COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s Customs are now open round-the-clock but companies are still reluctant to make use of the extended hours meant to improve trade facilitation by working nights and weekends.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who pushed for flexible hours after the new government was formed in January, said that Customs were complaining that while they remained open, the facility was still not fully used by the trade.
The extended hours were meant to enhance trade facilitation in the trade dependent economy while reducing traffic congestion in and around the capital Colombo caused by movement of container trucks and other cargo vehicles.
"I urge you to use this facility," he told forum on the ‘24X7’ Customs operation organised by the import section of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce together with the Sri Lanka Customs and Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
"Trade is increasing and so is traffic congestion. You have been complaining about delays. Now make use of this opportunity."
Datta Gunasekera, technical director of the SLPA, said the port was keeping its warehouses open a night to support the Customs 24×7 effort launched in March.
"Unfortunately, the trade has not embraced the system. In the last one month we had only 186 invoices raised for cargo clearance done after 8.00pm and till morning. That’s not encouraging."
Jagath P. Wijeweera, Director General of Sri Lanka Customs, said that although their officers stayed awake during the night few people in the trade turned up to do business.
"Our Customs officers are staying awake at night but they will begin to doubt the useful of the new system if the trade does not make use of it," he told the forum.