WCO Workshop on Inland Depots in Lao PDR

inland-port-7The World Customs Organization (WCO) organized a National Workshop on Inland Depots under the sponsorship of the Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF)/Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It was held from 20 to 22 September 2016 in Savannakhet Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Twenty six Customs officers from the Lao Customs Administration participated in the workshop, along with guest Customs experts from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Japan and JICA. Mr. Somphit Sengmanivong, Deputy Director General of the Lao Customs Administration, opened the workshop. He highlighted the importance of Inland Depots as a national strategy to secure his country’s economic growth and sought participants’ active participation in the discussions on this topic.

Presently, there is no clear definition of “Inland Depot” and many similar terms, such as Dry Port, Inland Terminal, Free Trade Zone and Special Economic Zones, are used in the international logistics. During the three-day workshop, participants discussed the functions and a possible definition of Inland Depot from a Customs perspective.

AmatiComment – Inland container terminals serve as important hubs or nodes for the distribution and consolidation of imported and export destined cargoes. There are 16 Landlocked countries in Africa, which signifies the importance of hinterland logistics development and its consequential impact on regional trade groupings. Consequentially, it behooves governments to understand and support the logistics supply chain industry in maximizing inland transportation (multi-modal) infrastructures to achieve a common and mutually beneficial economic environment. Furthermore, the more facilitative these arrangements, the better opportunity there is for success and longer-term economic sustainability.

The WCO Secretariat made presentations on international standards for relevant procedures, including Customs warehouses, free zones, Customs transit, inward processing, clearance for home use and temporary admission. Experts from The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Japan described their national and regional experience of Customs warehousing, and Customs transit procedures. The JICA expert presented the bonded procedures applied by neighbouring countries to Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Lao Customs administration explained their national system for Inland Depots and a logistics company of Lao PDR shared its expectations on inland depots.

On the last day, participants discussed the challenges and possible solutions to enhance the functional and efficiency of Lao’s Inland Depots. Possible solutions, such as the use of modern information technology, further cooperation with the private sector, clear regulations on relevant procedures, coordinated border management and international cooperation were considered. Source: WCO

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Competition Commission raids shipping companies suspected of collusion

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News 24 reports that the Competition Commission on Wednesday conducted a search and seizure operation at the premises of six cargo shipping companies operating in the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) on suspicion of collusion and rate fixing, the body said in a statement.

“The Commission has reasonable grounds to suspect that Hamburg Sud South Africa, Maersk South Africa, Safmarine, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Pacific International Line South Africa and CMA CGM Shipping Agencies South Africa have engaged in collusive practices,” the Commission said.

The companies’ practices aimed to among other things fix the incremental rates for the shipment of cargo from Asia to South Africa, which was in contravention of the Competition Act.

According to the Commission, the search and seizure operation is conducted as part of an ongoing investigation which was initiated by the Commission based on information from a member of the public.

The companies under investigation transport cargo for import and export purposes across the globe, including South Africa. They use large metal containers as packaging crates and in-transit warehouses to store and transport general cargo such as frozen foods, garments and footwear.

The customers of these companies are mainly clearing and freight forward agents.

“South Africa is a strategic hub for the trade of goods in and out of the Southern African region. Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation,” said Tembinkosi Bonakele, commissioner of the Competition Commission.

“Cartels of this nature increase the costs of trading in the region and render the region uncompetitive in the world markets. Such cartels have the effect of significantly derailing the economic growth of the region.”

Reuters reported that Maersk and MSC confirmed the raids and said they were cooperating with authorities. The other companies did not respond to Reuters’ requests for immediate comment.

“The fact that the SACC carries out such inspections does not mean that a company has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour,” Maersk said.

EU antitrust regulators in July accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines. Source: News24

IBM unlikely to meet Oz Customs and Immigration merger deadline – fear of system failure

ibmThe Australian Broadcast Company (ABC) has been told IBM looks increasingly unlikely to hit its October 31 deadline and there are growing fears in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that the risk of a system failure is rising, as the busy Christmas holidays loom and a long-running industrial dispute remains unresolved.

