Namibian Trade PortalThe Namibia’s Ministry of Finance and Namibia’s Customs & Excise, in partnership with the U.S. government has recently launched a powerful new tool to increase and facilitate cross-border trade. The “Namibia Trade Information Portal” is a web-based platform that provides an authoritative “one-stop shop” of readily accessible trade, customs and compliance information. It is designed to significantly reduce the time and effort required for local and international traders to access current information and documentation required for doing business. The portal is the culmination of many years of collaboration between government of Namibia agencies and ministries and the U.S. government, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Trade Hub Project.

In his keynote address, Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein said that the Trade Portal reflects the commitment of the Namibian government to build a “robust, knowledge-based society” through various modernization projects. However, he cautioned that the portal must be kept up-to-date if it is to be sustainable and relevant.

“For this reason, I strongly appeal to my fellow and counterpart ministers to designate focal points in their ministries who shall administer and avail timely updates, preferably online transmission of such information to our designated team in the Ministry of Finance who will, in turn, keep the portal updated,” Schlettwein said.

According to Namibia Trade Information Portal’s project manager, Melannie Tjijenda, the portal will save people time when they enquire about trade-related matters, so they will no longer be sent ‘from office to office.’

“International traders will now know how they can invest in Namibia,” she said, adding that this will save money on expenses like phone calls.

Tjijenda said the fact that most government websites are not regularly updated will not be the case with this portal. “When something changes, we will update it” she said, further pointing out that they have a team of content managers who will be checking and updating the content on regular basis. Source: The Namibian/USAID

Barrington_Freight_Crazy_Customs_RegulationsBarrington Freight (UK) website features a humorous infographic on strange customs regulations around the world. Customs officials are the front line in preventing prohibited items from entering the country. They quiz passengers at air and sea ports, and search freight shipments for concealed goods.

Most countries share a standard list of banned items, such as guns and explosives. However, some nations are stricter than others, and there are some very unusual regulations around the world. For example, Saint Lucia bans the import of Japanese shaving brushes, thanks to an anthrax contamination scandal in the early 1900s.

From communist contraband to banned books, here are some of the most unusual customs regulations from around the world.

Container weighingThe responsibility for verifying the gross weight of loaded containers under next year’s new box-weighing rules will in many cases rest with freight forwarders, logistics operators or NVOCCs, according to freight transport insurance specialist TT Club.

Welcoming the initiative of the World Shipping Council (WSC) in its recent publication of guidelines to the industry in relation to implementing the SOLAS requirements that become mandatory on 1 July 2016, TT Club noted that unlike the CTU Code, which forensically seeks to identify the chain of responsibility for everyone involved in the movement of freight, the amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) mandating the verification of gross mass of container overtly only names the ‘shipper’, the ‘master’ and the ‘terminal representative’, and – by implication – the competent authorities.

TT Club said the complex nature of logistics means that the term ‘shipper’ may encompass a range of people involved in the contracting, packing and transporting of cargo. However, as stated in the WSC guidance, it said the key commercial relationship in question is with the person whose name is placed on the ocean carrier’s bill of lading.

“Thus, in many cases, the responsibility for actual ‘verified’ declaration will rest with a freight forwarder, logistics operator or NVOC. This means that often reliance will have to be placed on others to have adequate certified methods to provide verified gross mass – particularly for consolidation business,” TT Club said.

It noted that of course many suppliers of homogenous shipments will already have advanced systems, which merely require some form of national certification, adding: “Apart from having a sustainable method by which the gross mass is verified, the shipper also needs to communicate it (‘signed’ meaning that there is an accountable person) in advance of the vessel’s stow plan being prepared.

“The information will be sent by the shipper to the carrier, but with joint service arrangements there may be a number of carriers involved, with one taking responsibility to consolidate the manifest information, in addition to communication with the terminal.”
It said the ‘master’ comprises a number of functions within the carrier’s organisation.

“Implicit in the SOLAS amendment is that the carrier sets in place processes that ensure that verified gross mass is available and used in planning the ship stow,” TT Club said. “Arguably, each carrier will need to amend systems and processes to capture ‘verified’ information.

“However, the simplest might be to amend the booking process, so that the gross mass information is left blank in the system until ‘verified’ data are available. This will be effective if it is clearly understood by all partner lines and terminals with whom the line communicates.”

