Container_crane_and_spreader

Picture: Wikipedia

The Port of Felixstowe has confirmed that it will offer a container weighing service to ensure UK shippers are able to comply with the new SOLAS regulations that come into effect on 1 July 2016

The new SOLAS Chapter VI regulation requiring the shipper (or other named party in the Bill of Lading – normally a freight forwarder/NVOCC) – to supply the shipping line with a verified gross mass (VGM) declaration before the container can be loaded aboard the ship comes into force on 1st July. As widely reported, there is widespread concern that shippers will not be ready.

Commenting on the new service that Felixstowe will provide, Stephen Abraham, the port’s COO, said: “We have met with many customers and from their feedback it is clear that there is still a lot of uncertainty amongst exporters about the new rules.

“The rules have the potential to cause significant disruption to export supply chains. To help avoid this, we have decided to provide a service where export containers can be weighed at the port before being loaded. We will provide further details about how the weighing service will work in good time to ensure all exporters can be compliant by the time the new rules come into force.”

The service at the port will be available to containers arriving either by road or rail. This is important as, through its railheads, Felixstowe is the UK’s largest intermodal rail terminal; 40% of all laden export containers arrive at the port by rail.

To provide the weighing service, Felixstowe will use a spreader twistlock-based system, although the supplier of the system and the number of RTG and intermodal RMG spreaders that will be equipped with it has not been confirmed.

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is the responsible authority for the VGM as regards UK containerised export shipments, requires all weighing equipment used to provide a VGM, whether by Method 1 or Method 2, to be calibrated to within +/- 0.1% of the true mass of the loaded container (Method 1) or by calcuation based on the sum weights of the individual cargo items being packed and associated dunnage, lashing chains, etc (Method 2).

When, at the end of 2010, the International Chamber of Shipping first launched its campaign for all containers to be weighed before ocean carriage, it was assumed that the weighing would take place in ports – naturally, as ports are where most container lifting equipment is based.

However, port operators – including, and not least, Felixstowe – successfully resisted this, which ultimately resulted in IMO formulating Method 2. While the road to IMO arriving at Method 1 and Method 2 is “history,” the key point is that port operators, freed of a legal obligation to weigh loaded export containers, are thereby free to offer a Method 1 weighing service on a commercial basis.

Irrespective of the technology employed, there are several issues around port weighing. What happens if, for example, when the port [any port, not just Felixstowe] weighs the export container for the purpose of providing the VGM and finds that the weight made the container illegal for road carriage to the port? Does the port have a legal obligation to inform the road traffic authorities [the police in the UK]; or is the onus on the shipping line, whose customer the “offending” shipper/NVOCC is?

That information is also “historic,” in the sense that in order to weigh the overloaded container in the port, it must be assumed that the truck arrived safely at the port, and that particular (unique) illegal truck trip to the export port has gone forever. The remaining problem, however, is that the VGM provided by the port may indicate that the weight of the container makes it illegal for on-carriage by road or rail in the port of unloading.

Asked to comment on this by WorldCargo News, Paul Davey, Head of Corporate Affairs, Hutchison Ports (UK), made a crucial point. “As regards legality for road carriage in all possible overseas destinations, we [at Felixstowe] would not know, for example, whether the container will leave the port of destination or is unstuffed in the port. If it leaves the port [without being unstuffed] we won’t know whether the on-carriage would be by road, rail or any other mode, so there is nothing we could do.”

This is key as it throws the real responsibility for enforcing the VGM on the carriers, who demanded compulsory weighing in the first place. They will be under a legal obligation not to accept a loaded container unless it has VGM documentation.

It follows logically that carriers know the VGM mass of all loaded containers they ship. If, on the way to destination from the port of import, due to gross overloading of the container, the truck jackknifes or overturns, with all the safety risks that entails, the carrier could be liable and open to criminal prosecution.

Thus, there can be no question of “shipper appeasement,” but it could end up in a lawyer’s free-for-all involving anyone providing the VGM if it transpires that the VGM data were incorrect. Suppose, for example, the carrier relied on VGM data provided on a commercial basis by the port of export and it transpired, following a road accident investigation in the country of import that the real weight exceeded the VGM and likely caused the accident.

As to the commercial possibilities for ports providing a VGM service, Felixstowe has not given any information on the price it will charge, but (by way of example) Yarimca in Turkey is advertising US$12 to weigh a container, according to its tariff notice.

