A companion guide in support of increased compliance in the reporting of goods and conveyances (RCG) to Customs, South Africa.
Necessary information for – Air, Sea and Road carriers, vessel’s agents, NVOCCs, freight forwarders, Air and Sea terminal operators, container depot operators, transit shed operators and de-grouping depots. Also, all private software service providers to the trade.
The guide offers easy navigation through –
registration and electronic trading with SARS Customs
the various electronic messages mandated by law, covering import and export movements, across all modes of permissible international transportation
message types for each transaction type
scenarios to facilitate easier understanding across operators in the supply chain on how the various electronic reports are sequenced, ensuring that Customs formulates a comprehensive end-2-end view of a international trade transaction
reference webpages, official notifications, Customs rules and other pertinent information concerning cargo reporting.
All information is hyperlinked to SARS documentation, found on the official SARS website www.sars.gov.za
To mark International Customs Day 2020 – focusing on the theme of ‘fostering Sustainability for People, Prosperity and the Planet’, the following article from the Spring 2018 edition of World Trade Matters by Jan Hoffmann, the Chief of the Trade Logistics Branch, Division on Technology and Logistics at UNCTAD, is relevant. The article discusses global trade facilitation reforms, the digitalisation of trade and measures towards ensuring long-term sustainability in the maritime industry.
Confronted with growing populism and a surge in protectionist measures recorded by the WTO, policy makers and enterprises are struggling to avoid a backlash in international trade. At UNCTAD’s Trade Logistics Branch, we support these endeavours by helping to make trade work better. Through trade facilitation reforms, the promotion of digitalisation, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of international transport, we aim at ensuring that the international movement of goods is not confronted with unnecessary obstacles and costs.
A multilateral agreement to facilitate international trade
Under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), developing countries commit to implement a number of very practical measures that make trade easier and more transparent. Countries are obliged to publish duties and procedures on the web, traders can transmit their declarations prior to the arrival of the goods, payments can be made electronically, and fees and charges must not become hidden taxes to generate income for the government. These are but some of the 37 concrete measures grouped into 12 Articles of the TFA. They are all useful and help make trade more efficient.
However, many of these measures involve an initial investment or reforms that require human and financial resources to start with, which developing countries many not have. The good news is that the TFA also includes a novel mechanism – the so called “Special and Differential Treatment” – that helps developing countries plan and acquire the necessary capacity prior to being fully committed to comply with all 12 Articles. Concretely, the mechanism puts the developing countries in the position – and obligation – to analyse and notify their own implementation capacity. At UNCTAD, we are working closely with the developing countries to enable them to do so. Our main counterpart in this endeavour are the National Trade Facilitation Committees (NTFCs) that each country must set up under the TFA. UNCTAD’s Empowerment Programme for NTFCs includes training and knowledge development for the members of the NTFC, combined with advisory services and the development of a Roadmap of TFA implementation.
By the same token, UNCTAD also supports developing countries in setting up Trade Information Portals. Under the TFA, members of the WTO are obliged to make relevant information on tariffs and trade procedures available on-line. UNCTAD’s Trade Information Portals not only help countries become compliant with this obligation, but in the process of analysing and publishing applicable trade procedures, a Trade Information Portal effectively helps countries identify the potential for the further simplification of procedures. Thanks to these new insights, NTFCs can then develop programmes and reforms that subsequently ensure the further simplification of procedures.
Technological progress will never be as slow as today
My favourite provision of the TFA is Article 10.1., as it provides for a dynamic dimension of the Agreement. According to this article, countries need to minimize “the incidence and complexity of import, export, and transit formalities”, continuously “review” requirements, keep “reducing the time and cost of compliance for traders and operators”, and always choose “the least trade restrictive measure”. As such, even if a country is compliant with all TFA provisions today, countries will need to continue monitoring if existing procedures are still appropriate in view of technological or regulatory developments.
As trade becomes increasingly digitalised, and new technologies which do not yet exist will be developed, it will be important that governments continuously revise and review the applicable rules and regulations.
Digitalisation comes in stages. First, we optimize existing procedures, making use of cargo tracking, the Internet of Things, blockchain et al. Second, new businesses are developed which could not exist without the new technologies; new platforms come into being and we see more “uberisation”. Finally, there is transformation and science fiction; still in our lifetime Artificial Intelligence will overtake human capabilities to manage international trade and its logistics.
