Port's new container scanner takes longer, more expensive

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Businesses at Cat Lai Port in Ho Chi Minh City are complaining that the facility's brand new container scanner, a highly-anticipated first in Vietnam, made the wait longer and pay more to have their containers checked.

The scanner, worth US$9.6-million, was expected to save time and money when it was handed to the port Friday last week.

But those who wanted to use the machine Monday had to have their containers towed to the scanning ground and craned into the machine, which costs around VND500,000-700,000 a pop.

Nguyen Ba Dinh, deputy head of the customs unit at the port, said around 20 containers were scheduled to be checked by the X-ray scanner on the first day.

The operation ran smooth but Dinh said it cost businesses nearly VND1 million ($52,40) in total extra fees to use the machine.

"Consumers will pay all as businesses will add the cost to their prices," said a firm owner who had his container scanned at the port Monday. He identified himself only as H.

Businesses also complained that hiring trucks and cranes took too much time.

Thai Viet Hung, who manages the scanner, said container customs documents should be checked at his station to save time running around the port.

Customs documents are now checked at the main customs office, which is located on the opposite side of the port from the scanner. Businesses thus have to rush to the scanner after submitting their documents and rush back after having their contained scanned.

The scanner was designed by the US-based L3 Communications and funded by Japanese government. The first scanner ever used by Vietnam's customs sector was expected to help speed up the handling of containers, reduce storage costs for businesses, and ease the congestion that sometimes swamps Cat Lai.

It was also expected to help prevent smuggling and the transport of banned cargo.

Cat Lai, one of Vietnam's largest container ports, handles around 45 percent of the total containers moving in and out of the country.

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