Policy responses by port operators will vary enormously according to local context and assessment of risk and benefit. In New York/New Jersey – where loaded containers are mosly imports – Maher Terminals has advised customers that loaded export containers will not be accepted after the July 1st deadline whitout a VGM in advance, as part of the booking process.

PSA Antwerp, which is also offering a VGM service, has stated that it may, at its discretion, “strip and restuff a container so that it complies with the SOLAS requirements. The customer will pay an appropriate compensation to PSA for any such stripping/restuffing of a container and/or determining its VGM.”

The new SOLAS Ch VI imposes no obligation on terminals to weigh containers they unload. All the same, as regards imports, PSA Antwerp says: “If PSA loads a container onto a truck, it can never be held liable for additional expenses and/or fines associated with the (excess) weight of the container/truck combination.

“Any such additional expenses and/or fines will never be borne by PSA and the customer will pay an appropriate compensation to PSA for any such additional expenses and/or fines incurred by it and/or for determining the weight of the container/truck combination.” Source: WorldCargoNews

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containeryardSouth Africa is moving away from a policy promoting trade and investment to one that contradicts this, a roundtable on SA-European Union (EU) trade relations heard on Tuesday.

This comes as global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows jumped 36% last year to their highest level since the global economic and financial crisis began in late 2008, but plummeted in emerging markets, especially SA.

The most recent United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development global investment trends monitor shows FDI into SA fell 74% to $1.5bn last year, while FDI inflows to Africa fell 31% to about $38bn.

Central Africa and Southern Africa saw the largest declines in FDI. The end of the commodity “supercycle” and the plunge in oil prices affected new project developments drastically, the UN body said. This had also affected Brazil, Russia and China, but not India, whose economy had surged ahead of late.

Peter Draper, MD of Tutwa Consulting, which researches policy and regulatory matters in emerging markets, said the promulgation of legislation such as the private security bill and the expropriation bill, created an impression that SA was not an attractive investment destination.

“What lies behind all of that, I think, is an ideological agenda, which is not favourable to business,” he said. “Geopolitically there is no love between SA and the US and SA and the EU. (But) There is lots of love for the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, SA).”

South African and international business have raised the alarm over the quiet signing into law of SA’s Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill late last year, after the government had acknowledged that it would do little to promote trade.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry said last week that the African National Congress had directed its economic transformation subcommittee to review the trade agreements signed by SA since 1999.

It said SA’s goal in “negotiating” trade agreements was to support national development objectives, promote intra-African trade and the integration of SA into global markets. This is likely to be highly controversial after the government from 2013 unilaterally cancelled about 13 bilateral investment treaties with major EU countries, drawing warnings from the bloc that this could damage trade relations.

Investors fear the Protection of Investment Bill has diluted recourse to international arbitration over trade disputes, and enhances the possibility of expropriation. Critics also say it contradicts SA’s obligations under the Southern African Development Community’s finance and investment protocol, by undermining equitable treatment between foreign and domestic investors.

John Purchase, CE of agribusiness association Agbiz, which with Tutwa Consulting organised yesterday’s roundtable, said the bill had not answered “all those questions around the bilateral investment treaties”. Source: Business Day

KRA-Customs-Transit-Control

Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner-General John Njiraini announces the implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to rid Mombasa port of corruption

Four East African countries on Tuesday agreed to fast-track implementation of a common customs and transit cargo control framework to enhance regional trade.

Commissioners-general from the Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan and Tanzanian revenue authorities said adoption of an excise goods management system would curb illicit trade in goods that attract excise duty across borders.

They said creation of a single regional bond for goods in transit would ease movement of cargo, with taxation being done at the first customs port of entry.

The meeting held in Nairobi supported formation of the Single Customs Territory, terming it a useful measure that will ease clearance of goods and reduce protectionist tendencies, thereby boosting business.

Implementation of the territory is being handled in three phases; the first will address bulk cargo such as fuel, wheat grain and clinker used in cement manufacturing.

Phase two will handle containerised cargo and motor vehicles, while the third will deal with intra-regional trade among countries implementing the arrangement.

The treaty for establishment of the East African Community provides that a customs union shall be the first stage in the process of economic integration.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) commissioner-general John Njiraini said the recently introduced customs and border control regulations were designed to enhance revenue collection and beef up security at the entry points.

