Bahrain truckers face new causeway agony
Manama, July 21, 2014
Truckers in Bahrain are once again facing days of delay as they try to cross the King Fahad Causeway.
Transport Association head Ahmed Dhaif said that drivers have been waiting for up to five days at a time to cross the border into Saudi Arabia because of the large number of trucks and disorganised nature of queuing, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Bottlenecks on the causeway have been ongoing since November 2011 and Bahraini authorities have taken several temporary steps to decrease the waiting time.
However, Dhaif said officials have still not come up with a long-term solution to the crisis.
"Officials need to find a solution for the overcrowding issues we have been facing for more than three years," he said.
"We also have to consider the discomfort of the drivers in the heat and during Ramadan, as well as the economic loss the country is suffering."
He said one of the main challenges during Ramadan was that truckers, many of whom were Muslims, were working long hours in the sweltering summer heat.
"We have a problem, but it's not really our problem, it's the drivers' - they are the ones who are suffering," he explained.
"We are sitting in air-conditioned offices, while the drivers are the ones who have to sit there and wait to cross.
"I told the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry that instead of just talking about this, we should be taking care of them.
"We should go there and have Iftar and pray with them one night, and make them feel like we are standing by them.
"They will appreciate it if they feel someone is out there and cares for them.
"In Ramadan, we have all of these majlises to connect with each other, but no one is connecting with the workers and the drivers."
Alwardi Transport Company general manager Farhat Alwardi said several companies have started preparations to stop transporting goods across the causeway over the next few days due to anticipated Eid traffic.
"In the past two days, it's been moving a little faster, but that isn't because they have suddenly got better organised or have a better system," he said.
"It's because there are companies that have stopped sending their trucks as they don't want them to be stuck there over Eid.
"Similarly, trucks coming in transit from Kuwait and the UAE don't have enough time to get to Bahrain, unload and then get back in time."
Alwardi said that today and tomorrow would be the last days he sends trucks to the border.
"The system is better than two months ago," he said.
"I would say it's about 60 per cent better, but it's still unorganised.
"Trucks go to Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Port and queue up in front of the Coastguard building to get tickets.
"But in that way, trucks try to overtake others to get ahead and it causes accidents.
"The bathroom situation for the drivers is also bad - they don't have anywhere to go.
"It's approximately a 2.5km stretch and they should have bathrooms every 200m or so."
He said the company's drivers, 30 per cent of whom are Bahraini, have food sent to them by their families.
"Expat drivers who don't have family in Bahrain are provided for by us. They are our responsibility," he added.
The GDN had first reported on delays faced by trucks crossing the causeway in November 2011.
Since then, 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.
Customs President Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa had said 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.
However, many owners of small and medium enterprises said they had to downsize operations and let go of staff due to the bottlenecks on the causeway. - TradeArabia News Service