Archives For Information Technology

Zimra-press statementThe movement of commercial cargo has relatively improved at most of the country’s ports after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) addressed some of the teething challenges affecting its customs online clearance system. Zimra is now using an advanced Automated System for Customs Data (Asycuda) for clearing commercial cargo entering or leaving the country.

However, when Zimra started upgrading its online clearance system on May 10, cargo had been stuck due to a systems failure at most of the country’s borders especially at Beitbridge Border Post, the busiest port of entry in Zimbabwe and gateway to Southern Africa.

Close to 15 000 haulage trucks per month pass through Beitbridge going either side of the border.

Zimra’s director of corporate and legal affairs, Florence Jambga, said in a recent statement that the upgrading of the customs clearing system had met with technical challenges.

“The authority is in the process of rectifying these challenges for normal online transactions to continue. Alternative measures have been put in place at all ports of entry and exit to facilitate smooth movement of cargo and reduce inconveniences to our valued clients.

“Zimra, therefore, urges its clients to approach their respective station managers for any challenges they may encounter in the movement of their cargo during this transitional period. Any inconveniences caused during this period are sincerely regretted,” she said.

In separate interviews, customs clearing agents and importers yesterday said the movement of cargo had improved as from Saturday evening.

Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe board member Mr Osbert Shumba said though the situation had relatively improved, they remained cautious.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and we are very hopeful that things will get back to normal as soon as possible,” he said.

At the Beitbridge Border Post, commercial cargo had been stuck there since Sunday last week resulting in truckers piling up on the South African side of the border.

Under a normal clearance system, cargo has to move to either side of the border after getting prior notification that the export or import papers have been processed.

By end of day yesterday trucks entering or leaving the country were being cleared expeditiously.

Asycuda is a more efficient and advanced system for customs data processing since it is Internet based.

The system allows that any clearing agent registered with Zimra can lodge a bill of entry from anywhere in the world where there is Internet connectivity. Communication between Zimra and the agent is, therefore, done electronically. Source: Customs Today

Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomes  delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers.

Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomes delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers.

The 14th annual WCO IT Conference & Exhibition was officially opened on 6 May 2015 in Freeport (Bahamas). Senior Government representatives of The Bahamas Government opened the 3-day Conference in the presence of over 400 participants from 75 countries.

The Right Honorouble Perry Gladstone Christie, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas thanked the WCO for choosing The Bahamas for this very important global Conference. The hosting of this WCO event is an example of the government’s commitment to bring business opportunities to Grand Bahama!

The Prime Minister further continued by reminding the delegates that the WTO concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013 and about its potential of reducing international trade costs of approximately 12%. He underlined that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement owes much to the technical work that had already been carried out at the World Customs Organization.

In his speech, the Prime Minister stressed: “Our efforts are very much consistent with the theme of this Conference “Inclusiveness Through Information Technology”. It is in our interest here in The Bahamas to pursue an inclusive approach to the introduction of the new IT systems. These new systems must bring benefits, not only to government, but also to commercial operators and to the general public who will use these services. We recognize that with the introduction of these IT systems we must adopt a more client focused and customer orientated approach to make it easier to conduct business.”

The Secretary General of the WCO, Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, welcomed the delegates to what is now one of WCO’s premium external events bringing together representatives of the software industry and Customs policy makers. The Secretary General emphasized the theme of this year’s Conference “Inclusiveness Through Information Technologies”, adding that it addresses three key priorities of the WCO Members – Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, Regional Economic Integration and Coordinated Border Management.

Mr. Charles Turner, Comptroller of Customs and Excise Department of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, stressed that the IT Conference & Exhibition comes at an important juncture for The Bahamas as the Customs Department implements the Trade Sector Support Program. Having such a broad range of exhibitors and international delegates provides a rare opportunity to share ideas and learn from the experiences of others. Source: WCO

main_building_of_Dubai_CustomsDubai Customs (DC) has earned the coveted Enterprise Architecture Award 2015, presented by Frost & Sullivan; a world leader in growth consulting and the integrated areas of technology research, market research, mega trends, economic research, customer research, competitive intelligence, and corporate strategy.

The award was presented to Dubai Customs to recognise its Business Capability Management, developed by the Business Process and Enterprise Architecture at the Customs Development Division to upgrade corporate capability at Dubai Customs.

Commenting on the advantages of the Business Capability Management, Juma Al Ghaith, Executive Director of Customs Development Division, said that the project provides a comprehensive connected view of DC’s business capability and determines the gaps and requirements of business units while putting forth a plan to fill these gaps. It also pinpoints strength and weakness points to help make informed decisions, offers improvement recommendations for business capabilities and devises an action plan for implementing these recommendations.

