Since the beginning of this year, truck drivers have been facing a tough time while crossing the Wajaja border from the UAE to Oman as they need to spend a number of hours waiting for customs clearance which sometimes takes more than a day.
When Muscat Daily visited the Wajaja border, the area was a mess with trucks forming a queue of as long as three kilometers with many of them not moving an inch for an hour. According to the truck drivers, the queue sometimes stretched from Wajaja border to Hatta border.
“I have been here since 11am and trucks are not moving. It’s now 3pm and I am not sure if I will be able to cross the border before the end of the day. The problem is customs clearance and the procedure is very slow unlike UAE's Hatta border where traffic movement is smooth,” Sultan al Saadi, one of many truck drivers waiting in their trucks, told Muscat Daily.
Like Saadi, many other truck drivers blame customs officials for the delay. “The blame should go to customs officials for the slow movement of trucks. Officials there take their own time to process the paperwork,” Masoud al Zakwani, another truck driver, said.
“Imagine only two customs officials looking after all these trucks. There should be more staff working here. We are really fed up with the situation and the problem is that there are no parking spaces for the trucks to park while we wait. We have to be in the trucks just to keep moving at near zero speed which is more tiring,” Zakwani said.
P Singh, another truck driver, also blamed Public Relations Officers (PROs) who need to be present at the border to clear the trucks. “Since the beginning of this year, a new rule was put in place which does not allow us to do the customs clearing process," Singh said. "An Omani PRO has to be here and sometimes we need to wait for him to come from Muscat because according to new rules, an Omani PRO has to do the procedures. I was also here last week and spent a full night just waiting to get my clearance. I arrived here from Dubai at 4.30pm and could not leave the border until 8am the next day. The problem is due to the long queue. Also there are few customs officials on duty.”
Azzan al Rashdi, another truck driver, is concerned about safety on the road due to the topography of the area. “We need to be in our trucks all the time and vigilant as the area is hilly. We have to keep in lane while balancing the trucks so as to avoid sliding back. A few accidents have taken place here due to the narrow space. We hope that officials will solve the customs issues as soon as possible,” he said.
When contacted, customs officials at the border declined to comment, saying procedures have to be followed. “The situation here is due to customs clearing procedures which require enough time to finish,” one of the officials said.