“At KRA, we have commenced the implementation of a number of revenue enhancement programmes particularly on the customs and border control front that will address security and revenue collection at all border points while enhancing swift movement of goods,” he said.

To address cargo diversion cases, the regional revenue authorities resolved that a joint programme be rolled out to reform transit goods clearance and monitoring processes. Source: DailyNation (Kenya)

Amazon-BoxMarket forces, competition and the desire to be ahead of the competition demonstrate how dynamic the international supply chain is being maneuvered. Amazon’s latest move is not only innovative but demonstrates just how adaptable international trade and Customs Inc. need to be in order to accommodate nuances to traditional accepted norms in global trade. For Customs, it needs to intimately understand the nature of business of its registered or licensed traders so as to properly apply risk and facilitation regimes appropriately. Recent developments in mutual recognition likewise play an important role in awarding real benefits to companies and their supply chains who undertake such global innovations.

According to the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission, Amazon.com Inc’s China arm has registered as an ocean freight forwarder, a move that will give it more control over shipping products from Chinese factories to U.S. shoppers.

The registration is the latest indication that Amazon plans to expand its logistics reach to cut costs for its retail business and potentially provide third-party logistics services to other industries.

It’s new status as a freight forwarder, or “non-vessel operating common carrier,” gives Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, a foothold in the $350 billion a year ocean freight business. It will not operate ships but subcontract that work.

Amazon is already negotiating a deal to lease 20 jets to start an air-delivery service in the United States, the Seattle Times reported last year. The retailer bought truck trailers to add shipping capacity and started a program last year that uses a fleet of on-demand drivers to deliver packages.

“It has more and more control over the supply chain of their business and it gives them the ability to squeeze (costs) even further,” said Satish Jindel, a logistics consultant and president of SJ Consulting Group.

He added the move gives Amazon an even bigger edge against traditional U.S. retailers in negotiating lower prices for goods.

The Federal Maritime Commission, a U.S. government agency that regulates the U.S.-international ocean transportation system, said on Thursday a business named Beijing Century Joyo Courier Service Co Ltd, with the trade names Amazon China, Amazon.CN and Amazon Global Logistics China, was registered in its database to provide ocean freight services.

Amazon China submitted its registration request on Nov. 9, the commission said Thursday, and it was reviewed and registered on Nov. 13. It is the entity’s first registration.

“Amazon’s ocean freight services will be far more attractive to Chinese sellers than to American buyers. Chinese suppliers would love direct access to Amazon’s vast American customer base,” wrote Ryan Petersen, chief executive officer of Flexport, a San Francisco-based freight forwarder who first wrote about Amazon’s registration on his company blog on Thursday.

Petersen added that Amazon’s third-party merchants were unlikely to use its shipping service because it would expose key data like wholesale pricing and supplier names to a rival. Source: Reuters

Kenya_flag_mapfDi Markets that even without the data for December, it is already clear that Kenya enjoyed a major increase in inward investment in 2015 when compared with 2014.

Greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets has tracked a bumper year for Kenya-destined FDI. Excluding retail, the monitor has recorded 78 projects between January and November 2015, a 36.84% increase compared with the whole of 2014. FDI entering Kenya during the 11 months of 2015 (for which data is available) has already surpassed that recorded for 2013, the previous multi-year high. fDi Markets is set to record 2015 as witnessing the highest number of inward FDI projects for Kenya since the it commenced tracking data in 2003.

fDi Markets has tracked the upward trend as beginning in 2007, with FDI levels increasing year on year between then and 2011. In the period between 2011 and 2014 a period of consolidation occurred in which inward investment fluctuated, with decreases recorded in 2012 and 2014. Between 2007 and 2015, fDi Markets has tracked a 766.66% increase in project numbers and a total capital investment of $14.04bn.

Kenya’s FDI resurgence in 2015 is further illustrated when compared with the rest of Africa. During 2015, Kenya attracted 12.58% of all FDI entering Africa, with only South Africa, a long-time powerhouse, attracting more, with 17.1%. This is further compounded by Nairobi attracting the most FDI on the continent at city level in 2015, beating Johannesburg, which has held this accolade since 2010.