But let us take one step at a time. At UNCTAD, we support developing countries through eTrade readiness assessments, the development and upgrade of technological solutions in Customs automation and Single Windows, and by providing a Forum for our members to analyse and discuss the challenges that come with digitalisation. We encourage the development of global standards that allow for interoperability among new systems. The challenge for policy makers it to encourage private sector investments in new technologies and solutions, while ensuring that no new monopolies emerge that might exclude smaller players.
And it has to be sustainable
While we aim at ensuring continued growth in international trade, there is a catch. The transport of this trade encompasses increasing externalities, such as pollution, green-house-gas emissions, and congestion.
Ports need to minimise social and environmental externalities. Many port cities are among the most polluted places to live, as ships burn heavy oil, and delivering trucks produce noise and cause traffic congestions. In addition, ports need to be resilient in the face of disruptions and damages caused by natural disasters and climate change impacts.
International transport, including shipping, needs to play a larger role in addressing global warming and contribute to mitigating the carbon emissions that are causing climate change. Shipping emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) per ton-mile than other modes of transport, but then due to its sheer volume it also produces many ton-miles. Would it be possible that the industry could be charged by its main regulatory body not per ship tonnage (as is currently the case), but per tonne of CO2 emission?
Currently, the International Maritime Organization is funded proportional to the tonnage registered under the members’ flags. Like this, Panama, Marshall Islands and Liberia pay for the largest share of the IMO budget – and in the end, this is passed on to the ship-owner, who in turn passes this on to the shipper, who will charge the consumer. This is a good established mechanism that could be expanded to also internalize the external costs of CO2 emissions.
Being the most globalized of all businesses, maritime transport should consider adopting a global regime that helps further internalize its environmental externalities – to ensure prosperity for all.
It is all about efficiency
Investing in trade facilitation reforms, making intelligent use of the latest technologies, and ensuring that externalities are internalized are all several sides of the same coin. Trade efficiency is necessary to promote an open international trading system. It requires a continuous effort by policy makers to continuously review current procedures, apply the most appropriate technological solutions, and support an efficient allocation of scarce resources.
Source: Jan Hoffman, UNCTAD – originally published in World Trade Matters, Spring Edition, 2018
In August of 2019, both the United States and Thailand announced their plans to test blockchain applications for tracking and managing shipments. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is planning to test a blockchain application against their current system to determine how distributed ledger technology (DLT) can improve its existing processes. Thailand, on the other hand, plans to use IBM’s blockchain-based logistics platform Tradelens to improve customs processes such as data sharing.
Originally developed in a joint venture between IBM and logistics giant Maersk, Tradelens seeks to streamline processes in the global shipping industry by making the flow of information occur in real-time. The blockchain platform is reported to currently process about half of the world’s shipping data.
These moves highlight countries’ increasing interest in employing blockchain technology in their customs and border operations. The Tradelens website says its ecosystem comprises over 100 different organizations including carriers, ports, terminal operators, third-party logistics firms, and freight forwarders. More specifically, a map on the Tradelens website suggests that about 60 ports and terminals worldwide are directly integrated with TradeLens.
Elsewhere, the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD), which develops policies and operational systems for the European Customs Union, explored the applicability of blockchain in customs and taxation with a focus on utilizing blockchain as a notarization service.
The Union is looking into using blockchain to digitize ATA Carnet, an international customs document used in 87 countries for temporarily admitting goods duty-free. A pilot project conducted in collaboration with the International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation (ICC WCF), was successfully tested in 2018.
The ICC WCF, a body of the ICC that helps facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships between ICC members, has been working with different customs authorities to develop solutions for converting ATA Carnets into electronic documents.
About 80 countries around the world have developed authorized economic operator (AEO) programs and signed a mutual recognition agreement (MRA), all in an effort to streamline cargo security. Under such arrangements, individual countries identify and approve trustworthy logistics operators that pose a low risk in security and share the approval information with participating countries.
This allows countries to piggyback on the security checks of other countries to make customs operations more efficient. However, a few problems have arisen with the program.
There are information leakage risks associated with the conventional way of sharing AEO data by email. While a sender’s email server may be encrypted, there is no guarantee that the receiver’s is as well, and vice versa.
Data sharing is not real-time, but monthly or at an agreed-upon interval. This limits the speed at which information on new or suspended AEOs can reach all participants.