An IT failure could have serious national security implications as the mainframe will manage Australia’s border controls, including red flagging terror suspects attempting to enter or leave the country.

In response to a series of questions from the ABC, the department issued a statement saying: “This schedule remains under active review.”

“This is common to all major system changes in which the protection of operational capability and security protections remains the overarching priority,” the statement said.

The concerns about the enterprise-wide mainframe contract come in the wake of the high profile woes of another federal agency.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics was embarrassed by a census-night shutdown, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blamed on IBM.

The company is also currently embroiled in a Canadian payroll scandal, where tens of thousands of public servants have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

And that echoes the billion-dollar health payroll debacle in Queensland, after which the State Government banned its agencies from signing contracts with IBM.

Rand Corporation review of the merger between Immigration and Customs that said there was “an absence of a solid plan” for executing the integration.

Before Customs and Immigration merged in 2015, two companies had been delivering IT services — IBM for Customs; and CSC, another US information technology giant, for Immigration.

CSC lost the bid for the combined tender and was told in February that its contract would be terminated 20 months early, with the new finish date set at October 31, this year. That upped the ante on transferring enormous amounts of information between CSC-managed and IBM-managed data centres.

As that deadline approaches, fears have grown within the department that IBM is not ready and that the system might fail.

There have been meetings between IBM and officials as they war game solutions, which might include IBM hiring CSC’s workforce.

The total value through to 2019 of the mainframe contract is $509 million, and it is understood that the department does not have any more money to bolster the transition and is struggling to find the staff it needs within its own ranks to handle the change.

It is just one of many contracts IBM has with the Federal Government.

The department’s statement in response to the ABC’s questions also said it “has a robust risk management framework in place to address any potential risks that may arise from a large scale change to border systems”.

“IBM has had a long relationship with the former Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and has maintained a stable computing environment for critical border systems,” the statement said. Source: ABC

WCO addresses a “Ministerial Lekgotla” as an introduction to the CITES Conference in Johannesburg

kunio-addressing-cop17At the invitation of the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya addressed a “Ministerial Lekgotla” held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 23 September 2016 as an introduction to the CITES CoP 17 World Wildlife Conference.

During the high-level panel session, Secretary General Mikuriya focused on the role of Customs in facilitating legal trade and intercepting illegal trade in wildlife and on its link to CITES and Sustainable Development Goals.

He highlighted the WCO Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which had been adopted in 2014 and aimed at drawing the attention of policy makers to environmental crime and at raising the priority of Customs operations in this area.

He also referred to the INAMA project (started in 2014) for technical and capacity building assistance for Customs on risk management, collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and institution building to enhance integrity.  Cooperation with the transport industry was also part of the WCO efforts to improve compliance, as exemplified in the Royal Foundation Task Force Declaration on Transport, adopted earlier this year.

The presence in Johannesburg of high-level delegations also provided an opportunity for the Executive Heads of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to meet in order to further enhance the collaborative work with the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UNODC, the World Bank and the WCO.

Fianlly, Secretary General Mikuriya also had a series of bilateral meetings with key partners, including with Executive Director Erik Solheim of the United Nations Environment Programme. Source: WCO

BEPS Impact on Trade and Customs

Transcript of video
Todd Smith, principal in KPMG LLP’s Trade & Customs practice: We had over 350 people attend the webinar on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) from a Customs Perspective. I think the reason is because there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on how BEPS will impact customs.

I read all of the action items that the OECD published in October to identify where there would be crossover or an overlap on customs as it relates to BEPS. There clearly is going to be quite an impact.

For one thing, there is a lot of transparency that is being created overall by the BEPS initiatives, and customs auditors around the world are increasingly cooperating with the tax administrations around the world, so there will be a treasure trove of information for the customs auditors found within the Master File, the Local File and the CbC report, and just as tax administrators will use that information because of the information sharing, customs auditors will also use that information to identify targets for audits.