With December’s data still to be recorded, Kenya is set to surpass previous years as a favoured destination for investment in Africa. With the implementation of proactive FDI legislation scheduled to be ratified during 2016 by Kenya’s government, further consolidation in 2016 is unlikely. Source: fDiMarkets

HS_HandbookFollowing the accepted complementary amendments to the Harmonized System Nomenclature listed in the Council Recommendation of 11 June 2015, the Correlation Tables between the 2012 and 2017 versions of the HS have been revised. The revised Correlation Tables show the correlation resulting from both the amendments to the Nomenclature which have been accepted as a result of the Council Recommendation of 27 June 2014 and the complementary amendments to the Nomenclature which have been accepted as a result of the Council Recommendation of 11 June 2015.

For more details visit the WCO website.

BIMCO E-Bill of LadingPaper bills of lading have been used throughout the world to document and effect international trade for centuries. Yet whilst the world has become increasingly digitalised the paper bill of lading has, on the whole, remained a constant feature of global trade. Its continued use is mainly due to its combination of three legal characteristics that it has developed over time: (i) it is a receipt of the goods carried; (ii) it provides evidence of the terms of the contract of carriage; and (iii) it is a document of title to the goods. It is these characteristics that have, until relatively recently, foiled attempts to replace the paper bill of lading with an electronic equivalent. However, with the inclusion of an electronic bills of lading clause in BIMCO’s NYPE 2015 time charter form, as well as the International Group of P&I Clubs’ approval of the coverage of three electronic trading systems, the dominance of the paper bill of lading may well be coming to an end.

Reed Smith LLP Ship Law blog posts an interesting article in regard to change in law and the impact of e-commerce on bills of lading.

Issues with the paper system
Whilst the paper bill of lading has been used for centuries it is not without its faults, the principal problems being that:

  • Carriers are obliged to discharge the goods carried on production of an original bill of lading: this is particularly problematic today given both the speed of transport and the fact that the cargo may be sold multiple times during carriage. As a result of this the bill of lading is often not delivered to the consignee in time, and the carrier is often required to accept a letter of indemnity. This indemnity does not, however, remove the carriers’ liability under the bill of lading and creates an additional administrative burden and cost to the trade.
  • The paper system is hugely expensive (such cost is estimated to be between 5 – 10% of the value of the goods carried each year).
  • A paper bill of lading may be forged with relative ease and carriers are liable for misdelivery against a forged bill of lading.

Benefits of an electric bill
The electronic bill of lading or e-bill, in theory, addresses many of the flaws of the paper system, bringing with it a number of advantages:

  • It can be sent around the world instantaneously, hugely lowering the administrative burden of trade (especially where cargo is subject to multiple transfers of ownership during carriage).
  • Any amendments or corrections required can be made far more efficiently and cost effectively.
  • Electronic payment systems, and related advances in security, make an electronic system considerably more secure than its paper equivalent. This is obviously subject to cyber issues.

These benefits will cut the administrative costs of trade significantly and reduce, if not eradicate, situations where carriers discharge their cargo against letters of indemnity.

So why so slow on the uptake?
One of the main reasons the widespread use of the e-bill has been slow to proliferate stems from the fact that it is not treated in the same manner, legally, as its paper equivalent. Significantly:

  • A paper bill of lading is a document of title, enabling it to be negotiated and transferred as possession of the bill is evidence of title to the goods. This is not automatically the case at law with an e-bill.
  • The Hague Rules / Hague Visby Rules (HR / HVR) apply to a contract of carriage by reference to the bill of lading, or similar document of title, and it has been less clear whether they would apply to any electronic trading system used. The solution developed to these legal obstacles is essentially a multiparty contract. This takes the form of a set of rules to which users of an electronic trading system are all required to subscribe to use that system. Such rules then set out the specific form of electronic trading documentation to be used and that the consequences of using such documentation shall mirror the position at law as if they were paper bills of lading.

This, however, means that electronic trading systems such as BOLERO, which has been in existence since the 1990s, are only able to function between their members (i.e. those that have agreed to the uniform set of rules and systems that will govern their transactions). Where a member of an electronic trading system enters into a transaction with a non-member, the electronic system cannot be utilised and a paper bill of lading is issued. This feature has limited their growth, as electronic trading systems are only really effective once they have a large number of members, but are not cost-effective for traders to join until they have a large number of members.

