COVID-19: Trade and security agencies adjust to a new normal

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Customs & Excise Division, Comptroller Raju Boddu
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

Online shoppers and businesses can continue to utilise international ordering services for the time being as the Port Authority continues business as usual.

Port manager Darwin Telemaque said the ports’ hours of operation remain the same and they have made no changes to the staff complement amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, however, “we are having dialogue and we are preparing for the eventuality”, as the authority continues to monitor changes in government policy and the trading and shipping environment.

Telemaque told Observer that issues with vessel scheduling and volumes are also likely to impact on decisions going forward.

“Prior to this week, our volumes were significantly down,” he shared, as he remarked on the taxing changes that COVID-19 brought with it.

On the other hand, Telemaque said that local imports had increased significantly since confirmation of the country’s first COVID-19 case. “We’ve had major loads even for March. I think with the stores being pressed for the last two weeks, there has been an impetus to order more.”

As the department works feverishly to sustain trade between world territories, the officials now have additional duties to monitor how staff members congregate and to redirect funds to improve the working environment to make it safe for everyone. Already, they have installed over a dozen hand-washing stations for staff and customers around the main port’s compound.

Furthermore, since the decision was taken to redirect all incoming yachts to the Nevis Street Pier for processing, the Port Authority has the additional challenge of having to manage the high traffic coming into that harbour.

Meanwhile, at the Customs & Excise Division, Comptroller Raju Boddu said officials are giving workers with pre-existing health conditions the option to take voluntary leave, as they are among those at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

“We’re trying to find out how many people with pre-existing conditions are there and how we can protect the employees,” he told Observer.

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