TT Club said the explicit obligation of the master was simply that he shall not load a container for which a verified gross mass is not available. “This does not mean that one with a verified gross mass is guaranteed to be loaded, since that would derogate from the traditional rights of a master,” the insurance specialist added.

Recognising the pivotal nature of the port interface, it noted that the ‘terminal representative’ has been drawn into the new regulation as a key recipient of information for ship stow planning “and, critically, in a joint and several responsibility not to load on board a ship if a verified gross mass is not available”.

It added: “There has been considerable debate as to whether terminals need to position themselves to be able to weigh containers, not least because of the cost of creating appropriate infrastructure, and amending systems and procedures, with uncertain return on investment. In addition there are commonly incidences of containers packed at the port, in which case the terminal activities could include assisting the shipper in producing the verified gross mass.

“The SOLAS amendment places responsibility on national administrations to implement appropriate standards for calibration and ways of certifying. The overtly named parties rely on this to work smoothly and, preferably, consistently on a global basis.”
TT Club said clarity of such processes needed to be matched by consistency in enforcement. “Talk of ‘tolerances’ is disingenuous,” it said. “SOLAS calls for accuracy. Everyone appreciates that some cargo and packing material may be hygroscopic, thereby potentially increasing mass during the journey, but that need not mask fraudulent activity, nor entice over-zealous enforcement.”

It said the UK Marine Guidance Note may be instructive here, stating that enforcement action will only be volunteered where the difference between documented and actual weight exceeds a threshold. TT Club concluded: “It is suggested that key measures of success of the revised SOLAS regulation will include not only safety of containerised movements, but also free movement of boxes through all modes of surface transport, and a shift in behaviour and culture throughout the unit load industry.”

Customs 175 Years Seal

Customs 175 Years Seal

A new NZ$140 million border management system was supposed to replace and retire twenty year old software but New Zealand’s Customs Service is now describing the legacy CusMod system as “suitable for continued use” after server and software upgrades.

In a hearing on Budget estimates before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee, Customs was unable to set a date for retirement of the old system even after having spent NZ$104 million so far on its replacement.

In 2007, Customs said there was a significant risk CusMod couldn’t continue to respond to changes in global trade and travel, continue to manage emerging risks such as international crime or meet revenue collection objectives.

Eight years later, the agency is told Parliament “very large” amounts of information are still stored in CusMod, it is still considered an important tool and will be retained “for the time being”.

The hearing also revealed the planned second tranche of the Joint Border Management System (JBMS) project, focusing on risk and intelligence, will not proceed as planned and is being replaced with modular implementations with no specified delivery date.

Customs also explained that “legal discussions” were required to manage the agency’s relationship with vendor IBM and to recast the original JBMS contract.

The first tranche of the JBMS started life with a budget of just NZ$75.9 million and was to be completed by the end of 2012, but Customs Minister Nicky Wagner is denying suggestions of a budget blowout.

Wagner said the project was within budget, and additional funding was not expected to be sought.

“The minister commented that the combined cost for tranche one and two was originally planned to total NZ$140 million, and NZ$104 million has been expended so far,” the committee’s report says.

Customs assured the committee the completed JBMS would meet the aspirations of functionality set out in 2011. The project is expected to be completed by 2015/16. Source: ZDnet.com

DBN Relocatable ScannerThe following article suggests the need for greater consultation and collaboration between all supply chain parties. While the associated costs relating to supply chain movements is not the purview of SARS, these should be considered as part of the overall impact assessment in the lead up to such an implementation. For all intents and purposes this is an unintended consequence. Stakeholders should also note that the SA government has not imposed any fee for the scanning of cargoes to re-coup costs. Non-intrusive inspection (NII) capability is a tenet of international customs control intended to mitigate security threats and incidents of cargo misdeclaration, even legitimate cargo that can be used to mask harmful products stowed in vehicles/containers. The issue of increased cost of compliance has unfortunately been a trait of many international customs developments ever since the advent of ‘heightened security’ – post 9/11 and seems destined to remain a ‘challenge’ as we supposedly move into an era of increased trade facilitation.Joint collaboration between all parties not only assists in better understanding of the broader supply chain landscape but can also contribute to positive measures on the ‘ease of doing business’.

