Archives For Information Technology

wco news 2013The latest edition of WCO News reflects on the Secretary General’s thoughts on what the WCO has done, what it will be doing, and what will impact on its work in the coming months. The WCO will actively focus its energies on it’s four strategic packages concentrating on revenue, compliance and enforcement, economic competitiveness and organizational development. Together, these packages support the adoption and application of modern Customs practices and raise awareness on the vital role of Customs in international trade.

Featured articles include -

  • From borders to boundless: the digital dilemma in Customs – it discusses two questions – How does an industry traditionally focused on physical borders remake itself for digital commerce, which inherently circumvents such borders? and, Why must Customs agencies transform to address the rise in digital goods and services?
  • Intercepting next generation threats -

    For those responsible for the security of our borders, transit networks, VIPs and high-profile sites, the threat posed by more creative adversaries is compounded by the increasing frustrations of passengers and visitors, when subjected to existing security checks. The article discusses a range of ingenuity which technology nowadays provides to these adversaries, and the elements of new Terahertz imaging equipment to assist border agencies in the combat thereof.

  • Beyond the Single 

    Window (SW) – In the 20-plus years since they first opened in Singapore and Sweden, SWs have remained a central focus of border clearance strategies, even though the majority of Customs administrations have not implemented them. Although design plans vary considerably, most SW systems support an electronic data exchange model which allows for (i) Single submission of data and information; (ii) Single and synchronous processing; and (iii) Single decision-making for release and clearance. This article considers 4 best practices which governments should consider when implementing Single Window programs.

The publication also includes country case study’s on Single Window featuring Nigeria and New Zealand, Sri Lanka Customs 20 years of dedication towards conservation, a feature on Argentine Customs and many other interesting articles. To access the publication – click here! Source: WCO

Amidst diverse expectations and feelings of excitement, anxiety and anticipation, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) migrated to its new integrated Customs and Border Management solution over the weekend of 17 August 2013. A new modern electronic solution Interfront can now rightfully claim some success even if it is an unseen component within a multi-layered, multi-technology solution of which South African Customs is now the proud owner. After 9 months of rigorous parallel testing between old and new, and a period of dedicated external testing with Service Providers of the customs business community, the decision to implement was formally agreed with trade a fortnight ago.

Interfront Customs and Border Solution (iCBS) replaces several key legacy systems, one of which has served South Africa for more than 30 years. The vast business and technical competence and skills which faithfully maintained and supported the old systems are to some extent in the wilderness now, but will hopefully find place within the new technology environment. While technology nowadays is particularly agile, and human physical placement at the coal face is under threat, organisations like SARS will always require customs technical business and policy competence to maintain the cutting edge.

There still remains an enormous amount of work to do regarding the alignment of the new clearance system with the specific guidelines, standards and principles of the WCO. With regional integration becoming more prominent on the sub-Saharan African agenda, the matter of ‘facilitation’ and ‘non-tariff barriers’ will inevitably become more prominent discussion points. Other salient features of the SAFE Framework of Standards such as Authorised Economic Operators and IT connectivity have already emerged as key developmental goals of a number of regional customs and border authorities. The timely introduction of Interfront places SARS in a pivotal position to influence and enable the required electronic linkages, crucial for the establishment of bi-lateral and multilateral trade agreements, transport corridors, and, support for ‘seamless’ multi-modal movement of cargo from port of discharged to its place of manifestation with limited intervention, based on the principles of risk management. Enjoy the Interfront video feature.

 

Port of Oakland - VertiTainer's  crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

Port of Oakland – VertiTainer’s crane mounted scanner solution employs advanced passive scanning technology and sophisticated identification algorithms to detect and identify gamma and neutron sources in shipping containers as they are loaded or discharged from a container ship.

While the question of mandatory weighing of containers features high on the International Maritime Organisations’ (IMO) list of priorities, a recent post “Container Weighing – industry solution on the horizon“, reminded me of a solution which has been around for some time now, but for various reasons would appear to have been overlooked by authorities – or so it would appear. Readers and followers of this blog may well already have viewed the feature on VeriTainer’s gantry crane mounted radiation detection and identification system, called the VeriSpreader® – refer to the New generation NII technology page of this Blog.

The spreader is a device used for lifting containers and unitized cargo. The spreader used for containers has a locking mechanism at each corner that attaches the four corners of the container. A spreader can be used on a container crane, a straddle carrier and with any other machinery to lift containers. (Wikipedia)

The recent maritime disaster involving the breaking-in-half, and eventual sinking of the MOL Comfort gave rise to the question of overloaded container boxes. While government and international security-minded organisations have pursued methods to address breaches in the supply chain, it would seem that little ‘innovation’ has been applied to the problem – specifically in regard to minimizing the time and cost of routing containers via purpose-built inspection facilities.