Creatively upgrading the enterprise architecture helps create a conducive environment for divisions and departments in DC to bond and better manage capabilities, allowing DC to determine its structural strategy and formulate a clear road map and initiatives for corporate changes.

The Enterprise Connected View links and documents all corporate components, allowing a more accurate and speedy decision making process and facilitating an effective change management.

Counting Frost & Sullivan’s EA Award 2015 in, Dubai Customs has scooped three global awards for its “Business Capability Management and Enterprise Architecture” in 2014 and 2015,The Business Capability Management focuses on four aspects: People, Process, Technology and Information.It identifies capabilities and measures them against world-class criteria to ensure optimal performance, revenue and sustainability.

Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Awards recognize companies throughout a range of regional and global markets for superior leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Frost & Sullivan, founded in 1961, has more than 40 global offices with more than 1,800 industry consultants, market research analysts, technology analysts and economists. Source: CustomsToday.pk

Ivory Coast SEW2As Customs and Border regulatory authorities ramp up their commitment to international agreements, such as the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention, SAFE Framework of Standards and the more recent WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, more countries will offer a single point of entry through which traders, international carriers and logistics providers can access and comply with the resident customs and other government regulatory regimes.

The concept of a Single Window is borne out of the fact that traditional import/export and related regulatory requirements pose a barrier to market entry for international goods. There are many derivatives of Single Window in operation globally. Perhaps the best resource for this can be found on the UNECE’s interactive Trade Facilitation Implementation Guide webpage. One can navigate to the case studies page to read up on a country-by-country experience on various trade reforms including Single Window developments.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is one of many African countries who have introduced Single Window as a facilitation measure whereby international trade can interface with Customs in a number of ways. It consists of a web-based trade portal (operated by Webb Fontaine) which interfaces with AsycudaWorld (AW), Côte d’Ivoire Customs’ management system. The portal allows traders to key-in advance import/export information within an electronic document called TVF (Trade Virtual Folder). Customs declarations are then subjected to tariff classification  and valuation, thereafter routed for commercial/risk assessment and revenue accounting on AsycudaWorld, or Sydam World as it is known in Côte d’Ivoire.

Commercial banks use the TVF within the Single Window to endorse the settlement of each import; the Ministry of Commerce subsequently authorizes the overall transaction through the system.

The Single Window provides an entry point for traders and supply chain operators to accomplish various Customs formalities such as –

  • Customs Declaration processing – allowing importers and exporters to electronically file clearances.
  • Manifest operations – used by all carriers to upload their XML manifests and register the same through the trade portal directly into AsycudaWorld. The facility also allows the amendments of waybills (e.g. excess and shortages) and automatically synchronizes the operations with the AW system. The Port Authority IT systems, including the Port of Abidjan and the Port of San Pedro, automatically receive and integrate the manifests submitted by carriers.
  • License module – allows traders to request import/export licenses (regulatory permits) that are later on approved online by the relevant ministries. Each license comprises a list of regulated products, quota allowable amount based on a predefined scheme (gross mass, net mass, FOB, Unit of measurement or unlimited quota). Further developments will include the automatic write-off of license quota by declarations using the Declaration module.

Source: Webb Fontaine

TraxensFrench shipping giant CMA CGM will start phasing in ‘smart’ containers this year, allowing the line and its customers to keep track of each box equipped with new sensors at all times. In an industry first, technology being developed with a start-up company, Traxens, would enable data on the location and condition of the container to be monitored at all times throughout a delivery.

The world’s third-largest container line and Ocean Three member said it had contributed to the capital increase of French firm Traxens that will enable CMA CGM to have access to an unprecedented amount of information on each container and offer clients what it describes as unique tracking solutions and real-time data collecting from all over the world.

Elie Zeenny, CMA CGM senior vice-president, Group IT Systems, said the technology would bring the shipping industry into a new era. This year, Traxens plans to equip the first CMA CGM containers with the patented technology so it will be possible to know in real-time not only a container’s position, but also its temperature, the vibrations it will be subjected to, any attempted burglary, the presence of traces of specific substances in the air or even the regulatory status of the cargo.