Freight & Trade Weekly (issue no. 2158, 10 July 2015) reports that Industry has called on customs to look into processes around its cargo scanners which they say are currently driving up costs.

Two state-of-the art scanners are currently operational at the Port of Durban and Cape Town and are part of South African Revenue Service’s (Sars) countrywide approach to risk management that aims for less intrusive inspections at ports and border entries.

The scanners were introduced in order to improve efficiency, with stopped containers being released more speedily than has been the case to date.

“It has however in some cases increased costs because it has resulted in double handling of containers,” said Dave Watts, a maritime consultant for the SA Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff).

Before the introduction of the scanners all stopped containers were moved by shipping lines to licensed depots for examination by Sars. Once the inspection was concluded and the container released the importer or his agent could collect it using their own transport.

The new process however sees the stopped container transported by the shipping line to the scanner where it is either released or has to be moved for a physical inspection to a depot.

If released at the scanner the container is however still on the shipping line’s appointed truck and not that of the importer or its agent’s nominated haulier.

There are no facilities to move it from one truck to the other at the scanners which means carrier haulage moves it to a depot anyway.

“The extra cost comes in simply because of the double handling,” explained Watts.

In Durban, where the new technology scanner was introduced just over a year ago, several importers maintain it is cheaper to just have their stopped containers taken to the depot for unpacks rather than going through the scanner and not unpacking.

According to Mike Walwyn, chairman of the Port Liaison Forum, the issue of carrier choice also comes into play as the importer now has to use carrier haulage for delivery as opposed to his or her own transport.

Whilst the Cape Town scanner has only been operational for a week, some very real challenges are foreseen and increased cost is one of them.

“The issue is not necessarily around the scanner,” says Watts, “but the rules and regulations around the customs act that stipulates all containers remain the liability of the shipping line until released by customs. In other words it has to be taken to the scanner by the carrier.”

It has been suggested that instead of doubling the handling of containers the carrier should just make the final delivery of the container, but it is generally accepted that carrier cartage rates are much higher than contracted cartage rates. In some cases the cost is said to be four times higher.” Source: FTW

Oz Tax Office2Global pharmaceutical companies paid tax of just $85 million in Australia on revenues of more than $8 billion, including $3.5bn from taxpayer-subsidised drugs, Labor senator Sam Dastyari says.

“What is so extraordinary is that you’ve had companies that have been able to arrange their affairs to be able to drive down their revenue to such an extent that their taxable income is simply one per cent of the revenue that they have,” Senator Dastyari said.

Senator Dastyari addressed media during a break at a senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance in Sydney that is hearing from nine of the biggest drug companies operating in Australia.

“The question before us today was ‘Is this a genuine representation of how profitable these companies have been?’,” Senator Dastyari said.

“The evidence is that they have done what they can to drive up their costs to make themselves as artificially unprofitable as possible in Australia and make themselves more profitable in other jurisdictions to avoid paying tax here.”

Senator Christine Milne, who is also on the senate committee conducting the inquiry, said Johnson and Johnson’s vice president of global taxation had given extraordinary evidence that the company had a profit formula that the Australian subsidiary was required to meet.

“Then they work out their tax affairs so that they move their profits offshore and they maximise their costs here,” Senator Milne told journalists.

“And the extraordinary thing is in the negotiation with the government on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme they ask what the market will bear in terms of the cost of those drugs but they don’t reveal what they actually pay for those drugs from their head office.

“People in the community are saying well look the government keeps coming after us to pay more tax – what about the big end of town?” Source: theaustralian.com.au

2nd hand clothingZimbabwe’s manufacturing firms want government to consider banning the import of second-hand clothes as part of reforms to protect the local industry, Parliament heard on Tuesday.

Used clothes have flooded the domestic market, compounding the woes of a local textile industry on the verge of collapse. Industry experts say Zimbabwe has a market for 80 million garments but only 20 million of those are locally manufactured. Almost 90 percent of imported new clothes are exempt from duty because of regional trade agreements, analysts noted.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) national council member Jeremy Youmans told a parliamentary portfolio committee on industry and commerce that industry requires access to long-term capital, as well as clarity on the indigenization and empowerment law among other measures to compete on the same terms with foreign companies that have established a foothold in the country.