To avoid the aforementioned problems as well as achieve additional time and cost savings on security procedures, customs administrations in Mexico, Peru and Costa Rica are working with the Inter-American Development Bank to develop a blockchain application called Cadena.
The move by governments around the world to employ blockchain to improve cross-border trade marks a step toward paperless customs processes, which originally began with the digitization of information flows by making trade-related data and documents available and exchangeable electronically. For all the improvements they’ve brought to paper-heavy processes, traditional electronic data exchange systems still face the challenges of authenticity and the unavailability of real-time data exchange.
For instance, the Netherlands and China launched a five-year project in 2010 to test the applicability of electronic sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) certificates. A World Economic Forum white paper titled “Paperless Trading: How Does It Impact the Trade System?” noted that concerns around the authenticity of the electronic documents arose. This necessitated the adoption of electronic signature systems and a whole new legal framework that recognized the electronic signature.
Still, the entire process requires longer procedures and the introduction of new types of intermediaries — e-signature providers, for instance. Moreover, low-income countries, the trade costs of which remain high compared to high-income countries as according to World Bank data, may not have the budget to implement several new systems for data and document digitization. They still need to invest in better customs infrastructure.
Blockchain, on the other hand, if implemented in border protection, will ensure real-time availability and immutability of customs documents while saving considerable costs on excessive paperwork.
As unrecognisable as the building is, the same can be said for the world of Customs today. Few contemplated a ‘Customs’ parallel at the time; but, when the Department of Homeland Security was launched, the emergence of US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) ushered in a new way of doing business. The world of Customs was literally ‘turned on its head’. Bilateral overtures seeking agreements on ‘container security’, ‘port security’ as well as an industry focussed ‘Customs and Trade Partnership Against Terrorism’ (C-TPAT) forced the World Customs Organisation (WCO) into swift action. After years of deliberation and negotiation several guidelines were released, later to be packaged as the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards. It seemed that the recent Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) on simplification and harmonisation of Customs procedures was already ‘dated’. Customs as a proud solo entity was gone for ever, as country after country seemed compelled to address border security through wholesale transformation and upheaval of their border frontier policies and structures. Thus was born ‘border security’ and ‘cooperative border management’. In a manner of speaking, 9/11 put Customs onto the global map. Along with WCO developments, the tech industries brought about several innovations for risk management and other streamlined and efficient service offerings. Prior to 9/11, only the wealthy countries could afford non-intrusive inspection capabilities. One key aspect of the SAFE Framework’s was to include a pillar on Capacity Building. Through this, the WCO and business partners are able to offer tailor-made assistance to developing countries, to uplift their Customs and border capabilities. In particular, countries in Africa now are now in a position to consider ‘automated’ capabilities in the area of Customs-2-Customs information exchange as well as establishment of national Preferred Trader and Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) schemes. At the same time a parallel industry of ‘Customs Experts’ is being developed in conjunction with the private sector. The end result is the availability of ‘standards’, ‘policies’ and ‘guidelines’ fit for Customs and Border operations, focussed on eliminating incompatibilities and barriers to trade. Where these exist, they are largely attributed to poor interpretation and application of these principles. With closer cooperation amongst various border authorities still a challenge for many countries, there are no doubt remedies available to address these needs. In gratitude, let us remember the thousands of public servants and civilians who lost their lives that we can benefit today.
Nigerian importers operating in all ports in Lagos are facing a tough time in clearing their consignments via the new Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) clearing platform, created to facilitate trade.
The new IT platform introduced to aid smooth clearance of cargo at the various port terminals has been given the Service sleepless nights before it was further wrecked by windstorm few days ago.
The platform, called Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NCIS)II is an improvement on earlier automation processes such as Automate System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), ASYCUDA 2.3, ASYCUDA 2.7,ASYCUDA ++, and NICIS I, which is a software specially created to enhance seamless cargo clearance.
Under ASYCUDA, agents could only make five declarations in one hour, but under the NICIS II, they can make up to 18 declarations within an hour.
Also, under NICIS I, customs agents could view what other control agencies such as National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) are doing with their declarations. Similarly, they could actually interact with these agencies under NICIS II.
The new software had earlier been launched at Lilypond Terminal, Port and Terminal Multi-services Limited (PTML) and Tin Can Customs Commands.
However its failure has affected cargo clearance at the ports in Lagos, Tin Can Island, and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) twice this month during a heavy downpour.