With its “4Trax” solution, Traxens offers the tracking of containers from cargo loading to their final destination, and the forwarding of data in real time to all actors in the multimodal transport chain. Traxens has also worked closely with French Customs in the development of its solution. In this regard the solution aims to record the legal status of the container (customs clearance) with the view to eradicate false declarations and counterfeits and to facilitate controls. Sources: Lloyds loading, CMA CGM and Traxens

e-invoicingUS Bank, part of the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States, is launching a payment solution in Europe aimed at the freight industry that it said will allow shippers to hold on to cash longer while accelerating payments to carriers.

The bank’s subsidiary, Elavon Freight Payment, claimed it was the first solution of its kind for the freight industry in Europe. In addition to allowing shippers to hold onto their money longer while accelerating payment to their carriers, it claimed the solution “offers carriers a cost-effective alternative to factoring and other financing options commonly used in Europe today”.

It said the new trade finance capability joined a suite of recent enhancements to Elavon Freight Payment that reflect Europe’s diverse business, legal and regulatory environments. “The offering provides an automated solution for some of Europe’s most labour-intensive freight-payment processing needs, including VAT support and consolidated invoice processing”, the company said. Customers can choose German, French, or English-language platforms.

“As a financial institution, Elavon Freight Payment is uniquely positioned to offer this efficient method of improving cash flow for both shippers and carriers,” said Rick Erickson, global director of Freight Payment Solutions for US Bank. “We’re excited to expand our industry-leading capabilities to a wider range of customers.”

A division of US Bank’s Corporate Payments business, Elavon Freight Payment claims to give users greater visibility into their global transport spend “and more complete, timely data with which to make business decisions”. In addition to improving processing efficiencies for European shipping operations, it said the expanded system reduces costs by automating manual processing and optimizing cash flow. Source: Lloydsloadinglist.com

Also view the following article – US bank launches e-invoice base freight payment trade finance service (www.eeiplatform.com)

SARS Customs New NII Ste - DurbanSARS Customs recently launched its new X-Ray cargo inspection facility adjacent to the Durban Container Terminal in the Port of Durban. Following the trend as in other countries, SARS has identified non-intrusive inspection capability as part of its ‘tiered’ approach to risk management.

In 2008, SARS introduced its very first mobile x-ray scanner which was located inside the Durban container terminal precinct as part of South Africa’s participation in the US Container Security Initiative (CSI). While it has proven itself in the development of Customs NII capability, its location and lack of integration with other Customs automated tools has limited its success.

The new Customs inspection facility is a step-up in technology and automation – a Nuctech MB 1215HL Relocatable Container/Vehicle Inspection System. It has some significant advantages over the original mobile version namely –

  • An efficient and cost-effective security solution with a relatively small footprint (site size).
  • 6 Mev dual energy X-Ray technology with high penetration (through 330 mm of steel).
  • High throughput of 20-25 units of 40ft container vehicles per hour.
  • A unique modular gantry design which improves system relocatability.
  • Self-shielding architecture which requires no additional radiation protection wall.
  • Advanced screening and security features such as organic/inorganic material discrimination.
  • High quality scanning image manipulation tools allowing the customs image reviewer the ability to verify and distinguish the contents of a vehicle or cargo container.

Since its launch more than 350 scans have been performed. Suspect containers were sent for full unpack resulting in various positive findings.

The new relocatable scanner is easier to operate and significantly faster than the mobile scanner. In addition, scanned images are now automatically integrated into SARS Customs case management and inspection software making case management both seamless and efficient.

It is anticipated that until October 2014, both the new scanner and the existing mobile scanner operations will co-exist. During this time, the new scanner will operate risk generated cases directly from SARS automated risk engine. Unscheduled or random interventions will continue to occur at the old scanner site, which operates 24/7.

Plans are in place to decommission the mobile scanner after October 2014. The new scanner will then operate on a 24/7 basis.

CBP_0US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has extended its Air Cargo Advance Screening (ACAS) pilot programme for a further year following representations from freight forwarding representatives, and has reopened the application period for new participants. The pilot was set to expire this month but will now be extended until 26 July 2015, and CBP is also accepting applications for new participants until 26 September 2014.

The programme, which analyses advance data on inbound air shipments to the US to assess risk, is currently in pilot phase, but US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has signalled that it intends to expand it to apply to all inbound air cargo via a “rulemaking”. The extensions follow a letter sent in June to CBP and the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from a coalition of associations representing air freight forwarding companies, calling on the US government to solicit input from small and medium-sized forwarders before expanding the ACAS programme.

