Shipping Times: Turbulent times

Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council in Fiji office bearers after the election last week at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbour. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

The Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Fiji (CBFC) held its 16th annual general meeting (AGM) last week at the Pearl Resort.

The council is a national body that represents members’ benefits for customs house agents, brokers, freight forwarders and all stakeholders involved in the supply chain for international imports and exports both on sea and air.

The role of customs brokers is to clear goods for both imports and exporters through customs while the freight forwarder consolidates or sends single consignment freight through an airline or shipping line. The freight forwarders arrange cartage and pick up for shippers premises for export and deliver to consignees premises as imports.

They also prepare export documentation and liaise with overseas agents and suppliers to ensure freight is sent correctly and arrives on time.

The freight forwarder provides door to door shipments for import and export. Matters raised during the meeting were on the resignation of a few of the CBFC board members, the election of its office bearers, its audited financial report and adoption of the council’s constitution.

Council chairman,Ram Rajend said the council was forced to defer its 2020 annual general meeting due to the pandemic and the lockdown. He said 2020 had been a tough year because of COVID-19 which had spread at an alarming rate.

“It forced countries to impose tight restrictions on physical movements to control the spread of the deadly virus,” he said.

“Fortunately the trade between countries continued, but on a much-reduced level and high export and import rates plus handling costs.

“It has also resulted in massive job losses and business shutdowns.

“Administratively, in 2020 the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Fiji had some turbulent times as well in maintaining its meeting schedules.” He said in order to pave the way forward the board agreed to compile a constitution.

“The constitution would provide much-needed guidance for the council thus the council legal representatives was appointed to review the memorandum and articles of association and draft a constitution in this regard,” he said. He said office bearers would manage the affairs of the council and continue to engage with its trading partners for the next twelve months.

Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd during the event presented on Fiji’s export and import landscape, its total foreign vessel arrivals, its role as a trade facilitator, its implementation progress on its five-year strategic plan (2019-2023) and key projects.

The Fiji Revenue and Customs Service touched on the trade facilitation agreements (customs role), licensing of freight forwarders, removal of customs licence and of HMC licence while the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji presented on the ePhyto (an electronic phytosanitary certificate), its projects and sea container hygiene system among other important topics.

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