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Busy shipping firms hit by Covid-19 crisis

Record numbers: Customs officers are handling a record number of parcels in the run-up to Christmas (Photo supplied)

Shipping and courier companies have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic at their traditional busiest time of the year.

Customs officials yesterday asked the public to be patient as they processed “record numbers” of parcels.

Courier company operations have been hampered by staff absences as a result of the virus.

The dock dispute last month also created delays in getting containers of non-essential items – including parcels – delivered from ships to courier warehouses.

Joe Vieira, the president of shipping firm BEST, said that couriers were experiencing “a significant increase in the volume of packages during the Christmas season”.

He added that recent school closures had forced some employees to stay at home to look after their children.

Mr Vieira said: "We also are asking customers to be cognizant of some of the other factors that are causing delays in container clearance and delivery to our warehouse.

"The recent labour interruptions on the docks, followed immediately by a period of sustained bad weather, have caused a number of knock-on effects.

"For example, there are currently two ships in port at the same time but due to Covid-19 safety protocols, there is only one crew available to unload."

He said that an office at the company's Canal Lane centre was being closed to the public.

Mr Vieira added: "This does not affect our warehousing operations and our customer’s ability to collect their goods when they have been notified that their goods are ready for collection.

"We work hard to provide a safe environment for our customers and our staff and I am asking our customers to try and be as patient as possible.”

"We have a number of staff working from home, and as such they are not able to answer your telephone enquiries."

The company's warehouse will open on Saturday between 8.30am and 1.30pm for customers to collect their packages.

A spokeswoman for the Customs department said yesterday that officials had met courier companies “to collaborate on common goals”.

She added: “Customs appreciates that the 2020 holiday season is an extraordinarily busy time, with residents importing courier packages from abroad in record numbers.

“As a reminder, Customs is encouraging the public’s patience as it works to clear packages for residents and courier services.”

The department has postponed the introduction of new regulations requiring anyone importing personal goods to complete more paperwork.

Importers had to apply to the Government for a Customs Automated Processing System identification number from October.

But the spokeswoman said: “Due to the large volume of applications, the Collector has allowed the temporary use of 999999 for importing personal goods.

She added the deadline to get a Caps number had been extended to January 31 next year.

The spokeswoman said: “The department is reminding commercial importers and any person claiming duty relief that they must still apply for and use a Caps ID number when declaring goods to Customs.

“Any courier declaration submitted after 31 January, 2021 without a valid Caps ID number will be subject to processing delays.”

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Published December 16, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 16, 2020 at 11:57 am)

Busy shipping firms hit by Covid-19 crisis

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