“Second hand clothing in South Africa is banned, if they catch (anyone selling) they will burn it. Maybe that is something we need to consider,” Youmans said.

“As a clothing industry certainly, we have always said we don’t want to stop it because that clothing is being donated to some people who cannot buy clothes themselves.

“The problem is that they are not going to those people, they are going into our markets and somebody is buying those clothes, it’s a very difficult situation.”

He added that the revival of the cotton industry would be key in boosting capacity of the country’s textile industry.CZI vice-president Sifelani Jabangwe said Zimbabwe should improve its business climate to become competitive by doing away with bureaucracy which drives the cost of doing business.

“One of the challenges is that in order to comply with being formally registered, we have to be registered with a number of bodies depending with the nature of the business and they charge licence fees,” he said.

“When you add up these costs, individually they seem to be so low but when you add them up just to be formally operational it is actually a significant cost to the extent that this causing other businesses to close down.”

Harrismith, Free State, South AfricaThe South African Cabinet has ratified a decision by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to designate the Maluti-A-Phofung (MAP) logistics hub, in Harrismith, in the Free State, an industrial development zone (IDZ), further approving the granting of operator permit for this zone to the Free State Development Corporation.

The designation would result in the establishment of a logistics-orientated platform 10 km outside of Harrismith, primarily to service the automotive, light manufacturing, agro-processing, distribution and logistics sectors.

The Harrismith hub had become part of a key nodal point of the Durban–Free State–Gauteng Corridor, which was identified in the 2005 National Freight Logistics Strategy approved by Cabinet. According to the DTI, the MAP IDZ would become a multi-sector processing, manufacturing, engineering, logistics services, transport and logistics complex, serving the needs of the upstream value-adding, beneficiation, processing and production service companies operating across sectors and geographical areas in Southern Africa.

The zone would further look to provide efficient IDZ and customs-controlled area operations and processes that would facilitate timeous and cost-effective operations for international and domestic investors.

Customs_&_Central_Excise_logoThe Indian Customs department and international airlines have locked horns over providing confidential data of passengers to the former.

According to a senior Customs official, airlines were not providing information regarding commuters due to which officials were facing problems in curbing smuggling. Due to lack of details, Customs’ anti-smuggling operations were suffering. Another issue was that airlines staff was not present round-the-clock.

“We have asked airlines to provide details over phone as per law. They have to deploy someone in the office all the time as it is in the national interest to curb smuggling. Airlines have been asked to provide details and also depute a staff to answer phone calls and provide relevant details. There is not at all violation of rules in any manner. If airlines refuse to provide details or don’t reply to phone calls, a notice will be issued,” a senior Customs official told media.

Meanwhile, airlines are challenging the authority of the Customs department in this regard. According to sources, Customs department has to provide a written request that was done earlier for getting information regarding travellers. On the other hand, an airline official said, “According to guidelines laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), passenger data should be transmitted electronically. Agencies shall not require a written declaration of baggage from passenger and crew when no dutiable or restricted goods are being carried.”

CBP logoU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published a Federal Register Notice inviting U.S. exporters to request CBP’s assistance in resolving disputes with foreign customs agencies over the tariff classification or customs valuation of U.S. exports. CBP explains that it is willing to assist U.S. exporters with these disputes under the auspices of the World Customs Organization (WCO). CBP is very active at the WCO and regularly participates in meetings concerning the application of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS System) and the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Customs Valuation Agreement (CVA). According to CBP, this process was helpful in providing a successful outcome for clients who disputed a foreign customs agency’s classification of imported goods.

Tariff Classification
CBP represents the United States at meetings under the auspices of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (“HS Convention”). The HS Convention is the international agreement that provides that WCO Members will implement the HS System and comply with decisions of the various committees organized under the convention. CBP attends semiannual meetings of the WCO’s Harmonized System Committee (HSC), where contracting parties to the HS Convention examine policy matters, make decisions on classification questions, settle disputes, and prepare amendments to the HS System and its Explanatory Notes.

Article 10 of the HS Convention governs disputes between contracting parties concerning the interpretation or application of the HS Convention. The article provides that parties with potential disputes should first try to settle the dispute through bilateral negotiations. If such negotiation cannot resolve the dispute, the parties may refer the dispute to the HSC for its consideration and recommendations. The HSC, in turn, refers irreconcilable disputes to the WCO Council for its recommendations.