The present situation
The benefits of electronic trading systems are particularly tangible to container carriers (as there is often a separate bill of lading for each container carried) and as such have been utilised by liner companies before wider adoption in the industry. However, the efficiencies of electronic trading systems are not confined to the container industry alone and with members of the largest trading companies, trade finance banks, mining companies and oil majors using such systems, it is clear that they are becoming increasingly prevalent in the shipping industry as a whole.

The growth of the use of electronic trading systems in the wider shipping industry is something that BIMCO, by including an e-bills clause in its latest iteration of the NYPE form, has also recognised. In sum the new clause provides that:

  • use of an electronic trading system is at charterers’ option;
  • owners shall subscribe to the system elected by charterers, provided such a system is approved by the International Group of P&I Clubs;
  • charterers shall pay any fees incurred by owners in subscribing to such elected system; and
  • charterers shall indemnify owners for any liabilities incurred arising from the use of the elected system, so long as such liability does not arise from owners’ negligence.

The International Group of P&I Clubs have now ‘approved’ three electronic trading systems (BOLERO, essDOCS and E-title). An ‘approved’ system is one that is found to replicate the legal characteristics of a paper bill (namely (i) as a receipt; (ii) a document of title; and (iii) a contract of carriage which incorporates the HR / HVR). This means that the International Group of P&I Clubs will provide cover for any liabilities arising under carriage covered by these three electronic trading systems (or any such other subsequently ‘approved’ system), provided that such liability would also have arisen under a paper bill. However, members should be advised that risks connected with the use of a non-approved electronic trading system will not be covered.

The use of an electronic trading system does, however, lead to other risks from things such as hacking, systems collapse, e-theft and viruses, none of which are traditionally covered by P&I clubs and would need to be insured separately. In this regard, essDOCS (which is now used throughout 71 countries by over 3,300 companies) has insurance cover of up to USD $20 million per electronic bill of lading for “eRisks” resulting from an electronic crime or electronic system failure.

With the rise in usage of electronic trading systems, the recent judgment in Glencore v MSC (albeit currently under appeal) provides a timely reminder that the release of cargo should only be made in accordance with the contract evidenced by the bill of lading, even where an electronic release system for cargo is being operated. In this instance cargo was released on presentation of a PIN, despite no provisions for this in the bill of lading, two of the released consignments of cargo were misappropriated and the carrier was held liable.

The future?
With the International Group of P&I Clubs’ approval of three electronic systems, the inclusion of an electronic bills of lading clause in BIMCO’s latest NYPE form and the proliferation of the use of electronic trading systems throughout the wider shipping industry, it is clear that the use of electronic trading systems is increasing. Whilst there is no doubt that we can expect teething problems as the industry continues to adapt to such electronic trading systems, and the cyber risks they may bring, it seems that the efficiencies are too great to be ignore. Source: Ship Law log / ReedSmith

SARS Customs intercepted a male traveller from Tanzania carrying narcotics worth over R12-million at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday (24 January 2016).

The bust took place when the 36-year old man, who was carrying two large suitcases, was asked to put his luggage through the Customs scanner. The scanner image revealed 10 clear plastic bags that contained a white crystal substance.

Upon investigation this turned out to be 10 bags of Ephedrine. The total weight of the consignment was 40.20 kg with an estimated street value of R12 060 000. The man has been handed over to the South African Police Service and he is expected to appear in court. Source and photos: SARS

rapiscan_638dv-320_version2__largeThe new Rapiscan 638DV 320kV is an advanced dual-view X-ray system with a 1837 mm wide by 1800 mm high tunnel opening for screening ULD type, ISO standard, and large cargo pallet type freight.

The new 638DV 320kV features high penetration, dual-view technology and explosives and narcotics detection alert supporting secure inspection and higher throughput for air cargo screening and customs applications.

Detection of Explosives and Narcotics Alert
Target™ and NARCScan™ are designed to assist operators in the detection of a wide range of explosives and narcotics respectively in real time during the scanning process by marking a potential threat on the X-ray image. Rapiscan detection algorithms are based on regulatory material analysis techniques.

Dual View Advanced Technology
As mandated by US and EU regulators, the 638DV 320kV utilizes a dual-view technology which produces two simultaneous images (vertical and horizontal views) of the scanned object. It provides a more complete image, thereby reducing the need for repositioning and rescanning and enabling rapid, accurate and comprehensive threat detection.

