Brazil's Santos port badly hit by 4-week old customs strike
 
SOUTH America's largest port, Santos of Brazil, has been hardest hit with containers delayed between five days and a week due to strike action by the nation's Receita Federal (customs), which has intensified as it enters its fourth week.
 
The strike is also causing severe delays to carriers with containers missing their sailings and racking up detention and demurrage fees, according to the Sao Paulo and Santos Shipagents Association (Sindamar) and other sources in the port city, IHS Media reported.

"All Santos customs officials are on strike and the damage is incalculable," Jose Roque, the executive president for Sindamar said. "We must find a solution to this impasse and sooner rather than later."

Adding to the trouble, officials in the tax analysts section of the Receita Federal have joined the strike and delays are also mounting at key border crossings, particularly along the borders with Argentina and Paraguay.

Mr Roque and Sindamar have been pushing for a resolution to the crisis, sending several letters to the Ministers of Planning and Finance in Brasilia and union leaders over the past week, asking all involved to make concessions "for the sake of the country".

"Loads that are normally cleared in 24 hours accumulate in the terminals waiting for authorisations," said Mr Roque. "If this situation persists, terminals are expected to exhaust their physical capacity for storage shortly and all their spaces will be occupied due to lack of clearance, with ships leaving Santos without all scheduled loads, resulting in loss of revenue from maritime freight."

Coffee and beef shippers are among those most badly affected. with one coffee exporter saying that his company was suffering delays of two or three days after eight days of strike action, but those delays have now grown to between five and seven days.

"October and November are usually the key export months for us, and this year we are suffering a nightmare with these long delays through Santos," the exporter said.

Many transshipment connections in Santos have been broken, spreading the pain well beyond Brazil, Mr Roque said. "The strike is all over Brazil and is also especially severe on our borders."

The National Union of Tax Auditors (Sindifisco) says that the strike at Santos alone costs the government BRL100 million (US$30.6 million) daily and the union estimates that this round of strike action has cost the treasury BRL1.5 billion. However, the government is holding firm, and seems unwilling to grant the customs officers' demands as it works to improve the country's finances.

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