April 25, 2020: Hambantota International Port (HIP) is ready to move over five thousand vehicles out of the port in the next few days, following a directive by the government that the port should remain clear for essential services.
HIP had previously informed all stakeholders, in their letter, that demurrage costs incurred from the 16 March 2020 to the 30 April 2020 will be waived. “Up to date only around a thousand vehicles out of approximately 6500 have been cleared. For us to expedite clearance, we need the full cooperation of importers. As a port, we run a 24-hour operation and we hope we will be able to clear the vehicles by the end of this month. The authorities have ensured that all relevant government departments are operational to facilitate the clearance,” says Tissa Wickremasinghe, COO of HIPG.
The COO adds that those who do not help expedite the clearing process will stand to lose since the demurrage free period is strictly up to the 30th April 2020, and will not be extended whatever the circumstances.
The Government has declared all port operations, including the movement of import and export cargo, as essential services. Therefore, the document center at HIP is operational and is open to its partners and clients, to handle their paperwork without delay. HIP has also enabled an online payment transfer system and is in the final process of implementing the e-DO facility for customers.
Instructions by the Sri Lanka Police and HIP on cargo clearance procedures were communicated to wharf clerks and vehicle importers associations to ensure their health and safety. Safety measures have also been taken to protect people in surrounding areas of the port and everything is in place to ensure that the cargo clearance process is completed with convenience and efficiency.
Directives from the Police prevent wharf clerks arriving at the port to clear vehicles from parking their vehicles or making sudden stops between Mirijjawila and the HIP entrance, due to health and safety measures taken to protect communities living close to the port. It requires visitors to drive directly into the port and the same rules apply on their return after the clearance - they need to drive back making no unscheduled stops. Occupants of these vehicles are strictly prohibited from entering any shops, eatery, or other establishment in proximity to the temple area outside the port gate.
HIP’s Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) requires all individuals arriving at the port to wear face masks and gloves. Their vehicles must be parked adjacent to the entrance to the Hambantota Maritime Center, (the port’s Admin Building), located in the “Nerabuma” area. Once the clearing agents and drivers enter the port, the person clearing the vehicle will be escorted to the disinfection cubicle. After this procedure, the port's operation department will give them permission to conduct the required formalities for clearing vehicles.