The disruption was more pronounced at Lagos Port, which handles the largest imports just two weeks when it migrated to the new platform after its trial at Lilypond, PTML and Tin Can commands.
Speaking on the challenges, the Assistant Comptroller of Customs in charge of Customs Processing Centre (CPC), Apapa command, Yahaya Muktar highlighted some of the challenges the command had faced since the NCIS II took off two weeks ago, namely –
that the migration from ASYCUDA system to NCIS II platform had caused a little disruption in revenue generation, however he said that the command had caught up on what was initially lost to the mixed up; and
that the recent windstorm also contributed to the teething problems experienced at the command.
He explained that the service had not been able to access any work because of the server failure.
For the first week, there was no revenue collected. In the second week, when NCS got acclimatised to it, NCS collected N4.3 billon in a day which has now made up for the three days where no revenue was collected.
At the moment, the Lagos Port had only one scanning machine and that this was not adequate for the backlog of pending containers to be cleared. It was also confirmed that scanners were not working in some port terminals (Tin Can).
Requests for inspection were not being triggered properly resulting inspections not being completed.
Issues are also being experienced with debit notes resulting in importers being billed twice.
Many users were reluctant about using the new IT platform in the light of all the difficulties.
The challenges experienced range from network to various hardware and software technical issues. The NCS’s technical partner, Webb Fontaine is working with the implementation team to ensure normal resumption of customs processing for trade.
The Korea Customs Service (KCS) has developed a customs clearing system powered by blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to prevent fraud and smuggling in South Korea and is enlisting importers and exporters to try out the new system.
The initiative is a response to a huge import/export and e-commerce boom in the country. The commissioner of the Korea Customs Service (KCS) Kim Yung-moon said back in March: “Adopting new technologies to respond to the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is an overriding agenda for us as trade form is becoming more complicated.”
The blockchain-based customs clearance platform has enlisted five groups and over 50 exporters as well as five working groups and ten Singapore- and Vietnam-based importers for the test-run.
Improving Certificates of Origin
According to KCS, the volume of trade transactions involving imports and exports in South Korea grew eight-fold from 3 million to 27 million from 1990 to 2017. The new volumes call for improved efficiency in customs clearing. The new blockchain-based data analysis center is expected to increase accuracy and timeliness as well as helping to identify contraband and improve the issuance of Certificates of Origin (CO). A Certificate of Origin is a standard requirement in the shipping industry that contains information about a product’s country of origin and destination and helps to determine the product’s categorization for import tariffs.
The system will use X-rays powered by artificial intelligence to screen and examine high-risk items. It will use blockchain technology to run information networks to connect nodes on the supply chain and to share real-time information that will help in preventing cross-border fraud.
Should everything go according to plan, the Korea Customs Service (KCS) will eventually apply the technology to all its other services. The outcomes of the test will be laid bare this coming Tuesday at Seoul’s central customs office.
This Friday, 20 April 2018, SARS Customs will implement its new Cargo, Conveyance and Goods Accounting solution – otherwise known as the Cargo Processing System (CPS). In recent years SARS has introduced several e-initiatives to bolster cargo reporting in support its electronic Customs Clearance Processing System (iCBS), introduced in August 2013.
Followers of SARS’ New Customs Acts Programme (NCAP) will recognise that the CPS forms part of one of the three core pillars of the new legislative programme, better known as Reporting of Conveyances and Goods (RCG). The other two pillars are, Registration, Licensing and Accreditation (RLA) and Declaration Processing (DPR). More about these in future articles. In order to expedite the implementation of the new Acts, SARS deemed it necessary to introduce elements of the new functionality via a transitional manner under the current Customs and Excise (1964) Act.
Proper revenue accounting and goods statistical reporting, can only be adequately achieved if Customs knows what goods ‘actually’ arrive, transit and exit it’s borders. Many countries, since the era of heightened security (post 9/11), have invested heavily in the re-engineering of policies and systems to address the threat of terrorism. This lead to a re-focus of resources and energies to develop risk management systems based on ‘advanced information’. SARS has invested significantly in automated systems in the last decade. Shortly, SARS it will also introduce a new automated risk engine with enhanced capabilities to include post clearance audit activities.
It should also not come as a surprise to anyone conversant with Customs practice, that international Customs standards such as the WCO’s SAFE Framework of Standards, the RKC and the Data Model are prevalent in the new Customs legal dispensation and its operational business systems.
