With the easing of lockdown restrictions in Phuentsholing, the import of all hardware and construction materials resumed last month along with full compliance with COVID-19 containment protocols. However, the system had some flaws, and this week the Southern COVID-19 task force (SC9TF) issued a new system on the registration of import.
As per the notification for hardware and construction material importers via Phuentsholing, the online registration of vehicles for import of goods will be open without quota from October 16, 2020 on Fridays only. Only one registration per vehicle importer will be considered and the date of entry of vehicles into the country will be based on the sequence of registration with the submission of necessary documents and transshipment capacity.
However, the entry of hardware and construction materials will be open on Saturdays and Sundays. Earlier, importers had some issues with registration.
Officiating Regional Director Sonam Dendup said it may not be true that all importers could not register their vehicles. “If I may clarify, as the national lockdown was announced, imports were completely closed for about one week and then SC19TF prioritized the import of fuel and LPG, medical supplies and then slowly opened for listed essential food items.”
Further, he said with the opening of the lockdown, import of more goods based on priority in a regulated manner to clear the stranded goods of both third country and India imports began. “We began with the manual registration system including the request sent through email and calls as the importers were less.”
Sonam Dendup said as the number of importers increased over the period, as an interim measure to ease the pressure for registration of vehicles the use of Google online registration was decided upon. In the beginning, the team started with hardware and construction materials to register 60 vehicles from 10 am to 2 pm, one day before the actual entry of vehicles and then the same applied to other goods with 40 to 50 slots depending on the mini dry port handling capacity for India imports.
When the registration was done on daily basis, the registration was completed within a few minutes as their applicants were more than the available slots. “Many complained to the registration agency (RTIO and RRCO) that most of them could not register their import vehicles as desired,” he added.
Moreover, talking about the improved system for registration, Sonam Dendup said, “We opened the registration on October 8 and 9, from 10 am to 12 noon with unlimited slots for other imports: imports other than hardware and construction materials to register online.”
“We received over little less than 700 imports and we scrutinized and finalized the list to 374,” he said adding, this system looks improved as the team received fewer calls than before.
Additionally, talking about the new system, the officiating director said, “We are going to use an online window period registration for hardware and construction materials like other imports.”
To ease the MDP pressure, major traders, POL depots, major transporters and industries and vehicle importers who have developed infrastructures like a separate holding place for drivers, loaders, and toilets were asked to register directly with RTIO without having to register online.
He said they do not have to do the transshipment at MDP as they can directly go to their respective warehouses for transshipment escorted by Desuups, RBP, and customs officials as they have developed health containment infrastructures as per SOP for transshipment of goods in their respective warehouses approved by SC19TF.
For importers, the SC19TF team says that the next registration time and date for import of other goods will be informed by SC19TF through their notification to be shared on the official Facebook page of Department of Trade, MoEA, Regional Trade and Industry, Phuentsholing and Facebook page of the resident of Phuentsholing. “To increase import capacity, we have already started sending 10 to 15 consignments via Alley Land customs station (ALCS), Pasakha,” he said adding, the team would like to acknowledge the President and Members of the Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI) for carrying out health containment infrastructures development at Alley to increase the volume of exports and imports from MDP and to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Sonam Tashi from Thimphu