Ease of Use Providing Highest Throughput
With over 14 image processing tools and detection alert algorithms, the feature-rich software allows the operator to more easily and accurately search for contraband. Source: Rapiscan

Aerial view of Rotterdam Container Terminal

The Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, is the largest port in Europe covering 105 square kilometers. (Picture: Benjamin Grant/Google Earth/Digital Globe)

The SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit (DDU) recently deployed two trained detector dog handlers and dogs on foreign soil in Maputo, Mozambique. This forms part of a Customs co-operation agreement between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique.

The capacity-building programme provides for the training of at least eight detector dog handlers and dogs for Mozambique in over a period of 14 weeks followed by a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ programme for purposes of sustainability.

The deployment of SARS Detector Dog Handlers and dogs trained to interdict endangered species and narcotics in Maputo will promote and strengthen a  cross-border intergovernmental approach in the prevention and detection of smuggling of illicit, illegal goods or substances via ports of entry between Mozambique and South Africa.

The programme is designed to capacitate Mozambique Customs in the establishment of its own canine unit that will further enhance its current non-intrusive scanning enforcement capability at ports of entry and exit. Source and pictures: SARS

SARS R78 million Airport Cash BustIn order to assist Members with the updating of their existing Rules of Origin in relation to changes in the Harmonized System, the WCO has issued the “Guide for the technical update of Preferential Rules of Origin“. The Guide is available for WCO Members only.

Classification and origin determination of goods are closely interlinked. It is therefore critically important to update Rules of Origin (i.e. Product Specific Rules) to ensure consistency between HS classification and origin determination. This would help to prevent misapplication of Rules of Origin, ensure efficient and effective revenue collection and facilitate trade. Source: WCO

WCO Data Model Workshop, Pretoria, South Africa, Dec. 2015

SARS’ EDI and Customs Business Systems representatives with WCO Data Model facilitators Mr. Giandeo Mungroo (2nd from the left) and Ms. Sue Probert (2nd from the right) [Photo – SARS]

Officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) last week attended a WCO workshop on the Data Model facilitated by Ms. Sue Probert and Mr. Giandeo Mungroo. The event, held in Pretoria, South Africa was sponsored by the CCF of China as part of the WCO’s Capacity Building endeavours to promote the adoption and use of customs standards and best practice amongst it’s  member states.

The workshop was requested by SARS ahead of new technical and systems developments and requirements informed by SARS’ new Customs Control and Duty Acts. Moreover, there are also political ambition to institute a Border Management Agency for the Republic of South Africa. All of this requires that SARS Customs has a robust electronic tool to assist the organisation in mapping national data requirements according to specific needs.

Besides the use of a value added Data Model tool – GEFEG, it is imperative for the organisation to develop capacity in the knowledge and understanding of the WCO Data Model. SARS has successfully EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) for the last 15 years with various local supply chain trading partners and government agencies. Over the last few years SARS has been actively pursuing and promoting IT connectivity with regional trading partners with the express purpose to extend the benefits of eCommerce across borders.

GEFEG.FX software is used to model data formats and develop implementation guidelines for data interchange standards such as UN/EDIFACT. It is a software tool that brings together modelling, XML schema development, and editing of classic EDI standards under a unified user interface, and supports the development of multilingual implementation guidelines.

Version 3 of the WCO Data Model brought about a distinct shift towards an ‘all-of-government’ approach at international borders with the introduction of the GOVCBR (Government Cross Border Regulatory) message. The message and underlying data requirements facilitate the exchange of customs and other government regulatory information to support a Single Window environment.

WCO Data Model not only includes data sets for different customs procedures but also information needed by other Cross-border Regulatory Agencies for the cross-border release and clearance at the border. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a Single Window as it allows the reporting of information to all government agency through the unique way it organizes regulatory information. This instrument is already 10 years old and is seeing increased use by WCO members.

Amongst the benefits derived from the workshop, SARS staff acquired the following competencies that will not only aid their work but business user support as well –

  • Competence in operating the tool to build a source control collaborative environment to support national and regional harmonization;
  • Competence to build a base to conduct national/ regional data harmonization based on the WCO Data Model to support national Single Window implementation as well as Regional Integration;
  • Competence to build systems/ electronic interfaces between Customs and its partner government agencies including a Border Management Agency; and
  • Provide needed competence to develop, maintain and publish national and regional information packages based on the WCO Data Model.

