Al Ghuwaifat: Rising temperatures are causing problems for truck drivers waiting in long queues at the UAE-Saudi border.
Gulf News on Wednesday witnessed a queue of trucks stretching approximately 17 kilometres from the border post of Al Ghuwaifat toward Al Sila, while their drivers are waiting to complete Saudi customs procedures.
A number of drivers were treated for heat exhaustion and dehydration as the temperature hit 40 degrees Celcius on Wednesday, according to medics at the ambulance depot in Al Sila.
There's going to be a scarcity of razor blades in Dammam soon. There's a truckload of them on the back of Mohammad Feraz's rig.
And there might be others in Saudi Arabia who will be kept waiting for delivery of new white Nissan Patrols — there are five trailers of them stuck in a compound here at the end of the E11.
"Rebar steel. There are five of us hauling it to Doha. I guess the World Cup stadiums are going to have to wait," jokes Saleem as he shelters at the side of his truck. He and his cousin and the three others smoke shisha and sit and wait. Then wait some more.
In 26 hours, Mohammad, Saleem, those five trailers loaded with Nissans and several thousand more truckers have not moved as much as one inch closer to their destinations across the Gulf.
Omar Ghori, who owns a plastics company in Umm Al Quwain, told Gulf News he is "fed up with the border delays" since his materials are delayed regularly.
Another businesswoman who reads Gulf News, Sarah Louise, commented that her company in Dubai now only offers air and sea freight in the GCC because of the delays to trucks.
"We have no idea how long the transit time will be for the consignment," she said. "More worryingly, we have no idea what condition the goods will be in upon arrival at destination when we consider the rather brutal physical inspection carried out on the goods in the clearance process."
She said that the entire trucking process leaves her company with angry clients who are dissatisfied and liable to insurance claims.
On the UAE side, however, the clearance process runs smoothly.
On the Saudi Arabia side at the Batha customs post, it's chaos. So bad that it takes five or six days queueing just to reach the post — then hand in papers, and wait a day more for them to be processed. And then the load has to be searched for contraband.
In June 2009, the backlog on the Saudi side stranded thousands of truckers for days on end in searing heat. That was blamed on the need to search every trailer for contraband.
Then 10 months later, another backlog that stranded the truckers for days was blamed on the need to fingerprint and check identities of each of the truckers.
This time around, the delay is being blamed on processing issues by the few staff at the Batha post.
Saleem was stuck here each time then. And now.
"Three times in three years is too much," he says. "Every time something happens or the rules are changed, we are left waiting in the desert as if we are animals."
"At least on Fridays, no one loads a truck in the UAE," Saleem says. "But then on Saturday the trucks will start moving again and the waiting will get worse."
For the second successive day, officials at the Batha post were unavailable for comment when contacted by Gulf News.
"Both posts [Al Ghuwaifat and Batha] are coordinating to solve the problem," a Gulf News source said yesterday afternoon.
30 minutes to process
Al Ghuwaifat truckers returning to the UAE are whizzing through the border and customs process in less than 30 minutes.
"On the Saudi side [returning to the UAE], no problem," Mohammad Rafiq told Gulf News after crossing back from Damman with an empty flatbed trailer.
"There is no delay, just show the papers and get exit stamp," he said.
"But it took me six days to cross into Saudi. Too much problem."
Another truck driver complained that the crossing between Saudi Arabia and Qatar was also slow - taking three hours to transit.
"But that is nothing. Al Hamdulilah [Thank God] I am not there," he said, pointing to the opposite side of the road through Al Sila where thousands of drivers wait for days to enter Saudi Arabia.
There is no delay for passenger vehicles in either direction.