Thousands of trucks still stuck at border gates

Thursday, Dec 23, 2021 06:27

Trucks carrying Vietnamese goods stranded at Mong Cai Border Gate in northern Quang Ninh Province as China tightens COVID-19 prevention and control restrictions at the end of the year. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Van

Thousands of container trucks still lie stranded at border gates in northern provinces, queuing for customs clearance, according to Au Anh Tuan, director of the Customs Control and Supervision Department.

Tuan said traffic still tailed back at the Viet Nam-China border while new trucks continued to arrive in northern provinces, worsening the situation.

Authorities are now looking at ways to ease the congestion and get container trucks cleared to cross the border at a faster pace.

China’s tightened COVID-19 preventive measures on people, vehicles and goods packaging has led to sluggish customs clearance. Some border gates are processing customs procedures at a rate much below normal.

Tuan said another contributing factor was crops recently harvested in Viet Nam’s southern provinces and rising demand in China has resulted in vehicles, loaded with agricultural produce, coming to northern border gates in large numbers.

The news that China would temporarily suspend the imports of frozen preserved goods during the Lunar New Year holiday has also compounded the problem, leaving many firms in a rush to export. A large flow of traffic to the border in a short period of time gives rise to congestion.

At a conference held Tuesday to look at solutions to ease the congestion, Tuan said: “The number of trucks passing customs clearance has been dropping recently to around 300-400 trucks per day in Lang Son.

"Meanwhile, new trucks from inland keep coming to the province in large numbers. This mass exodus, coupled with a limited capacity of car parks, continue to fuel congestions at border gates.”

By December 21, the number of trucks lying idle at Lang Son was 4,461, of which 1,389 were at Huu Nghi border gate, 2,456 at Tan Thanh and 616 at Chi Ma.

Many trucks have taken alternative routes and headed for Mong Cai (Quang Ninh) to circumvent the bottleneck, but found themselves jammed in Quang Ninh as well. In total, about 6,200 trucks are bumper-to-bumper at border gates waiting for customs clearance so far.

Since Chinese customs authorities can only accept a small number of vehicles in the long line at the border, congestion increased.

To make the situation worse, the Chinese authorities announced on December 22 the temporary closure of the Mong Cai border gate due to a COVID-19 case being detected. This was bad news for more than 1,000 vehicles awaiting importing procedures as they have been on hold for nearly two weeks.

In Lang Son, there used to be three border gates working, Huu Nghi, Tan Thanh and Chi Ma, but now only Huu Nghi performs customs clearance. Chi Ma has suspended clearance since December 8 and Tan Thanh followed suit on December 18.

At the press conference, some solutions were discussed including splitting each border gate into two new gates, one for agricultural produce and the other for industrial products, round-the-clock customs clearance, and increasing the number of transit drivers between the two countries.

Tuan said the division of the border gate was difficult to pull off as it required approval from China. Customs clearance time has been specified in bilateral agreements, so adjustment requires re-negotiation as well. The last solution is also problematic as transit drivers are difficult to find.

With strict measures in place and a low rate of customs clearances at border gates, it will take another 44 days for more than 4,400 trucks lining up in Lang Son to pass the border. — VNS

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