At least three known radiation incidents have hit the headlines in recent times – namely Port of Genoa (2010), Port Elizabeth, New Jersey (Feb, 2013), and the most recent in the Port of Voltri (July, 2013). Each of these incidents warranted an emergency response from authorities with a consequential impact on Port Operations.  Unfortunately, advanced risk management systems and other security safeguards did not alert suspicion, allowing these ‘threats’ into the heart of the port, not to mention the radiation threat to port workers?

It could be argued that since the inception of government-led supply chain security, 2002 onwards, many of the world’s supply chains have built in ‘possible inspection’ into their export lead times. A trip to a purpose-built inspection facility will normally require diverting transport from its predestined journey to a land border crossing or seaport. Moreover, lack of predictability often causes delays with possible loss of business where ‘security’ measures delay the movement of cargo.

Several Customs and Border authorities have instituted ‘export-led’ compliance programmes which seek to create better regulatory awareness and expectation for shippers. While not without merit, these still impose an inherent cost to trade where in some instances, shipper’s are compelled to institute ISO-type security standards which for some require dedicated and skilled experts to entrench and maintain these throughout the organisation. So, while the development of increasing levels of compliance amongst supply chain operators will occur over time, what of government ‘Non-Intrusive’ inspection capability?

Port Technology International‘s Feb 2013 article - Future X-Ray Inspection Equipment to be based on Industry Standards - opined that “future developments in cargo screening are likely to follow a common innovation trajectory that is fostered by market needs and new technology, while being strengthened by existing intellectual property and evolving industry standards. Innovation is often perceived as a circular path beginning with customer needs that are identified by a technology developer. The developer then creates application technology in the form of products to meet those needs”.

Land and rail-based cargo screening technology has improved immensely over the last 10 years with improved safety (shielding), throughput (speed) and portability. Engineers have likewise realized the need to ‘fuse’ imaging and radiation threat detection technologies, all offering a more cost-effective package to the end-user. These are by and large the Customs and Border authorities worldwide who protect our territorial waters and ports. Yet, the approach remains ‘modality driven’ which has ensured a period of predictability for designers and manufacturers, not to mention their revenue streams. Given the container weighing – port radiation threats discussed earlier, perhaps it is time now for transport and enforcement authorities to consider technologies as developed by VeriTainer and Lasstec and define a specification for “100%” needs – could this be uniform? Not unlike Lasstec’s container-weighing solution that allows the weighing of containers during the loading cycle so not to disrupt the work flow, Veritainer’s VeriRAD solution uses a gantry crane ‘spreader’ to house its unique solution with specific emphasis to mitigate the threat of a ‘dirty bomb’.

 

Inefficiency of road freight transport is one of the primary factors that hamper the economy of sub-Saharan Africa. Long delays experienced at border posts are the single biggest contributor towards the slow average movement of freight. Cross-border operations are complicated by the conflicting security objectives of customs and border authorities versus efficiency objectives of transport operators. It furthermore suffers from illegal practices involving truck drivers and border officials. In theory the efficiency of cross-border operations can be improved based on the availability of more accurate and complete information – the latter will be possible if different stakeholders can exchange data between currently isolated systems.

Cross-border trade basically comprises 3 distinct but interlinked layers -

An information layer – in which various trade documentation (purchase order, invoice), cargo and conveyance information (packing list, manifest), customs and government regulatory data (declaration, permits) are exchanged between various supply chain entities and the customs authority. These primarily attest to the legal ownership, contract of carriage, reporting and compliance with customs and other regulatory authority formalities (export and import), and delivery at destination.

A logistics layer – for the collection, consolidation, sealing and conveyance of physical cargo from point of despatch via at least two customs control points (export and import), to deconsolidation and delivery at point of destination.

A financial layer – which refers to the monetary exchange flow from buyer (importer) to seller (exporter) according to the terms and conditions of the sale (INCOTERMS). Hmm… no, this does not include ‘bribe’ money.

All three layers are inter-linked and prone to risk at any point of a given transaction. There is also no silver bullet solution to secure supply chains. Moreover, it is a fallacy that Customs and Border Agencies will ever conquer cross-border crime – simply because there are too many angles to monitor. Furthermore, in order to set up cross—border information exchange and joint enforcement operations it is both legally and politically time-consuming. Criminal elements are not hampered by these ‘institutions’, they simply spot the gaps and forge ahead.