Customs Valuation
CBP represents the United States at the WCO with respect to issues arising under the CVA. Pursuant to Annex II to the CVA, the WCO’s Technical Committee on Customs Valuation (TCCV) is authorized to examine specific problems arising from the customs valuation systems of WTO Members. The TCCV is responsible for examining the administration of the CVA, providing WTO Members with advisory opinions regarding particular customs valuation issues, and issuing commentaries or explanatory notes regarding the CVA. Like the HSC, the TCCV may get involved in disputes amongst foreign customs agencies. CBP stands willing to help U.S. exporters with these disputes. This process may provide U.S. exporters with a faster procedure to resolve disputes than a typical WTO dispute.

CBP’s Role at the WCO May Resolve Export Issues for U.S. Exporters
CBP states in the notice that its communication with other customs administrations through the meetings of the HSC and TCCV at the WCO can “often serve to eliminate or resolve export issues for U.S. traders.” As an example, in 2014, a U.S. exporter notified CBP of a foreign customs administration’s misclassification of its textile exports. The U.S. exporter requested that pursuant to Article 10 of the HS Convention, CBP (1) contact the foreign customs administration to resolve the tariff classification dispute; and (2) refer the matter to the HSC at the WCO, if it could not be resolved bilaterally. After confirming it agreed with the U.S. exporter’s position, CBP engaged the foreign customs administration directly. Within seven months of the exporter’s request, CBP secured a favorable decision by the foreign customs administration to classify the merchandise in a manner consistent with the U.S. position. Consequently, the U.S. exporter obtained correct tariff treatment of its imported merchandise in the foreign country as a result of CBP’s engagement.

Source: http://www.internationaltradecomplianceupdate.com/

Port of Singapore [Picture credit - singaporevisablog.wordpress.com]

Port of Singapore [Picture credit – singaporevisablog.wordpress.com]

The Port of Singapore has been named the best seaport in Asia for the 27th time – beating fierce rivals Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The honour was given out at the 2015 Asia Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain Awards (AFLAS) held in Hong Kong here the other day.

The AFLAS awards, organised by freight and logistics publication Asia Cargo News, honour organisations for demonstrating leadership as well as consistency in service quality, innovation, customer relationship management and reliability.

Determined by votes cast by readers of Asia Cargo News, the Port of Singapore clinched the award for its leading performance on a range of criteria, including cost competitiveness, container shipping-friendly fee regime, provision of suitable container shipping-related infrastructure, timely and adequate investment in new infrastructure to meet future demand and the facilitation of ancillary services.

The other finalists in the Asia category this year were the Port of Hong Kong and Port of Shanghai.

Said Mr Andrew Tan, chief executive of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA): “We will continue to work closely with all our stakeholders to strengthen our competitiveness as a premier global hub port and international maritime centre.

“Singapore will also continue to plan and invest ahead, such as our commissioning of Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4 this week which will increase the overall capacity of Singapore’s port to 50 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) when fully operational.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday officially opened the terminals. When the expansion is fully operational by the end of 2017, Singapore will be able to handle a total of 50 million TEUs of containers annually.

MPA said the Port of Singapore continued to achieve good growth in 2014. Its annual vessel arrival tonnage reached 2.37 billion gross tonnes (GT). Its container throughput hit 33.9 million TEUs, while total cargo tonnage handled reached 580.8 million tonnes.

Its total volume of bunkers remained the highest in the world, at 42.4 million tonnes. The total tonnage of ships under the Singapore Registry of Ships was 82.2 million GT, putting Singapore among the top 10 ship registries in the world.

A man, right, speaks to a motorbike taxi driver in front of the gate to China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone's Pudong free trade zone in Shanghai, China, on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. The area is a testing ground for free-market policies that Premier Li Keqiang has signaled he may later implement more broadly in the world's second-largest economy. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pilot Free Trade Zone’s Pudong free trade zone in Shanghai, China. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Shanghai’s pilot free trade zone unveiled several measures aimed at improving customs services for high-technology companies in the zone.

An air cargo service center will be set up in Zhangjiang High-Tech Park to provide one-stop customs services including delivery of import manifest, customs declaration and customs inspection, Shanghai Customs said yesterday.

The center will cut customs clearance time to six to eight hours from at least two working days previously.

