Exporters look for options after causeway crisis
Manama, February 11, 2013
Bahrain’s leading exporters are considering defeat and looking for alternative routes to bypass the chaos caused by truckers waiting to cross into Saudi Arabia.
They have been exploring other options, including shipping their products through sea, as the ongoing crisis at the King Fahad Causeway continues to cost them millions of dinars in business, our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported.
Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) and Awal Gulf Manufacturing Company - two of the largest exporters in Bahrain - are just some of the businesses affected by the delays at the causeway, which has been blamed on slow clearance procedures on the Saudi side.
Shipping companies have also reported an increase in the number of inquiries from customers, who want to get around the causeway chaos.
Scores of trucks have been waiting for up to 10 days over the last few months to cross into Saudi Arabia. The crisis, which has been ongoing for the last five years, was first reported in January 2008 when Bahrain contractors complained about massive delays in bringing cement for construction projects.
However, the situation took a turn for the worse in August last year and since then transport companies have been complaining of massive loss in business and customers.
"We are seriously looking at sending our supplies by ship," said Awal Gulf Manufacturing Company director Hussain Mattar.
"We have been badly affected as a result of this problem since, at any given time, 75 to 100 loaded trucks are waiting in the yards of truck companies."
Mattar said the company has been significantly affected as it supplies between 15 and 20 per cent of the small and medium sectors' air conditioning and refrigeration business in Saudi Arabia.
"We were exporting around 500,000 units every year and had succeeded in penetrating the highly competitive Saudi market," he added.
"Now, with these problems, we are unable to supply goods on time and Saudi manufacturers are offering rock-bottom prices.”
"So we are suffering and there is nothing we can do. We are now looking at the more expensive sea route, but even in that we will have a lot of work to do. The sad part is that no one wants to look at our plight."
He said the problem was mainly caused by Saudi Arabian custom employees, who only work one shift of seven hours a day, including prayer breaks.
"They do not seem to be concerned and no one on the Bahraini side talks to them," he stressed.
"There are problems also on the Bahraini side but those are nothing in comparison."
An Alba source also confirmed the delays have cost the company, adding that around 200 loaded trucks were parked in the yards of transporting companies waiting for clearance to cross the border.
"We are facing our customers' anger every day and have to look at the sea route. We are exploring the possibilities of doing that now because we do not see any other option," he said.
Shipping company Almoayed Wilhelmsen general manager Per Jorgensen said many businesses in Bahrain are looking into changing their exporting route in the last few months.
"Though it is difficult to put something in figures, there has been an increase in the number of inquiries from customers keen to get their goods across," he added.
Meanwhile, Al Wardi Transport managing director Turki Al Wardi said they had already lost some of their clients with many more threatening to pull out.
"These companies are looking at sending their cargo by sea because road transport is now so unreliable.”
He said scores of trucks loaded with aluminium wait for days to cross over into Saudi Arabia.
The GDN earlier reported that customs officers were accused of "favouritism" in the way they decide which trucks are cleared to cross the border.
It was claimed some transport companies were regularly allowed to skip lengthy queues for several months.
A strict ticketing system was introduced on New Year's Day in a bid to prevent traffic chaos, but failed within days of being introduced. Residents in Jasra have also been campaigning against the issue, saying parked trucks regularly blocked access to their houses. – TradeArabia News Service