One of the areas requiring customs attention is that of chain of custody. In short this implies the formal adoption of the World Customs Organisation’s SAFE Framework principles. Each party with data that needs to be filed with the government for Customs and security screening purposes has responsibilities. Those responsibilities include -

  • Protecting the physical goods from tampering, theft, and damage.
  • Providing appropriate information to government authorities in a timely and accurate manner for security screening purposes.
  • Protecting the information related to the goods from tampering and unauthorized access. This responsibility applies equally to times before, during and after having custody of the goods.

Tenacent RFID Tag

Tenacent RFID Tag

Security seals are an integral part of the chain of custody. The proper grade and application of the security seal is addressed below. Security seals should be inspected by the receiving party at each change of custody for a cargo-laden container. Inspecting a seal requires visual check for signs of tampering, comparison of the seal’s identification number with the cargo documentation, and noting the inspection in the appropriate documentation. More recently the emergence of certain e-seals and container security devices (CSDs) contribute even further to minimizing the amount of ‘physical’ verification required, as they are able to electronically notify the owner of the goods or government authority in the event of an incidence of tampering.

White Paper - GPS-RFID systems for cross-border management of freight consignments

White Paper – GPS-RFID systems for cross-border management of freight consignments

A group of South African specialist engineers have been working closely with transport authorities, logistics specialists, defense experts and customs authorities across the globe. Their e-seal is patented in no less than 16 high volume countries. It is produced in Singapore, China and Indonesia depending on politics, free-trade agreements and demand. May move some to Brazil and US in time. Proof of concept (POC) initiatives are currently underway in Brazil for rail cargo, US Marine Corps for their p-RFID program and other Department of Defense divisions in the USA, and will shortly be included in one of the GSA agreements making it available to any government department in the US. Further adrift, the e-seal is also currently enjoying interest in Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Panama, Jordan, Italy, Spain, and Malaysia. Here, in South Africa, a POC was conducted at the 1st autogate at Durban Container Terminal, funded by the North West University, and overseen with successfully achieved objectives by Transnet Port Terminals. For technical details of the RFID seal, click here!

With much anticipated success abroad, how much support will this product attain in the local and sub-Saharan African scene? Government authorities, as well as logistics and supply chain operators are therefore encouraged to study the enclosed ‘white paper’ – Click Here!. It firstly quantifies the size of the problem and estimates the potential economic benefits that will be created by improved cross-border operations. It then proposes a combined GPS/RFID system that can provide the required level of visibility to support improved operational management, resulting in a simultaneous increase in the security and efficiency of cross-border freight operations. A brief cost-benefits analysis is performed to show that the expected benefits from such a system will by far exceed the costs of implementation. Source: Tenacent & iPico

Picture credit - Gismag.com

Picture credit – Gizmag.com

First came news from The Guardian that the NSA was collecting phone records from millions of Verizon customers under a top-secret government order:  “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top-secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”

Then, in the last few hours, more layers were peeled back by The Washington Post:  “The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.”

The story continues to list the companies who allegedly gave the US government unfettered access to customer data (emphasis is ours): “Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: ‘Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

According to a series of alleged PowerPoint slides obtained by The Washington Post, Microsoft was the first to join the program, in September of 2007. The most recent addition was Apple, in October of 2012. Dropbox is reportedly “coming soon.”

Interestingly, most of the companies named are responding to requests for comment by flat-out denying awareness or involvement. According to The Next Web, Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Yahoo have all denied participation. PRISM reportedly began collecting data in 2007, which means it was introduced under President Bush. However, The Washington Post says the program has experienced “exponential growth” under the Obama administration.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

Video: The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies’ servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead.

The slides reveal an annual budget of US$20 million for the program with data monitored by the program including e-mails, instant messages, videos, photos, stored data (presumably in the cloud), voice chats, file transfers, video conferences, log-in times, and social network profile details. Although the program is supposedly aimed at surveillance of foreign targets, such as spies and terrorists, and is intended to take advantage of the fact that most of the world’s data flows through the US, it is inevitable that data of US citizens is caught up in the mix. The NSA Powerpoint slides describe this as “incidental.”

It shouldn’t be too shocking that the US government spies on its citizens. What may be more surprising is just how far-reaching, and possibly unconstitutional, this program is. Perhaps the most significant part will be the fallout now that the secrets are out in the open.

Recent developments concerning customs data exchange via “cloud-type” mediums will therefore come under more scrutiny given current revelations in the US. It serves little purpose for countries to agree on data confidentiality and unwittingly (?) make such data available for ‘harvesting’ via third-party technology providers. Let this come as a fore-warning to governments.

Sources: The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Next Web, and Gizmag.

