers are in a fix during this crucial time, especially when there is a mismatch of information and lack of a coordinated solution in the clearance of essential goods nationwide.

The Association of Malaysian Hauliers (AMH) president Nazari Akhbar said the association is trying its best to transfer essential goods promptly and immediately as instructed by the government.

“We are preparing ourselves to comply with the guidelines and ensure that everything is delivered. However, we have reduced our staff by 50% when the government first announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18 as a preventive measure to contain the spread of Covid-19 infection, hence, I think we need more time,” he told Bernama when contacted today.

Nazari also raised his concern over the safety of drivers as there is an inadequate supply of masks and other protective equipment for them.

“We hope that priority is also given to the drivers as key workers to get the protection,” he added.

Asked on the volume of goods transported during MCO, he said the volume has dropped by 70%, especially since hauliers are only allowed to move products approved by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

AMH has 150 members which account for 70% of the industry’s capacity.

Federation of Malaysian Freight Forwarders (FMFF) president Chua Seng Wah, however, has given an assurance that its members would be able to mobilise their resources and make the necessary preparations to clear the non-essential goods during this three-day period.

“The government has listened to our grouses and has given a temporary solution to reduce the burden of a shortage of raw materials, cost of storage detention and demurrage at the port for the importer and traders as well as ease the port from congestion. The ports will monitor the situation after this operation next week to ensure they will not be congested,” he said.

Chua added that permissions were granted for full container load or less than container load (sharing container), however the government must coordinate the instruction as manufacturers of non-essential goods require approval from MITI to operate.

FMFF represents more than 1,300 company members nationwide.

Earlier, Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said warehouses in Port Klang, Port of Penang, and Johor Port in Pasir Gudang have reached nearly 100% of their capacities and the goods must be moved out and delivered to their final destinations as soon as possible.

“The ports will develop and implement action plans to alleviate the congestion of goods in their respective warehouses within the port areas by expediting the movement of goods,” he added in a statement.

In a separate statement, MITI said companies producing essential goods, manufacturers and logistics arm of manufacturers that have received MITI’s approval are allowed to operate throughout the two-week MCO extension to April 14.

“For manufacturers that have been given the green light to operate, but are using private or individual logistics or transport services providers, they are advised to seek the approval of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs,” it said.

MITI also stressed that it will not accept any more applications from companies after the last date of submission which was on March 24.

Separately, Port Klang, Penang Port and Pasir Gudang Port will be given a special exemption to clear imports of non-essential goods out of the ports to warehouses, including to factories outside the port area.

Port Klang Authority, in its statement, said storage charges and removal charge for containers and cargoes of non-essential items stored at the ports from March 16 to 29 would be given a special exemption by the terminal operators.

Meanwhile, Westports Holdings Bhd group managing director Datuk Ruben Emir Gnanalingam, when contacted, said the port operator views market conditions this year to be more challenging than last year due to additional global economic headwinds.

“Bank Negara Malaysia had revised the Overnight Policy Rate by 25 basis points to 2.50%, the lower interest rate would ease financing cost marginally and could stimulate some demand. However, if the practices of avoiding crowded places and remote-home-office become widespread, the reduced consumption could probably outweigh the slightly positive impact from the lower interest rate,” he added.

For Westports, Ruben said the company’s terminal expansion plan was aimed at catering to medium to longer-term growth and container handling capacity of Westports and Port Klang.

“Hence, concerns arising from the coronavirus do not affect such longer-term planning,” he added. — March 27, 2020, Bernama

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