Mumbai cargo strike due to new process snarl-up

CARGO operations at Mumbai international airport were dragged to a halt last week when its 2,500 customs clearance agents at the airport’s cargo complex called a flash strike.

The strike, unique among its kind, was not over pay but the efficiency of the new cargo clearance system, which was supposed to make the process simpler but apparently has only made it more complicated.

“We have refused to condone the current system of cargo clearance. We take almost a day more than normal,’“ said Suresh Nawathe, a clearing agent at the airport. “Even the commissioner, whom we met in the morning, did not resolve the issue. We would not clear any cargo even on Thursday if no measure is taken to improve the situation for us,” he said.

Under the old system, agents could have all of their assigned documents cleared by one officer, but under the new system, each consignment is assigned to an individual officer meaning that agents need to have each consignments cleared by their respective officer.

“This means that if I have 25 documents to be examined and cleared, I will have to shuttle between different officers to get each consignment cleared,” said Dashrath Manjerekar, another cargo agent.

Customs officials maintain that the new system streamline’s the process. “The cargo commissioner had introduced this new system to organise clearance of cargo. Earlier, it worked on random checking of cargo which was dependent on the discretion of the cargo officer,” said a customs official. “Now a sequence has been given to all officers and clearing agents so that a system can be established,” he added.

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