It will tell them, for example, where there is a related party transaction where they may not have had that information previously.

One of the big areas that we feel the customs function will be impacted by BEPS is where you have a situation where a company may need to convert a commissionaire to a buy-sell. When this happens, the importer of record could change, and more importantly the value that’s declared to customs under a commissionaire structure oftentimes is the third-party customer price. And when that entity converts to a buy-sell entity, the new buy-sell entity becomes the importer of record. It needs to achieve a margin, and the only way really to do that is to import that same product at a lower price.

And so the challenge is to convince the customs administration that the new price with the limited-risk distributor, for example, which is lower in its related party price, is still considered arm’s length, even though it’s less than the previous import value at the 3rd party customer price. Source: KPMG

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Streamlined export clearance ‘worth billions’

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A new customs program aimed at bringing Australia into line with other major trading nations could substantially cut costs when exporting to Asia.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) believes that the benefits to the Australian economy of this streamlined export process could be worth up to $1.5 billion for every one per cent increase in efficiency of transport and logistics supply chains.

The pilot for the Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) program launched this month will eventually allow accredited export businesses to gain streamlined customs and security clearance in countries that have a mutual recognition agreement with Australia.

Similar programs have already been adopted by more than 58 international jurisdictions – including China, India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea – since being introduced by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) in 2005.

Known generally as Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) schemes, they provide a framework of standards for trading partners in recognising each other’s customs and security regimes.

According to the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies (CCES) at Charles Stuart University, the goods of exporters who are accredited to the New Zealand AEO scheme are 3.5 times less likely to be inspected or held up on arrival in the US.

Professor David Widdowson, head of school at CCES, and a leading advocate and advisor on the introduction of the ATT, says that accreditation to an AEO is often an imperative for many international supply chains.

“When exporters send goods overseas and they get held up, there’s basically two ways that countries are dealing with them,” he said. “There those that come from a known secure supply chain – such those where a mutual AEO agreement is in place – and they’re treated as low-risk; and then there’s the rest, which are treated as high-risk.

“Without being part of an AEO or trusted trader agreement, Australian exporters are more often likely to fall into the latter category.

“In some jurisdictions it can be very difficult to be accepted onto an AEO scheme as an importer, so big multinationals often actively look for partners and suppliers who are already accredited to a scheme in their own country – and won’t deal with anyone who isn’t. They don’t want to run the risk of their non-accredited parts of their supply chain compromising their status on the scheme.

“So we can see how AEOs are actually now being used by commerce as a key indicator of the standard that business is looking for in terms of protecting their international supply chain.”

The aims of the ATT include expedited border clearance, reduced or priority inspections and priority access to trade services. The DIPB will also explore the possibilities for duty deferral and streamlined reporting arrangements.

Accredited trusted traders are to be assigned an account manager within the DIPB, as a single point of contact to assist with customs and export issues across all federal departments.

To apply to enter the program, Australian exporters and supply-chain businesses – including freight-forwarders, brokers and logistics firms – first need to obtain a self-assessment questionnaire from DIPB.

The information submitted by the business is then audited by the DIPB to ensure that the necessary security systems and procedures are in place, before accreditation can be given. There is no licence or application fee for the program, and Prof Widdowson expects the process to take “a few weeks if it’s a major company or it could be a few days if it’s a medium-sized company”.

The pilot phase will be completed in this current financial year, and only four companies will be taking part initially: Boeing Aerostructures Australia, Devondale Murray Goulburn, Mondelez Australia and Techwool Trading.

Teresa Conolan, assistant secretary of the Trusted Trader and Industry Branch at the DIPB, said more companies would be included in the pilot as it progresses.

“We’re hoping to have around 40 companies over the 12 months in the pilot, across a range of business sectors, so we can actually test the processes and make sure they are not too burdensome,” she said.

“Over four years we’re expecting around 1500 companies to join the scheme – so it’s certainly not going to cover all business.”