ACE_image_csonLast week, the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) hosted a conference in Baltimore, MD targeting software developers interested in obtaining more information about US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) and upcoming technical changes related to the PGA Message Set, Entry Summary Edits, Automated Corrections/Cancellations and AES Re-Engineering/Manifest Baseline development. During the conference, CBP made two important announcements which were heard and noted first hand from an Integration Point representative. These two announcements included:

  • CBP announced that it plans to mandate the use of manifest and cargo release in ACE by December 31, 2015 and mandate the use of ACE by December 31, 2016. CBP also provided a tentative release schedule for seven deployments that will lead up to this mandate.  Each deployment will consist of one or two increments, and each increment will span over a period of twelve to thirteen weeks. On this road map, CBP announced some exciting functionalities to be released in the near future such as automated cancellation and/or correction of entries, integration of simplified entry with other modes of transport and certifying simplified entry through summary. In addition to the enhanced simplified entry process, CBP also gradually plans to include the validations that were not initially included in ACE entry summaries.
  • CBP is also working on the reengineering of AES and pilot programs of entry data collection for various Participating Government Agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and CBP plans to deploy this later on in 2013 and early in 2014.

Now there is relevance in all of this. It reinforces the growing importance of Customs’ focus on “cargo management”.  Far too much emphasis is placed on the goods declaration alone. This is not only short-sighted but demonstrates an ignorance of the global supply chain. Without the ‘cargo report’ (manifest) the goods declaration is little more than a testament of what is purported to have been imported and exported.

Guilherma Mambo presenting the Mozambique Single Electronic Window at the SADC ICT Conference, in Mauritius, 2012.

Guilherma Mambo presenting the Mozambique Single Electronic Window at the SADC ICT Conference, in Mauritius, 2012.

Guilherme Mambo has just been appointed Director General Mozambique Customs on the 10th May 2013. Until then he was Board Director of MCNet – Mozambique Community Network the PPP responsibly for implementation of Electronic Single Window for customs clearance in Mozambique where he were responsible for implementation and operations. In recent months he has lead Mozambique’s bi-lateral engagement on IT-Connectivity and Data Exchange with his counterparts at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

For the past 10 years Mambo served as director IT Mozambique Customs and then for Mozambique Revenue Authority. On this role he participated in various modernization projects aimed at improving the business environment in Mozambique through improvement of public services particularly the complete organizational transformation of customs and internal tax areas.

Prior to working with customs and MRA, he worked in aviation industry and a UN lead project in Chechnya, Liberia, Angola were he was exposed multifaceted international experience.

As Director General – Mozambique Customs his responsibility is to manage the General Directorate of Customs (DGA) a paramilitary organization with around 2000 staff, one of the two major collectors of government revenue derived from external trade largely from customs duty, excise duty and the Value Added Tax (IVA).  DGA is also a law enforcement agency that undertakes the control of imports and exports for the protection of revenue to prevent evasion of duties and taxes and assists in the promotion of the community’s well-being to prevent the smuggling of controlled, prohibited and restricted goods (such as illicit narcotic drugs and firearms). The Director General heads the DGA and his assisted by three Deputy Director General each of one have a specific area of responsibility.

Customs' JBMS will ultimately provide the Trade Single Window, through which importers and exporters can deal directly with government agencies, and Customs  and MPI can more ­effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border (credit: FTD Supply Chain Magazine)

Customs’ JBMS will ultimately provide the Trade Single Window, through which importers and exporters can deal directly with government agencies, and Customs
and MPI can more ­effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border (credit: FTD Supply Chain Magazine)

The Joint Border Management System (JBMS) programme is a replacement information system that will meet New Zealand’s future border management needs. Comprising a set of integrated information technology products, owned and hosted by Customs and jointly operated with the MPI, it will give Customs, MPI and industry better information and risk-assessment tools to protect New Zealand’s society, trade and biosecurity.

“An agile, effective and efficient border management system is essential for protecting New Zealand from economic, social and environmental harm, for maintaining and improving our international competitiveness, and for collecting over $9 billion a year of government revenue,” says Customs deputy comptroller Robert Lake. “We need a system that keeps us secure, can handle increasing numbers of people, goods and craft, and meets trading partners’ expectations of integrated systems.”

The JBMS will ultimately provide a single electronic point of contact – the Trade Single Window (TSW) – through which the import and export industry can deal directly with government agencies for customs and biosecurity requirements, and Customs and MPI can more effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border.

Companies will be able to submit a single application to both Customs and MPI to lodge import declarations. It’s faster and more efficient. And they can do so directly, not through a third party like they do now.”

