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Update: Container scanner fee to go in effect Apr. 3

At 2:30p.m last Friday a container truck [top of photo] went through the container scanner equipment, while another container truck [bottom of photo] waited at the entrance to the Port of Pago Pago for its turn to go through the scanner located at the main dock.  [photo: FS]This Customs Division “SCANNING IN PROGRESS” sign was seen placed by a Customs agent just off the entrance to the Port of Pago Pago, before two container hauling trucks entered the main dock and went through the container scanner equipment around 2:30 p.m last Friday.  [photo: FS]
StarKist still waiting for final word about the fee — is it included?

The container scanner fee is set to go into effect early next week, after training of Customs agents, who are charged with manning the equipment, is completed, according to a statement released by the Treasury Department. However, it remains unclear whether the canneries will be exempt from paying the fee, which is $200 per container of 20 feet and over.

Last Friday afternoon, Samoa News observed two trailer trucks with containers preparing to go through the container scan equipment. Samoa News also observed a Customs agent, placing on the ground of the dock, inches away from the entrance to the Port, a yellow sign that read “SCANNING IN PROGRESS”.

In a statement released last Friday, ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipe’a announced the full implementation of local law, which includes the Customs Division x-ray (Rapiscan) launch, adding that the law came into effect Dec.14 last year, but was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.

“While we have experienced some unfortunate delays due to unforeseen shipping issues and to ensure we completed all required equipment and safety training, Customs Division is happy to announce the official launch of the MS60 container scanner on April 3, 2017,” said Tonumape’a whose department includes the Customs Division.

The impact on the remaining cannery in American Samoa — StarKist Samoa, as well as on the locally based can manufacturing plant Talofa Systems Inc., both owned by South Korean based Donwong Industries — was noted during last week’s three-day Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council meeting in Honolulu.

A Council staff report was presented on fisheries and related matters on American Samoa Legislature, which included mention of the new container scanner, which it says will cost StarKist “millions of dollars in fees” and that StarKist has sought clarification from ASG as to whether the new port scanner fees should be applied to them with their current tax exemption certificates.

“With a new minimum wage increase to take effect in 2018, these new port scanner fees will have a major impact on the company’s viability in American Samoa,” the report claims.

Chief of Customs Moetulu'i Fuiava Sipili told lawmakers last year that the canneries are not exempt, as the law does not provide any exemption for anyone.

He reiterated this information last December in a Samoa News interview.

Last December, StarKist Co., sought clarification from the Governor’s Office about their tax exemption certificate and whether it includes the new container scanner fee; and last month, ASG officials said discussions were still ongoing with the canneries — meaning StarKist Samoa and Talofa Systems Inc.

Samoa Tuna Processors, owned by Tri Marine, suspended its canning operations indefinitely last December, citing unsustainable economic costs, leaving only the Donwong Industries owned cannery companies in the territory.

StarKist Co., didn’t immediately respond to a Samoa News email inquiry last Friday afternoon (which was already early evening at the company’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) on an update on the status of the company’s discussion with the government.

In his press release, Tonumaipe’a, on behalf of the entire Treasury Department, thanked everyone involved with making this launch possible “and we look forward to working with the general public, shipping agents, stevedoring companies, Port Administration and any and all other related departments and agencies.”

Training of Customs agents to man the container scanner as well as testing of the scanner has been ongoing since early this month, working with officials, who are part of the off island contract for the Rapi-Scan project that costs $5.9 million.