Conolan added that preliminary discussions with some countries were already underway, though negotiations on agreements were unlikely to begin until the ATT was fully launched next July.

She said Australia’s key trading partners would be the priority, but expected the negotiations and implementation of agreements with some of them to take a further year.

The rollout of the pilot program follows years of pressure from the Australian business community to embrace AEO, after initial reluctance by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS).

Following an article by The Australian Financial Review on March 20, 2013, which flagged Australia’s non-participation, business leaders sponsored a research study, undertaken by the CCES, which found that the scheme could be highly beneficial. Business groups began to lobby the federal government, by which time the ACBPS had reversed its attitude and agreed to consider implementing an Australian scheme.

For more information on the Australian Trusted Trader scheme, visit – trustedtraders@borders.gov.au

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High Aspirations for planned Tambo Springs Intermodal Hub

containersThe following was penned by a long-time customs acquaintance Aires Nunes da Costa, who has kindly permitted me to post his article titled “Why unpack containers in Durban if you can have containers at your door step in Gauteng within 24 hours?” which first appeared on LinkedIN.

The Tambo Springs initiative involves creating a significantly improved intermodal capability for the movement of freight to and from Gauteng. This is to be achieved by the operational twinning of the inland port with other seaport, inland and cross border locations. The connectivity i.r.o. these twinned locations is achieved via sea, rail, road and air linkages, ideally involving seamless movement of freight between modes.

The Tambo Springs development incorporates a next generation inland port with a state of the art rail terminal facility designed to be developed in phases, with an ultimate capacity of 1 m TEU’S p.a., as well as, a sprinter freight land bridge.

The key elements are as follows:-

Direct Traditional Rail Link to Durban Harbour

The Tambo Springs Terminal will be linked to the Durban Container Terminal which currently handles the bulk of all container freight moving in and out of Gauteng, via an efficient rail service. The fixed rail infrastructure for this link already exists to the Tambo Springs site. This state of the art Terminal facility is designed to significantly increase the rail capacity for container freight to/from Gauteng, while simultaneously reducing real costs and significantly improving levels of service via:

  • a new technology “greenfields” terminal being more efficient;
  • a reduction of congestion issues in and out of the new inland port due to its location;
    improved efficiency of port operations;
  • having the facility serviced by improved rolling stock commissioned by Transnet;
    Sprinter Freight Rail Link to Ngqura Harbour In the Coega IDZ (Port Elizabeth)

In addition to the direct rail link with Durban harbour, the initial phase of this programme involves the twinning of the Coega IDZ and its adjoining Deep Water Container Terminal at the Port of Ngqura with Tambo Springs. This is to be undertaken by means of a Public Private Partnership type structure which utilizes the Transnet capability between the two locations as well as the participation of SARS.

The service level to be achieved for the movement of the freight via this land bridge has a goal of “24 hours” as opposed to the current 3 to 5 days service level achieved at City Deep. This is to be achieved by capitalizing on the creation of high efficiency intermodal activities integrated with the port functions and feeder network.

Truck Freight Movement

The Tambo Springs Inland Port will function as a multimodal logistics gateway serving the Gauteng Catchment area. It therefore provides ease of movement between individual transportation modes in addition to facilitating manufacturing, warehousing and distribution activities.

The operational plan is therefore designed to accommodate long distance (FTL) truck traffic in addition to regional (LTL) freight movement.

The principle truck markets the inland port will attract include:

  • FTL long distance movement of time sensitive freight from other ports or metropolitan areas. This includes both cross docking and stuffing/de-stuffing facilities within the inland port;
  • Rail/truck (intermodal) movement where product utilizing the rail links is transferred to truck in order to each its final destination;
  • LTL truck and Van short distance movement of freight, including a regional metropolitan distribution function.

The next generation inland port therefore capitalizes both on rail and road transportation modes with a focus on increased movement of long distance freight by sprinter rail.