WCO Customs Theme 2016The Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, announced today that 2016 will be dedicated to promoting the digitalization of Customs processes under the slogan “Digital Customs: Progressive Engagement.” WCO Members will have the opportunity to showcase and further promote their use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The term Digital Customs refers to any automated or electronic activity that contributes to the effectiveness, efficiency, and coordination of Customs activities, such as automated Customs clearance systems, the Single Window concept, electronic exchange of information, websites to communicate information and promote transparency, and the use of smart phones.

This new era of Digital Customs has transformed the way that Customs operates. Ultimately, it ensures progression – the enhanced ability of Customs Administrations to communicate, process goods, receive and exchange information, coordinate border activities, collaborate on law enforcement actions, and promote transparency. Improved technologies thus have the ability to positively impact and transform the Customs landscape through:

  • Improved compliance as a result of increased access to regulatory information and functions, as well as services, on the part of all international trade stakeholders;
  • Faster clearance times for legitimate trade;
  • Enhanced coordination between Customs units, as well as between Customs and other border regulatory agencies at the national and international level;
  • Increased transparency in regulatory processes and decision-making;
  • The use of performance measurement to improve Customs procedures and levels of integrity, such as through the techniques presented in the WCO Performance Measurement Contracts (PMC) Guide;
  • Enhanced detection of irregularities and illicit consignments through the collection and analysis of data.

Such positive outcomes will contribute significantly towards the realization of Customs’ objectives, including improved revenue collection, border security, the collection of trade statistics, and trade facilitation. “Border agencies are increasingly embracing digitalisation to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency.

The WCO has an extensive portfolio of instruments and tools to support WCO Members in their efforts to further adopt Digital Customs.” said WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya.

“Over the course of 2016, I invite all WCO Members to promote and share information on how they are implementing and using digital technologies to advance and achieve their objectives.” Mr. Mikuriya added.

The WCO’s annual theme will be launched on International Customs Day, which is celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.

The WCO invites the Customs community to mark 26 January 2016 in their diary. Source: WCO

AfricaFrom time to time it is nice to reflect on a good news story within the local customs and logistics industry. Freight & Trade Weekly’s (2015.11.06, page 4) article – “SA will be base for development of single customs platform” provides such a basis for reflection. The article reports on the recent merger of freight industry IT service providers Compu-Clearing and Core Freight and their plans to establish a robust and agile IT solution for trade on the African sub-continent.

In recent years local software development companies have facilitated most of the IT changes emerging from the Customs Modernisation Programme. Service Providers also known as computer bureaus have been in existence as far back as the early 1980’s when Customs introduced its first automated system ‘CAPE’. They have followed and influenced Customs developments that have resulted in the modern computerised and electronic communication platforms we have today. For those who do not know there are today at least 20 such service providers bringing a variety of software solutions to the market. Several of these provide a whole lot more than just customs software, offering solutions for warehousing, logistics and more. As the FTW article suggests, ongoing demands by trade customers and the ever-evolving technology space means that these software solutions will offer even greater customization, functionality, integration and ease of use for customers.

What is also clear is that these companies are no longer pure software development houses. While compliance with Customs law applies to specific parties required to registered and/or licensed for Customs purposes, the terrain on which the software company plays has become vital to enable these licensees or registrants the ‘ability to comply’ within the modern digital environment. This means that Service Providers need to have more than just IT skills, most importantly a better understanding of the laws affecting their customers – the importers, exporters, Customs brokers, freight forwarders, warehouse operators, etc.

Under the new Customs Control Act, for instance, the sheer level of compliance – subject to punitive measures in the fullness of time – will compel Service Providers to have a keen understanding of both the ‘letter of the law’ as well as the ability to translate this into user-friendly solutions that will provide comfort to their customers. Comfort to the extent that Customs registrants and licensees will have confidence that their preferred software solutions not only provide the tools for trading, but also the means for compliance of the law. Then, there is also the matter of scalability of these solutions to keep pace with ongoing local, regional and global supply chain demands.

The recent Customs Modernisation Programme realised significant technological advances with associated benefits for both SARS and trade alike. For the customs and shipping industry quantification of these benefits probably lies more in ‘improved convenience’ and ‘speed’ of the customer’s interaction with SARS than cost-savings itself. My next installment on this subject will consider the question of cross-border trade and how modern customs systems can influence and lead to increased regional trade.