Judge orders Customs to clear local courier's containers

Justice Betsy Ann Lambert-Peterson - File photo
Justice Betsy Ann Lambert-Peterson - File photo

THE Comptroller of Customs and Excise has been ordered to clear the cargo of a local courier company.

The order was given in an injunction on February 22 by Justice Betsy Ann Lambert-Peterson in favour of Seabox Trinidad Ltd.

On February 1, Seabox Trinidad Ltd (STL) was permitted by the judge to challenge the comptroller’s decision to temporarily cease the clearance of ocean cargo at the Swissport transit shed, pending an investigation at the shed, and to refuse to allow the courier to operate in the express consignment (EC) area at the Swissport shed.

However, on February 20, STL sought the injunction after failed attempts to agree with the customs division to clear its cargo. STL is the only sea freight courier in Trinidad and Tobago.

The terms of the judge’s orders are that the comptroller has to do anything necessary to facilitate the clearance of STL’s cargo at the ABL (another bond shed) as if it were an express consignment area until further ordered by the court.

The matter will next be heard on May 8.

In its injunction application, STL said the sudden change by the comptroller was “extremely damaging” to the company’s reputation.

It also said it was losing customers daily and feared if it was not allowed to use the express consignment area, its business operations would crash, affecting hundreds of customers.

STL is an ocean freight shipping company which provides its local customers with a US address for foreign purchases. It allows customers to ship items at a lower rate than air freight.

The injunction application said the speed of delivery of shipments to customers was a pivotal factor in its business model and is only achievable because of the approval to clear its sea cargo through express consignment areas as opposed to using the procedure for clearing general ocean cargo.

The company said clearing shipments through general ocean cargo is much longer.

At the time of applying for the injunction, STL had containers at the port waiting to be cleared.

The company said in June 2020, it was approved for registration in the express consignment area and did so until November 2023, when the comptroller prohibited it. STL was told its cargo was sea freight and could not be treated as courier goods.

Certain instructions were given by the assistant comptroller in charge of ports, warehouses and outstations.

Seven days later, STL was told of an investigation at the Swissport Transit shed and that clearance of ocean cargo there had temporarily ceased.

This, the company said, delayed its shipments and caused significant distress to customers as it was the Christmas period.

However, the company said the comptroller continued to permit air freight courier companies to use the EC area at Swissport.

It also said that the alternative method of clearance was costly and unprofitable.

“The decision taken by the defendant has the effect of crippling the claimant’s business and is in defiance of logic.”

STL’s general manager Jonathan O’Connor said there were two shipments awaiting clearance and some 700 consignees were directly affected.

The courier is represented by attorneys Jagdeo Singh, Leon Kalicharan, Karina Singh and Jasmyn Seargeant.


"Judge orders Customs to clear local courier’s containers"

More in this section