South Africa will now follow several of its trading partners with the introduction of ‘advance reporting of containerised cargo’ destined for South African sea ports. This reporting requires carriers and forwarders to submit ‘advance loading notices’ to SARS Customs at both master and house bill of lading levels, 24 hours prior to vessel departure.
The implementation of CPS is significant in terms of its scope. It comprises some 30 odd electronic cargo notices and reports across the sea, air, rail and road modalities. These reports form the ‘pipeline’ of information deemed necessary to ensure that the ‘chain of custody’ is visible and secure from point of departure to final destination. For the first time, South Africa will also require cargo reporting in the export domain.
It is no understatement that the CPS initiative is a challenge in particular to new supply chain entities who have not been required in the past to submit electronic reports. In order to meet these reporting requirements, a significant investment in systems development and training is required on the part of SARS and external trade participants. To this end, SARS intends to focus on ramping up compliance amongst all cargo reporters across all transport modalities. The first modality will be road, which is the most significantly developed and supported modality by trade since the inception of manifest reporting under the Customs Modernisation Programme. The remaining transport modalities will receive attention once road is stabilised.
The WCO Policy Commission (PC) has seized the momentum garnered in the domain of electronic commerce and has unanimously adopted the Luxor Resolution at its meeting held this week from 4 to 6 December 2017 in the Egyptian city which gives its name to the Resolution.
The Resolution, developed in close collaboration with all stakeholders, outlines the guiding principles for cross-border E-Commerce addressing eight critical aspects, notably Advance Electronic Data and Risk Management; Facilitation and Simplification; Safety and Security; Revenue Collection; Measurement and Analysis; Partnerships; Public Awareness, Outreach and Capacity Building; and Legislative Frameworks.
The Resolution is aimed at helping Customs and other government agencies, businesses, and other stakeholders in the cross-border E-Commerce supply chain to understand, coordinate and better respond to the current and emerging challenges.
Additionally, and taking into consideration the relevance of the topic and the need to better position the work of the WCO and coordinate ongoing efforts, the PC has also issued a Communiqué to the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11), the Organization’s highest decision-making body, attended by trade ministers and other senior officials from the WTO’s 164 Members, that will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 10 to 13 December 2017.
The Communiqué strongly reaffirms the WCO’s leadership in providing policy and operational frameworks for the effective management of cross-border E-Commerce from both a facilitation and a control perspective, and clearly demonstrates its strong commitment to supporting the WTO’s Work Programme on E-Commerce, moving forward. Source: WCO
Growing electronic commerce (E-Commerce) has provided unparalleled opportunities for and has become a game changer in the international trade arena. It has revolutionized the way businesses and consumers are selling and buying goods with wider choices, advanced shipping, payment, and delivery options. At the same time, E-Commerce, in particular Business to Consumer and Consumer to Consumer (B2C and C2C) transactions, is presenting several challenges to governments and businesses alike.
The WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC) together with its four Sub-Groups is steadily progressing with the four identified work packages, namely Trade Facilitation and Simplification of Procedures, Safety and Security, Revenue Collection, and Measurement and Analysis with a view to develop recommendations/guidelines on cross-border E-Commerce from a wider facilitation, security or revenue perspective, to collect and disseminate good practices/initiatives, and to enhance/update related WCO instruments and tools.
Given the current focus of the WCO Members and the private sector on this topic, the 215th/216th Sessions of the Permanent Technical Committee (PTC) held a whole day dedicated session on E-Commerce on 5 April 2017. During the ‘E-Commerce Day’, the delegates were provided an update with the work done thus far, as well as, the envisaged work by the four Sub-Groups on respective work packages. A number of valuable suggestions were provided by delegates from policy, business process, and operational perspectives to further enhance the WCO E-Commerce Work Programme with tangible and practical deliverables for providing a concerted and effective response to this growing channel of trade.
In addition, four thematic workshops relating to different dimensions of E-Commerce were organized by the Sub-Groups’ Co-Leads together with other partners. Through these workshops, some interesting facets of e-commerce were explored in detail and a number of interim recommendations were made concerning facilitation, risk management, safety and security, revenue collection, and associated capacity building through enhancement partnerships with all e-commerce stakeholders and augmented public awareness and outreach programmes.
In the course of the panel sessions, a number of collaboration success stories were identified, and they will be captured more formally and shared with interested parties, through the WCO webcorner.