The key functions of the Single Window were to have been progressively available to industry from April 2013, however, Customs said it would take three months longer than it originally anticipated for importers and exporters to experience any benefits from the initial $75 million investment in a new Joint Border Management computer system, JBMS.  IBM had been due to deliver the first tranche of JBMS, which is a joint initiative between Customs and the Primary Industries Ministry, last month. Customs deputy comptroller Robert Lake said the agencies had decided to push back the launch and deliver the project in stages. Click here for more details.

Risk management

Customs has taken a phased approach to designing and building the JBMS programme to ensure secure information management and to enable Customs to manage the risks of turning on a major new IT system. “Each stage – or tranche – will be thoroughly tested with industry until it is performing as expected. Industry will be able to migrate over to the new system over time. Our current systems will remain in place until the new system is fully proven,” Mr Lake adds.

Tranche 1 has been funded by the government and has been underway since July 2011. Costs of the JBMS are shared with industry, and cost recovery charges will start from 1 July.

“From April, the system will support border agencies to use shared information to work collaboratively in analysing travellers and goods. This will allow border agencies to target risk more accurately and will therefore provide greater consistency and certainty in the end-to-end border clearance process for all goods,” Mr Lake says.

In the second tranche, Customs plans to fully replace all background systems, and add further enhancements and the remaining business functions to the TSW. The second tranche is subject to further government approval and funding.

Trade Single Window

The TSW is one of the major components of the JBMS and will enable parties involved in international trade and transport to submit the craft and cargo clearance data that is required by New Zealand’s border agencies electronically, once, through one entry point. They will also be able to register themselves as users of the TSW, and maintain their own details.

As part of the first tranche, the TSW will include registration (of customers and users), most lodgements (craft and cargo clearances, such as import and export entries, and cargo reports), status enquiries and response functions. In the second tranche, Customs and MPI will investigate options for providing further functions, including remaining lodgements, a reference library, information updates, transaction history and other payments. Customs and MPI are also working on a plan to join up MPI’s animal products and plant export certification systems to the TSW.

“The TSW is expected to deliver significant benefits to importers, exporters and others in the international trade supply chain,” Mr Lake says. “These will include improved coordination of processes and earlier certainty of border agency requirements when advance data is provided. Compliant traders will be able to get their goods through the border with greater speed, consistency and certainty. However, the potential benefits for industry will depend on how individual participants use the information from the TSW to make their supply chains more effective and efficient.” The JBMS is expected to deliver significant benefits to the import and export industry over the next 10–15 years. Source: www.ftdmag.co.nz

For further information also visit New Zealand Customs website – Joint Border Management System (JBMS)

 

WCO ICT Conference 2013 - Dubai

WCO ICT Conference 2013 – Dubai

The 2013 WCO IT Conference & Exhibition was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 14 to 16 May 2013 and co-hosted by Dubai Customs. The Conference theme, “Effective Solutions for Coordinated Border Management”, attracted over 1,000 participants from 93 countries and 56 Customs administrations, including 14 Directors General of Customs, other governmental agencies and the private sector, who were actively involved in sharing available information technologies, lessons learned from experience, and future visions.

The Conference was opened in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, showing strong support for the innovative approach towards Customs modernization. In his opening speech, His Highness, Lieutenant General, Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of collaboration for effective, coordinated border management applying technology. Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya said that the contribution of Customs to economic competitiveness required better communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration with other border agencies. In this connection, technology enabled coordinated border management, and the WCO had developed the Data Model with a standardized data set that met the requirements of border regulatory agencies. He also stressed the importance of partnership with the private sector in finding innovative solutions for IT applications, which was the objective of this Conference.

The participants enjoyed a series of panel sessions with high-level speakers from Customs, other governmental agencies, international organizations and the private sector, discussing various aspects of coordinated border management and effective solutions in applying technology. Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, shared his country’s vision of trade facilitation through investment in infrastructure and technology, as well as consistent policy development, while honouring international obligations.

A very large number of service providers joined the Exhibition and Tech Talks to explain the latest innovations in information technology, and they listened to the needs of Customs and other border regulatory agencies in their efforts to work together to develop joint IT solutions. Source: WCO

 

Google will soon be rolling out a new feature that lets you attach money to Gmail messages

Google will soon be rolling out a new feature that lets you attach money to Gmail messages

While Customs Authorities are still challenged to address the question of cyber-trade and associate crime, Gmail makes it possible for you send all kinds of files as attachments. Now Google Wallet lets you pay for just about anything. Why not combine the two? That could have been the thinking by someone at Google, as the search giant is set to launch a payment system that’s the love child of Gmail and Google Wallet.