Intermodal Movement

In order to achieve seamless intermodal movement of freight between sea, rail, road and air transport, it is essential to link Tambo Springs with other inland port and hub locations. The creation of such a twinned Inland Port Network provides a means to effectively participate in the Global Supply Chain in a manner which optimizes both existing and new facilities to enhance capacity. Hence, for example, Tambo Springs would be linked to City Deep via rail and road linkages and to other hub locations in Gauteng and elsewhere.

A principle element of this approach is to create an efficient transportation service between all the individual entry/exit ports providing an improved level of service over and above that provided by a traditional network. The key to this is to rethink existing processes with a focus on efficiency savings in terms of the inbound and outbound process flow at Tambo Springs. This has been incorporated into the operational concept and addresses both operational and customs and regulatory efficiency issues as part of the supply chain. Source: Aires Nunes da Costa (Customs & Excise Specialist)

Fraud Issues Faced by Customs Brokers

accourt-risk-fraud-managementSenior Claims Executive at the TT Club in Sydney, Kate Hollis, sheds some light on the risks faced by licenced customs brokers and mitigation steps to take:

“As the international trade regulatory landscape continues to change and the commercial environment becomes increasingly competitive, the balancing act for forwarders and customs brokers between providing services to clients and complying with obligations to customs becomes more complicated.

“Customs brokers assume responsibility for acting correctly between cargo interests and customs. As a result, there is the potential to provide advice to customers or carry out actions that result in the cargo interest suffering financial loss, for which you can be alleged to have been negligent. Closely related to the liability exposure of your customer is the potential for customs to levy fines or penalties through infringement notices.

“Identity fraud is perhaps a less obvious area of risk. In some cases authorities find that brokers have committed an offence where checks on the identity of clients have not been performed and that simple verification of the identity would have alerted the broker to the fraud. Consistent with previous advice, we recommend dealing with your clients directly (rather than through an intermediary) and always perform your own background checks, both in regard to the entity itself as well as the statements being made to customs.

“One recent incident saw rice wine being imported into Australia from Korea, but it was declared as apple cider vinegar. This directly resulted in extra costs for handling the container and for storage costs under the customs bond. Following the inspection, duty was charged at the rate for rice wine – not cider – which the freight forwarder pre-paid on behalf of the importer. It proved impossible to reclaim the duty and additional costs because it transpired that the consignee company no longer existed. There have also been cases of people fabricating an identity in an attempt to import goods without paying the full amount of duty. When the companies were not successful, they simply disappeared.

“Customs brokers also need to be aware of the risk of identity theft. While the variety of scams is broad, TT Club has identified three areas that require particular attention for Customs Brokers:

  1. Piggybacking – where an unscrupulous entity uses the identifying details of a legitimate entity on a Cargo Report or Import Declaration, generally with the aim of importing consignments containing illicit substances or smuggled goods.
  2. User access security – the nature of access to customs entry systems and digital certificates means that individual login details need to be carefully guarded to avoid misuse and illegal activity.
  3. Mandate fraud – where fraudulent diversion of payments occurs. It is primarily the responsibility of the party making a payment to ensure that the bank details are correct.

“Customs Brokers should be aware that their licence might be at risk in a situation where the authorities consider that the broker has intentionally or recklessly facilitated a fraud. Such situations can also lead to fines being imposed on the Customs Broker as an individual, as well as actions against the forwarding business as a company.

“Mitigation of these risks is possible. In the first instance, it is important to review your own internal processes and systems. Recognise that the risk exposures are business critical and implement robust technology systems and standard operating procedures accordingly, particularly considering access rights and controls.

“Secondly, ensure that well drafted standard trading conditions are properly incorporated into your interactions with all clients. Many national trade associations provide ideal models You should seek legal advice to ensure that contracts are appropriate for your specific business. A third obvious mitigation is to purchase adequate and appropriate insurance. You should discuss this with your broker to ensure that your specific needs are properly covered.” Source: TT Club