The WGEC Sub-Groups will continue carrying out further work and a consolidated set of interim recommendations will be presented to the July 2017 Sessions of the WCO Policy Commission and Council. Source: WCO
Predictably, the first edition of WCO News 2017 provides a spectrum of insight on this year’s Customs theme – “Data Analysis”. Here’s a preview:
Data analysis: seizing opportunities for effective border management – By Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General, World Customs Organisation.
Data analysis for effective border management – the Canadian experience By Charles Slowey, Director General, Global Border Management and Data Analytics, Canada Border Services Agency.
Border management modernization in New Zealand forges ahead – By Murray Young, Chief Information Officer, New Zealand Customs Service.
Mirror analysis, a risk analysis support tool for Customs administrations – By Roger-Claver Victorien Gnogoue, Financial Services Director, Côte d’Ivoire Customs
Data analysis in risk management: Singapore Customs’ perspective – By Singapore Customs
API-PNR: an overview of the French system and the challenges faced – By Christophe Hypolite, PNR Mission, France
Developing data analyst skills: how the WCO contributes to expanding this specialized area of work By Tsendsuren Davaa, Ph.D., Professional Associate, Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, WCO
Cognitive computing for Customs agencies: improving compliance and facilitation by enabling Customs officers to make better decisions – By Stewart Jeacocke, Global Customs Expert, IBM, and Norbert Kouwenhoven, EU Customs Leader, IBM European Union Team
Nice to also see a contribution from one of SARS’ own titled “Customs and the environment: bringing about a better future for all” – By Roux Raath, Environmental Programme Manager, WCO. You can access and download the magazine by clicking here!
As national Customs administrations and border agencies celebrate International Customs Day, no doubt showcasing their recent ICT endeavours, it is good to reflect not only on the available standards and tools which are becoming more available to Customs and Border Management Agencies.
The WCO spearheads and supports several initiatives aimed at fostering increased coperation and collaboration between member states under the banner of ‘Digital Customs’. In the post security era, throught is capacity building arm, the WCO champions global development of its Digital Customs concept and strategy. The WCO’s work programme in this regard covers a broad area of focus, for example:
to support the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,
the updating of related WCO instruments and tools,
ongoing promotion and maintainance of the WCO Data Model,
monitoring of new and emerging technological developments (3D printing, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Drones and Blockchain),
promotion of e-services and apps,
exchange of information between stakeholders nationally and accross borders, and
promotion of the Single Window concept.
For most customs and border administrators, they have somewhere heard of, or to some extent are aware of the ‘buzz words’. The various chapters of the WCO through the working groups provide up-to-date developments in all facets on developments in the modern Customs operating and global trade environment. These are ably supported by several internal business organisations and umbrella associations adding credence to the developmental work and ultimately the standards, policies and guidelines published by the WCO.
In this modern era of uncertainty – global political and socio-economic risks – International Customs Day should be a combined celebration not only for Customs, but moreover, the associated supply chain industries and business intermediaries. If there was no trade in goods there would be no Customs or WCO. Without the providers of ‘big data’ there would be no need for data analysis. Without illicit activities there would be no need for expensive enforcement technology and equipment and the application of risk management.
Thanks to an imperfect and unequal world the WCO, through its association with the world’s customs authorities, big business and ICT service providers is able to develop a Digital Customs Maturity Model, which provides a road map for administrations from the least to most developed (mature rather). The pace and extent of maturity is undoubtedly determined by a country’s discipline and agility based on a clear strategy with the support and commitment of government and allied industries.Happy Customs Day!
The WCO Policy Commission, held in Moscow, Russian Federation, from 5 to 7 December 2016 under the chairmanship of Mr. R. Davydov, brought to the fore the key role of Customs in creating a sustainable and efficient e-commerce ecosystem, reviving-up the exchange of data between stakeholders and enhancing risk-management through electronic interface. The other main topics discussed during the Commission pertained to trade facilitation, security, the enhancement of the Customs/Tax cooperation and the modernization of Customs administrations.
The newly established WCO Working Group on E-Commerce will work to tackle the different dimensions of e-commerce by collecting and exchanging best practices in the field, stocktaking and leveraging some of the ongoing work being carried out by other entities and drawing up proposals geared towards the development of practical solutions for the clearance of e-commerce shipments, including appropriate duty/tax collection mechanisms and control procedures.