Pretty soon, U.S. Gmail users 18 and older (sorry, kiddies) will see a dollar sign icon among their Gmail attachment options. Click on the icon, select a dollar amount, and send it along. The recipient doesn’t have to have a Gmail address to take your money, but they’ll presumably need to have a Google Wallet account (or at least sign up for one to claim their money).

In fact, that might be one of Google’s motives here. Make it ridiculously easy to send money to your pals, and if they aren’t already in the Google ecosystem, this is a new way to reel them in. Let the rush to Google+ sign-up pages commence.

Google does also take a small cut from credit card payments – 2.9 percent per transaction, to be exact (with a minimum of $0.30). If you’re paying from your bank account or directly from your Google Wallet balance, then you’re off the hook. Receiving payments is free. Dare say this will cause some concern for Treasury and enforcement bodies?

The feature will be rolling out to U.S. Gmail users in “the next few months.” In the meantime, you can preview the feature in Google’s video below.  Source: Gmail Blog, Google via Engadget.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JA8m0JOoNYQ

In the waiting... vehicle queue at Beitbridge

In the waiting… vehicle queue at Beitbridge

Scores of car importers were left stranded at Beitbridge Border Post on Wednesday after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority‘s (Zimra) vehicle clearance system went offline for eight hours.

Zimra introduced the ASYCUDA plus system for processing vehicle imports in March this year in a bid to ensure efficiency and reduce regular interface between the customs officers and its clients. Asycuda is (Automated System for Customs Data) is a more efficient and advanced system for customs data processing since it is internet based. Upon its introduction the system left little room for wheeling and dealing between Zimra employees and criminals.

However, connectivity has remained a major challenge at the Manica Bonded warehouse where vehicle imports are processed. When The Herald visited the bonded warehouse yesterday restless car importers were seen moving around the yard while others were making numerous inquiries from the Zimra help desk.

In separate interviews motorists advised the revenue authorities to consider having a back-up plan in case of the Asycuda system breakdown. He said it was worrying that the revenue authority had introduced the Asycuda system yet they had little capacity to sustain it.

It was the second time in a week that the Asycuda system went offline after operations came to a standstill on Friday last week. Prior to the introduction of Asycuda system, Zimra had been using a station based system which operated with very few technical glitches.

Figures from Zimra show that between 60 and 100 vehicle imports are processed at Manica per day and rise to 120 during peak times. Asycuda system is connected to the parastatal’s national grid which is accessible at any of its stations countrywide. Efforts to get a comment form Zimra spokesperson were fruitless. Source: The Herald (Zimbabwe)

e-Invoicing INTTRA

Rod Agona, Managing Director, Electronic Invoicing, INTTRA explains three reasons why it is time for ocean carriers and shippers to say goodbye to paper. This follows the recent announcement by IATA on the introduction of its eAWB initiative.

In a digital age where a delay of seconds or one human error can be the cause of lost revenue, wasted resources or unhappy customers, good technology becomes critical to run a business.

Twelve years after the ocean shipping industry adopted e-commerce tools that resulted in an average savings of $100,000 per year and hundreds of thousands of labor hours per week, the final step in the shipping process – invoicing and payment – are still catching up. Surprisingly, invoices are still largely processed by hand in the ocean shipping sector. Considered the most tedious and costly step in the shipping process, manual invoicing can take days to complete and is often riddled with disputes and errors. And the amount of time it takes to manage disputes is more than anyone is comfortable admitting – knowing each delayed payment impacts carrier cash flow and creates dissatisfied shipping customers.

With electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing), there is a potential 50-80 percent cost savings according to the E-Invoicing/E-Billing 2012 Report from the international e-billing firm, Billentis, and the payment process is significantly shortened with DSO (days sales outstanding) typically decreasing by up to 10 days. Error rates are also greatly reduced, and customer satisfaction increased.

Although e-Invoicing as a trend has picked up rapidly in government and commercial sectors in the past three years (growing at a rate of 20 percent last year, according to the Billentis report), many in the ocean shipping sector are just catching wind of the benefits. Popularity among players is expected to grow this year – both on the biller and payer sides. Three reasons for the industry’s recent e-Invoicing surge are:

1. Demand Is at a Record High

At least 81 percent of the world’s largest shippers are requesting electronic invoices from their carriers in 2013, says a 2012 global shipping study conducted by INTTRA, the world’s largest ocean shipping network. The demand to move away from paper invoicing has never been greater, with shippers claiming to be “ready now and actively seeking e-Invoicing from their business partners.”