The Airforwarders Association (AfA), the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA), The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), and the Express Delivery and Logistics Association (XLA) jointly sent letters to CBP and the TSA noting their support of the concept of the ACAS programme’s risk-based analysis at the shipment level, but expressing concerns about certain issues. In addition to detailing issues regarding potential negative impacts on small and medium-sized air forwarding businesses, the letters included requests to meet with both agencies and representatives from air carriers in June to discuss the concerns and try to resolve them.

TIACA said it was strongly encouraging airlines and freight forwarders to apply for and engage in the pilot. “Only through wide participation, which can fully test the various IT connectivity issues for Advance Filing, as well as understanding the operational impact for the future, will we be able to ensure an effective programme when it becomes mandatory,” TIACA said.

It noted that this extension was for a full year, whereas CBP had only extended the pilot in six-month intervals in the past. TIACA said that following the pilot, CBP plans to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), “and the current estimate is that this may occur in Q3/2015, with the likelihood of possibly Q4/2015 or Q1/2016.”

It said the issuance of an NPRM is followed by a mandatory comment period from industry, after which CBP reviews all of the comments. CBP must then respond to those comments when the final rule is issued.

“Thus, ACAS may not become a mandatory CBP data transmission programme until sometime in late 2016,” TIACA noted. “In comparison, the EU PRECISE programme is currently targeted for the first half of 2016.”  Source: Lloyds Loading List

Inter-Departmental CooperationSouth Africa’s first maritime port of entry control centre represents a milestone in the country’s journey to secure, modernise and control its borders, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said at the opening of the centre at Cowrie Port in Cape Town harbour last week on Friday.

The centre puts all the government departments and agencies involved in immigration and border control under one roof. These include the departments of home affairs, health, agriculture and fisheries, the SA Police Service (border police and crime intelligence), and the SA Revenue Service (Customs). The state-of-the-art centre would not only improve security and immigration issues, but would also serve to enhance trade and South Africa’s status as a logistical gateway to Africa, Gordhan said.

Trade

The rationale behind the centre was in line with the National Development Plan, the minister said. Among other things, the NDP aims to stimulate growth by lowering the cost of doing business in South Africa, improving the country’s competitiveness and exports, and linking local products with other emerging markets. Gordhan said the fast-growing markets of Africa represented important new markets, and the NDP was committed to increasing South Africa’s trade with its regional neighbours from 15% to 30%.

‘Complex borders’

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, also speaking at Friday’s opening, said the centre had been designed “to accommodate in one spot not only customs, excise and immigration, but also health, safety and intelligence.

“Ports are complex borders to manage. Cowrie Place will provide the space and facilities to manage passengers and cargoes more efficiently than before.” Pandor said the government hoped to establish a border management agency by the end of 2016, taking advantage of the lessons learnt from Cowrie Place. A flagship feature of Cowrie Place is the co-ordination monitoring centre, where the data and information will be fed, assimilated and made available to all government department and agencies involved in the maritime border management.

“For the bona fide tourist or member of the trade community, this will mean better service,” Gordhan said. “For those who intend to challenge the laws of our country, be warned, as we intend to raise the bar of compliance by an order of magnitude.”

Important port

Cape Town’s port is oldest in South Africa, but despite changes to its maritime culture brought by air travel and containerisation, it is still an important point of entry. The port processes more than 870 000 containers as well as nearly 730 000 tons of dry bulk per annum, Pandor said.

A total of 6 173 commercial vessels and 55 passenger vessels entered and/or left the port in 2013, while more than 62 000 people entered and/or departed from Cape Town harbour. Pandor said E-berth at the harbour would be developed into a fully fledged passenger liner terminal to complement Cowrie Place.

IPM interface GSMaThe World Customs Organization (WCO), in cooperation with the Federal Customs Authority of the United Arab Emirates (FCA), has officially launched the ‘IPM Mobile’ application, enabling Customs officers equipped with a mobile device to access IPM immediately when faced with a suspicious product.

Launched in 2010, the WCO’s online anti-counterfeiting tool IPM provides a communication hub between Customs officers on the ground and the private sector by allowing them to exchange crucial information in real-time in order to intercept counterfeit goods.

With the launch of the mobile application, field Customs officers can now access IPM via their mobile devices and retrieve all relevant information contained in the database. Several new features have been added to the mobile version such as the possibility to send or receive alerts regarding possible shipment of counterfeit goods, and, when faced with suspicious merchandise, Customs officers can contact right holders immediately and upload photos of the products in question.

This new version also allows using mobile devices to scan industry standard GS1 barcodes found on millions of products, enabling to search the products database more quickly. The unique product identifier embedded in the GS1 bar code facilitates access to multiple databases providing trusted sources of product information.