Concerning the in-depth discussions on Custom /Tax cooperation, the WCO issued this year “Guidelines for strengthening cooperation and the exchange of information between Customs and Tax authorities at the national level” and will continue working on topics of common interest for Customs and Tax experts such as transfer pricing, drawback and Illicit Financial Flows (IFF).
During the Commission, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, confirmed the WCO Theme for 2017 “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management” and stressed the impact of the digital revolution and the need to address promptly the challenges posed to the global economy. The Secretary General invited all the WCO Members to promote and share information in the coming months on how they are leveraging the potential of data to advance and achieve their objectives and respond to the expectations of traders, transport and logistic operators, and governments.
As data analysis will be emphasized in 2017 as a force multiplier for Customs administrations, it is relevant to highlight that the WCO is carrying out a Study to collect best practices among its members to assess and promote initiatives in the area of e-commerce. A previous analysis of preliminary data underscored the need for digitalization of processes, better sharing of information between e-commerce stakeholders and customs for improved risk management and the necessity for harmonization in the low-value shipment processes. Source: WCO
The Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, announced today that 2017 will be dedicated to promoting data analysis under the slogan “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management.” WCO Members will thus be called upon to further promote their efforts and initiatives in a sector that is becoming a key element in Customs modernization process: collecting and analysing data.
Customs has a substantial amount of data at its disposal, such as data submitted for the Customs clearance process. Customs can also tap data from other government agencies, commercially available databases, and open source information platforms such as digitized global public records and multilingual news sources.
Moreover, physical objects are nowadays embedded within electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data, a phenomenon known as the ‘Internet of things’.
Simply collecting data for its own sake, however, is not sufficient and Customs administrations may face the risk of being overwhelmed with an avalanche of data. Data only has value when it is used effectively and efficiently. It is critical, therefore, that Customs administrations leverage data to make informed decisions, especially given the sophisticated and evolving challenges that Customs administrations face every day.
Data analysis can propel Customs to new levels of success in both compliance and facilitation, by enabling it to:
improve risk management which supports enhanced detection of irregularities, illicit consignments, the suspicious movement of people and financial flows, and the facilitation of legitimate trade;
learn from historical activity to predict trader or passenger behaviour;
engage with other government agencies to leverage their experience and expertise;
conduct quantitative research for purposes of building knowledge;
enhance performance measurement to improve officer practices and integrity. Data analysis thus can greatly support the core Customs’ objectives of revenue collection, border security, collection of trade statistics, and trade facilitation.
“To achieve these benefits, Customs administrations should make data analysis a strategic priority and acquire cutting-edge technology, establish appropriate automation policies, and recruit experts to collect and analyse data, and act upon the data-driven insights”, said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.
There are of course potential obstacles to an optimal use of data, such as the lack of qualitative data, data that has not been integrated or merged, lack of harmonization of data across border agencies, lack of skilled resources, IT infrastructures and cultural challenges. In addition, it is vital that appropriate privacy and confidentiality laws be respected.
“Data analysis and related challenges will be thoroughly discussed within the WCO during 2017, and at events such as the Information and Technology Conference, the Global Conference on Transit, and the Technology and Innovation Forum”, Dr. Mikuriya added.
As part of this initiative, the WCO will enhance the promotion of tools such as the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) which is a global Customs seizure database; the WCO Time Release Study (TRS) which is a methodology for measuring border agency clearance times; mirror analysis which involves using the HS Code to compare imports (or exports) of a country with exports (or imports) reported to the country by its trading partners to detect gaps in terms of quantities, weight or value that may reveal fraudulent flows or practices; the use of performance measurement to improve Customs procedures and integrity, such as through the techniques presented in the WCO Performance Measurement Contracts Guide; and the Data Model which supports data analysis by improving data collection and enabling the sharing of data between government agencies.
The WCO’s annual theme will be launched on International Customs Day, which is celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.
The WCO invites the Customs community to mark 26 January 2017 in their diary. Source: WCO
SARS has been operating Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with its external stakeholders since 2001. More than 98% of all customs declaration (CUSDEC) transactions are today submitted electronically to Customs and the electronic submission of multimodal cargo reports (CUSCAR) is steadily increasing. Today, declaration processing is fully electronic end-to-end thanks to the availability of highly established EDI and Customs software service providers supporting the local customs and logistics community. SARS has also recently introduced a benefit for compliant cargo reporters who will be absolved of certain manual (paper) submission requirements once they attain an acceptable level of electronic submission compliance and data accuracy.