2. Proven to Lower Costs and Speed Internal Operations

Shippers’ biggest complaints with paper invoicing are 1) managing disputes, 2) the time and costs required to process invoices, and 3) correcting invoice inaccuracies. e-Invoicing is proven to alleviate these concerns by streamlining the entire settlement process, improving accuracy, and reducing the costs and labor required to process manual invoices. Payers end up happier as a result, receiving faster and improved communications and lowering the true total cost of doing business. For carriers, e-Invoicing is proven to cut costs and improve cash flow and working capital – and investments are often gained back within six months.

Both shippers and carriers want a solution to better manage high-volume transactions. Imagine spending millions of dollars on a global SAP (or equivalent) rollout and still manually keying in a half-million invoices per year. There is a better way.

3. It May Soon Be Mandatory (if it isn’t already)

Shipping companies are trying to keep up with rapidly changing local and international trade regulations, and e-commerce shipping is the smart way to stay compliant. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have already made electronic invoicing mandatory for all business-to-government transactions. Most others in Europe, North America and Australia are increasingly adopting electronic invoicing due to its cost-saving benefits.

Companies that act today put themselves at a competitive advantage as they are able to put their savings back to work and redirect employees engaged in manual processing to higher value tasks.

Looking Forward – 2013 and Beyond

The tipping point for when a technology ‘best practice’ becomes a ‘must have’ is never clear-cut – until an industry struggles as much as ours has. Change is hard, but for an industry with few proven solutions to remove costs, e-Invoicing is a viable, must-have solution.

2013 is a critical year for the ocean shipping industry. It is expected to be a year of major change in the way carriers and shippers do business. Competition is growing fiercer, and the industry continues to consolidate. e-Invoicing is one way to cut costs and reallocate dollars to where they are needed most in today’s challenging environment. Source: Maritime-Executive.com

For information, visit http://www.inttra.com/e-invoicing.

NigerianCustoms-BadgeAs part of plans to consolidate on its modernisation efforts for eventual take-over from the service providers at the expiration of the extended contract by June 2013, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says it has developed a web-based application to provide information and guidance for international trade business processors in the areas of import, export and transit trade.

The portal is a non-restrictive online medium and an intuitive and interactive platform for classifying goods, a statement from the Customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi said yesterday. The portal was developed by the service’s technical partners, nominated officers as well as other stakeholders, it said.

Through the platform, trade processors are enabled to find exact Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes) required for related tariffs and duties. It is expected that the platform will enhance compliance by traders and avail them the required information on tariff, prohibited items as well as taxes/levies due for payment upon importation.

Adeniyi explained also that the application has been designed to boost trade facilitation by granting trade processors access to information from all related government agencies. “Guidelines and procedures for obtaining permits, licences and certificates of specified commodity and country of origin that a trade will require for business processing is available on the portal,”he said. He added that the portal further allows traders to convert currencies to exchange rates set by the Central Bank of Nigeria on a monthly basis, make payments and simulate tax. Source: The Daily Trust

ura-logo-fireworks-advertisingA goods-laden vehicle arrives at a Uganda border where a declaration is made for transit to another country. But after clearance by customs officials, it disappears before exiting and the goods are sold on the local market. This causes undue competition as such goods are often low priced. And if that status quo does not change, local industries are affected gradually. Although such practices have occurred in the past, the future is bright owing to the introduction of a system that can track the movement of goods and give real-time updates.

Costing $5.2m, the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) has been introduced by URA to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business. The government, World Bank and Trade Mark East Africa, a trade facilitation organization, have supported the project, which is expected to be ready for testing by the end of August, and be fully implemented by end of November. URA Commissioner General Allen Kagina and BSMART Technology boss Stephen Teang this week signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the plan. This was at the URA head office in Nakawa, Kampala.

Kagina, who referred to it as a “landmark initiative”, praised the fact that customs officers would have regular updates regarding merchandise. She also hailed the fact that the provider would train staff, giving them much-needed skills.

The system will facilitate trade through timely execution and cancellation of customs bond guarantees for cargo in transit, making the transit process faster, more efficient and secure. Furthermore, this will enhance trade facilitation and business competitiveness countrywide.

How it works – ECTS relies on a control centre and automatic devices. The devices are attached onto a truck and constantly give feedback to the team at the control centre. Among others, the feedback includes include location of a vehicle, speed and status of the container (truck tampered with or not). If the device gives information that is contrary to that declared earlier, for example, goods being dumped here instead of being exported, customs officials make a decision accordingly. The system will be pioneered on high-risk goods like sugar, wines and spirits, textiles, explosives, and cigarettes. Thereafter, it will be rolled out to other types of merchandise.