Customs formalities for imports of reagents, samples and equipment by high-tech companies, bio-pharmaceutical firms and microelectronics manufacturers will be streamlined, benefiting about 900 companies in Zhangjiang and neighboring areas, it said. Customs has also pledged to cut the threshold for small and medium-sized firms to offer offshore outsourcing services and encourage clusters of advanced manufacturing such as aircraft and new-energy vehicles in the FTZ.

Other measures include introducing customized customs services for high-tech companies, setting up bonded warehouses for small businesses and strengthening intellectual property protection.

“These new measures are market-oriented and based on enterprises’ need, and aim to tackle actual problems and boost trade facilitation,” said Zheng Jugang, vice director of Shanghai Customs.

Also yesterday, customs unveiled another eight measures to simplify customs clearance process and boost trade facilitation for all FTZ-based enterprises. They include trading of bonded commodities in the zone and simpler customs procedures for imports of art supplies.

In the first five months of this year, trade in the FTZ totaled 287.1 billion yuan (US$46.3 billion), accounting for 26 percent of the city’s total.

[Picture Credit: John Moore - Getty Images]

Border between South Africa and Zimbabwe [Picture Credit: John Moore – Getty Images]

The SA government is forging ahead with plans for a border management agency to handle all aspects of border control, from security to customs and plant and animal inspection – but MPs have said it can’t be done.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and his defence counterpart Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula launched Operation Pyramid – a transitional arrangement to improve interdepartmental co-ordination – on Friday, while a draft bill to create the legal framework for the agency was tabled at a workshop in Pretoria earlier in the week.

But there are serious concerns about the ability of one entity to manage the diverse requirements of border control, which would require a huge single body that may prove unwieldy, while it would also need to assume some of the functions of the police and defence force. This would put it in conflict with the constitution, which provides for a single police service and defence force.

Section 199.2 of the constitution states the defence force is the “only lawful military force in the Republic”. Establishing a border management agency performing security functions in parallel with the police and SANDF would thus require a constitutional amendment, but this is just one among many challenges.

The need for such an agency arose in the first place because numerous national intelligence estimates had said the lack of co-ordination in the border environment resulted in “significant weaknesses, threats and challenges”.

Briefing Parliament’s police oversight committee this week, Brigadier David Chilembe, head of border policing, outlined steps that had been taken to get the agency off the ground, six years after President Jacob Zuma ordered it to be done.

The Department of Home Affairs, the lead agent in the project, had established a project office to oversee implementation, heads of affected departments had signed a multiparty agreement and sat on a committee together to co-ordinate their efforts, while an interministerial committee ironed out the policy questions.

The Government Technical Advisory Centre in the Treasury was working on the business case for the agency, Chilembe said.
The plan was to set up the agency in stages and identify the legal and operational implications at each stage so they could be addressed.

But a follow-up briefing on concerns raised by MPs after an oversight visit to the Lebombo border post near Komatipoort in Mpumalanga opened a window into the difficulties the agency will face.

The committee wrote a damning report on the Lebombo border post after a visit earlier this year, when MPs found the ceiling was collapsing because air-conditioning ducts dripped on to it, the door was shattered and the gate jammed, meaning it was possible to drive or walk through it without stopping.

Police complained they had to stand unprotected in the sun or rain and had to make their own travel arrangements from town.
Lieutenant-General Kehla Sithole said the problems originated in a 1998 agreement between Mozambique and South Africa for the post to be established as a “one-stop” facility, with officials sitting back-to-back under one roof.

Mozambique later said it had expected South Africa to pay for its construction, but the Treasury balked at this.The resulting limbo meant new facilities could not be built and neither could the existing ones be refurbished because the Public Works Department refused to upgrade buildings earmarked for demolition.

There were perceptions that the SA Revenue Service, which was the lead agency in the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee – the body charged with harmonising the environment since 2001 – looked after its own interests first, leaving the SAPS short-changed in accommodation and office space.

MPs were shocked to hear an 80-room residential complex for SAPS personnel stood empty because police were expected to pay for it themselves but, unlike SARS officials, did not receive an accommodation allowance. As a result, they preferred to rent a shack in town and travel to the border post daily.

