Riyadh: Prices for transportation of a truckload of containers from King Abdul Aziz Port in Dammam have shot up 300 per cent to 1,000 Saudi riyals (Dh979).

Earlier, the price for a truckload was 350 riyals. But a senior port official has denied either any increase in the prices of transportation charges or any delay in clearing the goods.

Speaking to Gulf News, many truck owners and customs clearance agents attributed the steep hike in transportation charges mainly to the slow procedures in handling goods at the port.

The shortage of equipment for cargo handling and malfunctioning of some of the equipment are other major factors, they said.

Abdul Rahman Al Otaishan, chairman of the Ground Transportation Committee, said that the situation at the port was chaotic.

"The procedures for the entry of goods as well as their inspection and clearance have been delayed considerably and hence the transportation prices have shot up 300 per cent. Most often truck drivers are forced to wait up to three days at the port, and they cannot leave the port without completion of clearance of their load," he said.

Al Otaishan sought the intervention of the port authorities to put an end to this crisis immediately as it negatively impacts consumers due to the increase in the prices of goods that were transported from the port to the local market.

Insufficient facilities

Ayed Al Harbi, a customs agent, said that the mechanism and facilities for checking goods at the port are quite insufficient and also defective.

"They are quite inadequate to handle the quantity or volume of goods received at the port. More-over, the procedures for handling goods and loading them were being delayed by the slowness of the concerned company as well as the shortage of loading and unloading workers," he said.

"This has led to the piling up of huge quantities of goods at the port," he said. He added that this results in huge losses to owners of these goods and subsequently prices of consumer goods also increase.

Abdul Latief Al Homain, member of the Ground Transportation Committee, said that the Dammam port is witnessing a huge flow of goods during the Ramadan season as was the case in past years.

"This resulted in the piling up of goods in the port, pending their clearance for several days," he said.

Naeem Ebrahim Al Naeem, director general of the port, has denied reports about the delay in the clearance of goods and the subsequent hike in the cost of transportation.

"The maximum period of time each truck takes to complete the procedures of handling goods ranges between two and three hours.

"On some occasions it may take four hours," he said while refuting reports that there are trucks stuck at the port for more than one day waiting to load goods.

The port chief noted that the port cleared 153,000 containers by the end of July compared with 117,000 in the first quarter.