Advantages - The system enables parties like customs officials and transporters to receive fulltime and real-time updates. URA has over the years introduced initiatives such as One-Stop Border processes and 24-hour operations at the major entry/exit points but the business community has sometimes not realized the benefits due to the numerous unwarranted stopovers. ECTS makes this a thing of the past. Source: The Observer (Kampala)

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates' Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates‘ Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, reports Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates’ Geo Partner in South Africa. Unlike many other countries, South Africa was cushioned from the full impact of the world financial crisis thanks to the strict pre-existing credit controls it had in place. There were some knock on affects from close trading economies but over the last 15 months South Africa has enjoyed a growth economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) say this group will account for 61 per cent of global growth in three years time.

While South Africa’s economy (£506.91bn GDP) is dwarfed by those of the original BRIC constituents, the country is seen as the gateway to the continent of Africa, which as a whole has an equivalent sized economy ($2,763bn GDP), a population of one billion and rich resources. This has all made it a valued investment region for China in particular.

However, there are many cultural, logistical and geographical challenges the further one travels North from South Africa towards the Sahara. As an example, while there is 24,487 km of rail track in South Africa, there is just 259 km in Uganda; there are 92 mobile phones per 100 people in South Africa but just two per 100 in Eritrea. However, there is a great deal of raw potential, especially in countries such as Angola and Nigeria.

Participation in BRICS will drive a new competitiveness for South Africa and a key factor will be developing world-class supply chain management. Unlike in Europe, the US and Australia, few supply chain directors in South Africa sit on the board, which makes it harder for them to demonstrate how effective management of the supply chain can deliver competitive advantage. But this is likely to change as companies realise that they must align their supply chain and business strategies. If the recession failed to drive home the need for this, then the presence of Chinese companies in Africa will create significant pressure to do so.

This was an observation of the 2011 Supply Chain Foresight survey, conducted by Frost & Sullivan, which annually samples the opinions of South African supply chain executives. It found that while over three quarters of the respondents feel that the supply chain and business strategies of their companies are aligned, less than a third felt that the supply chain and logistics operations are fully optimised. Businesses are looking at how to optimise their distribution networks through building new facilities, streamlining existing processes or collaboration between trading partners. This has seen a lot of current activity surrounding warehouse management systems, forecasting, planning, replenishment and collaboration technologies, in particular.

Two thirds of respondents are considering investment in technology to enable collaboration with service providers. With the recession claiming many key suppliers the environment is changing from one where major companies squeeze suppliers on cost to one where they adopt a more collaborative approach. Cost reduction was the focus of the past recession, but now the objective is to satisfy customer expectations and to deliver value. Just over half of respondents to the Supply Chain Foresight survey cited customer service as the top supply chain objective. Reducing waste and improving efficiency in the supply chain are the perennial shorter term challenges with companies looking for better forecasting and planning tools to bring down inventory and shorten lean times. One interesting aspect of South African supply chain technology is the large number of in-house designed legacy systems, which is a consequence of the country’s isolation during the times of Apartheid. A propensity towards in-house designed systems remains today.

In terms of industry sectors, retail dominates but it remains firmly entrenched in the traditional channels. While some retailers have online retail websites, online and multi-channel is by no means a significant part of the current retail picture. Internet use is still quite low compared to other countries there are 4.42 million internet users in a population of 49 million and this figure is expected to remain low for some time yet. A further obstacle to the expansion of online sales is a high crime rate which leads to security issues in delivering goods to customers.

Wholesale distribution is quite small in size and complexity so the supply chain challenges tend not to be too complicated. There remain companies that feel they have been reasonably successful – being self-sufficient – and want to maintain that approach, along with a general tendency to look within, when it comes to benchmarking supply chains. However, a growing number of companies in South Africa recognise that there are other organizations across the globe doing similar things, but perhaps, a lot more efficiently.

Supply chain managers within these businesses are evolving a mindset focused on global best practice and the means of achieving it. These South African companies want to be best in their class. By building knowledge, benchmarking and improving against those benchmarks the win for this retailer is a supply chain that gives competitive advantage. As in other countries, companies looking to benefit from external expertise and a reduction in their capital costs will often outsource their logistics to third party logistics (3PL) operators. South Africa has numerous small local players and a handful of large lead logistics providers who tend to drive innovation. It is a small but highly competitive market. Logistics infrastructure and skills shortage in the supply chain continue to be huge issues in South Africa. The Supply Chain Foresight survey found that to deal with the skills shortage, in almost all areas companies either expose employees to new jobs through rotation, or development programs, or mentoring. These are generally in-house driven schemes. South Africa is an emerging market that is growing fast and offers a tremendous wealth of opportunities. In fact, the country has a great many successful businesses, and while many talk about becoming world class, many have already achieved it. Source: Supply Chain Junction