There was also no scanner at the border post, meaning truck cargos, for instance, could only be inspected manually. Opposition DA spokeswoman on police Dianne Kohler Barnard said this almost certainly meant the majority of vehicles went through the post unchecked, meaning it could easily be used for child trafficking, for example.

Sithole said the lack of a scanner was the result of a Treasury instruction for departments represented at the post to make a joint proposal for one to be procured, instead of each asking for their own – at a cost of millions a unit.

A “scanner committee” had been established in the late 1990s but, because one was provided for in the plans for the one-stop concept, it had yet to be bought.

Committee chairman Francois Beukman said MPs weren’t interested in the history of the problem, but rather in what would be done to get a scanner in place.

ANC MP Jerome Maake, supported by Leonard Ramatlakane, said after the presentation it was clear the border management agency couldn’t work. If it was established as a government department – one of three options on the table – this would create a “super department” that would reach into the functions of the others. This would confuse lines of accountability.

If it was established as a government component under an executive authority, or as a public entity, the other two options, it would run into the constitutional challenges related to the police and defence functions.

“All I see here is problems and I don’t see how they can be solved,” Maake said.

“Maybe you’re just afraid of telling the president, this animal can’t be implemented and you’re moving around it, on the periphery, afraid to just say, no – can we come up with something new?

“This one is not implementable.”

Source: Independant On Line (IOL)

A man who used pet cats as a cover to smuggle drugs valued at £1.2m into the country through Heathrow Airport has been jailed. A London-born dual national, Scott Parker, living in Benoni, Gauteng in South Africa, was handed a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence for smuggling heroin, when he appeared at Isleworth Crown Court on June 18, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The 43-year-old, who worked for a company which transports animals, pleaded guilty to attempting to import a class A drug, the NCA added.

He was arrested by the NCA on November 21 last year, at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, after staff alerted the Border Force of a crate used to transport animals from Johannesburg which was unusually heavy when empty.

Officers examined the crates and found compartments containing packages of the class A drug in the base, the NCA said. Forensic tests showed the packages consisted of around 9k of high purity heroin, which if cut and sold in the UK would have a street vale of around £1.2m.

The cats were reunited with their owners, who were completely unaware their animals had been used as a front for smuggling.
Ian Truby, from the NCA’s Border Investigation Team at Heathrow, said: “This was a highly unusual attempt to bring a substantial quantity of class A drugs into the UK.

“Parker thought he would avoid our attention. But the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre staff were vigilant and our investigation showed that he knew the drugs were there. Source: Customs Today

SARS DDU2A gruelling four months of training came to an end during May 2015 as 33 Customs officers and their detector dogs graduated from the SARS Detector Dog Training Academy. A graduation ceremony was held in Pretoria. It was the culmination of a training course where officers were, together with their canine charges, were trained in the finer aspects of the detection of illegal substances and goods in vehicles, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail, luggage and buildings.

“The substances that they would be able to detect are explosives, firearms and ammunition in addition to narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, mandrax, crystal meth and ecstasy,” states Hugo Taljaard, Senior Manager for the Detector Dog Unit (DDU). “They will also be able to find rhino horn, ivory, wet or dry abalone, crayfish and lion bones. This also extends to currency, tobacco products, copper wire and cell phones,” he added.

The training began in January 2015 and covered both practical and physical aspects. The following modules were accomplished during the development programme:

  1. Bonding and socialisation phase with the dog.
  2. Imprinting of substances.
  3. Paramilitary Drill – Salute and Compliment.
  4. Practical search and detect training on vehicles, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail, luggage and buildings
  5. Physical training – dog and handling – Theoretical training on identification and handling of narcotics and endangered species; Dog conditioning process; Basic animal behavior; and General dog care.
  6. Change of environment training at land ports of entry.
  7. Formal assessment.

After this training, detector dog units will be established in Mpumalanga (Lebombo Detector Dog Unit), Northern Cape (Nakop Detector Dog Unit), and Northern Cape (Vioolsdrif Detector Dog Unit) to support SARS’ strategic objective to increase customs compliance at ports of entry.

Currently, all SARS DDU recruitment is sourced from within the organisation.

Visit the Servamus website (a community-based safety and security website and magazine) for an article published on Customs Detector Dog Unit – “Sniffing out trouble at SA ports” (May 2015 Edition). Source: SARS and Servamus.co.za

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