The ultimate objective is to ensure that all Customs-to-Business (C2B) transactions are electronic to enable full supply chain connectivity between the South African business community and Customs. This in turn enables the possibility of SARS accrediting or approving ‘supply chains’ as opposed to just individual trader segments (importers and exporters). The extent of electronic compliance is also a pivotal requirement for traders operating under the new Customs Control Act, to be enacted in the future.
SARS overall EDI capability extends further than declarations and cargo reports. In recent years Customs-to-Government (C2G) messaging has also been successfully established between SARS and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) as well as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). SARS is also engaging other government stakeholders concerning IT connectivity and data exchange.
Moreover, developments for cross-border Customs-to-Customs (C2C) data exchange are also in the pipeline and could come to fruition with the partner administrations in Mozambique and Swaziland in the foreseeable future. These initiatives will usher in increased supply chain connectivity through active use of the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) between participating customs administrations. The ultimate objective here is the creation of mutual recognition benefits for local and cross-border traders based on their accreditation status agreed between the participating customs administrations.
The SARS Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Manual (which can be downloaded from the SARS EDI webpage) has been updated with the latest versions of SARS Edifact Data Mapping Guides as well as improved diagrams explaining the functional composition of the various electronic messages specified for Customs processing. Also included are the requirements for registering as an EDI user with SARS.
The manual includes recent updates relating to cargo reporting (manifests) as well as the updated customs declaration message incorporating recent inclusion of customs surety, penalty and forfeiture requirements. The latter enhancement removes another document based requirement (the Form DA70 Provisional Payment) for Customs Brokers with the view streamlining data requirements, enhancing customs billing and customs status reporting with the trade and logistics community. This EDI Manual will be an important document over the coming months and years in that it will feature updated electronic requirements in support of the new Customs Control Act. Watch this space!
SARS’ EDI and Customs Business Systems representatives with WCO Data Model facilitators Mr. Giandeo Mungroo (2nd from the left) and Ms. Sue Probert (2nd from the right) [Photo – SARS]
Officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) last week attended a WCO workshop on the Data Model facilitated by Ms. Sue Probert and Mr. Giandeo Mungroo. The event, held in Pretoria, South Africa was sponsored by the CCF of China as part of the WCO’s Capacity Building endeavours to promote the adoption and use of customs standards and best practice amongst it’s member states.
The workshop was requested by SARS ahead of new technical and systems developments and requirements informed by SARS’ new Customs Control and Duty Acts. Moreover, there are also political ambition to institute a Border Management Agency for the Republic of South Africa. All of this requires that SARS Customs has a robust electronic tool to assist the organisation in mapping national data requirements according to specific needs.
Besides the use of a value added Data Model tool – GEFEG, it is imperative for the organisation to develop capacity in the knowledge and understanding of the WCO Data Model. SARS has successfully EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) for the last 15 years with various local supply chain trading partners and government agencies. Over the last few years SARS has been actively pursuing and promoting IT connectivity with regional trading partners with the express purpose to extend the benefits of eCommerce across borders.
GEFEG.FX software is used to model data formats and develop implementation guidelines for data interchange standards such as UN/EDIFACT. It is a software tool that brings together modelling, XML schema development, and editing of classic EDI standards under a unified user interface, and supports the development of multilingual implementation guidelines.
Version 3 of the WCO Data Model brought about a distinct shift towards an ‘all-of-government’ approach at international borders with the introduction of the GOVCBR (Government Cross Border Regulatory) message. The message and underlying data requirements facilitate the exchange of customs and other government regulatory information to support a Single Window environment.
WCO Data Model not only includes data sets for different customs procedures but also information needed by other Cross-border Regulatory Agencies for the cross-border release and clearance at the border. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a Single Window as it allows the reporting of information to all government agency through the unique way it organizes regulatory information. This instrument is already 10 years old and is seeing increased use by WCO members.
Amongst the benefits derived from the workshop, SARS staff acquired the following competencies that will not only aid their work but business user support as well –
Competence in operating the tool to build a source control collaborative environment to support national and regional harmonization;
Competence to build a base to conduct national/ regional data harmonization based on the WCO Data Model to support national Single Window implementation as well as Regional Integration;
Competence to build systems/ electronic interfaces between Customs and its partner government agencies including a Border Management Agency; and
Provide needed competence to develop, maintain and publish national and regional information packages based on the WCO Data Model.