Scanning the barcodes enables automatic connection to any authentication services linked to the product controlled. This new feature is known as IPM Connected – a global network of security features providers (SFP) interfaced with IPM.

In cooperation with the FCA and the private sector, the WCO unveiled the IPM Mobile programme during a two-day workshop held in Dubai on 16-17 April. During this workshop, Customs officers tested the tool on a number of counterfeit and genuine products and were trained to make informed decision with the information contained in the IPM database.

Faced with the growing trade in counterfeit goods, the WCO and its Members are determined to develop the most efficient tools to fight this menace. Safeguarding the health and safety of consumers across the globe is one of the WCO’s priorities, and IPM’s mobile version is a significant step forward” said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.

Secretary General Mikuriya added, “Working with the UAE on this pilot phase was an obvious choice given our previous successful cooperation to launch the PC version back in April 2012. The WCO appreciates the UAE’s ongoing efforts to tackle the illicit trade of counterfeit and pirated goods.”

The UAE is the first country to use the IPM Mobile application and will contribute to developing the tool before the official worldwide launch in June 2014 during the WCO’s General Council Meeting.

“The UAE is keen to support plans for facilitating trade and fighting counterfeit according to the established principles of the federation state including the protection of IPRs and fighting piracy and counterfeiting as they have serious economic and social impacts that may jeopardize the security of the society, consumer and producer altogether” said Khalid Al Bustani, Acting Director General of the Federal Customs Authority.

“The application is launched as a part of fulfilling the requirements of the smart government initiative announced last year by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum by providing governmental services on mobiles”, continued Al Bustani. Source: WCO

Related articles

digital-ownershipIn the past, nations with the best ships and ports were able to establish global trade leadership and the growth that came along with it. Today, global trade has gone digital.

In the digital economy software-enabled products and services such as cloud computing and data analytics are the key drivers of growth and competitiveness. In fact, the world now invests more than $3.7 trillion (R40 trillion) on information and communications technologies a year.

In South Africa, we spend $26 billion a year and the total for the Middle East/Africa region is $228bn. However, to maximise our return on that investment, it is important for policymakers to eliminate barriers that could inhibit the continued expansion of digital trade.

It is clear that software-driven technology is transforming every sector of the global economy. For example, thanks to unprecedented processing power and vast data storage capabilities, banks can detect and prevent fraud by analyzing large numbers of transactions; doctors are now able to study historical trends in medical records to find more effective treatments; and manufacturers can pinpoint the sources of delays in global supply chains.

Against the backdrop of this kind of innovation, any country that wants to compete in today’s international marketplace must have a comprehensive digital agenda at the core of its growth and development strategy. In addition to domestic initiatives such as investment in education and skills training, or development of information technology infrastructure, policymakers can succeed in laying the groundwork for broad-based growth in the digital age if they focus on three big priorities.

First, any bilateral or multilateral trade agreement needs to facilitate the growth of innovative services such as cloud computing. As part of this, there should be clear rules that allow information to move securely across borders and prevent governments from mandating where servers must be located except in very specific situations.

Second, to promote innovation and foreign investment, continued intellectual property protection is vital and the use of voluntary, market-led technology standards – instead of country-specific criteria that force firms to jump through different technical hoops every time they enter a new local market – should be encouraged.

Third, all governments should ensure there are level playing fields for all competitors so customers have access to the best products and services the world has to offer.

At the same time, disclosures about government surveillance programmes in the US and other countries have sparked a renewed focus on data protection and personal privacy. Those concerns are worthy of debate and careful reform. But it is critically important not to conflate separate issues: We can’t let national security concerns derail digital trade.

There is precedent for navigating periods of change such as this in the global trade arena. Policymakers stood at a similar inflection point in the 1980s when they recognised the keys to growth in the coming decades would be intellectual property, services and foreign direct investment.

With foresight and hard work, they updated trade rules in the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations to ensure commitments were in place to provide a check against protectionist impulses. Now, as governments pursue robust growth agendas for the digital economy, it is critical we modernise trade rules again. Source: The Software Alliance (South Africa).

Picture1The Japanese-funded e-Customs system known as “VNACCS/VCIS” (Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System and the Vietnam Customs Information System) is set to “go live” on April 1, 2014.

Based on the NACCS/CIS of Japan, VNACCS/VCIS is intended to handle e-Declaration, e-Manifest, e-Invoice, e-Payment, e-C/O, selectivity, risk management/criteria, corporate management, goods clearance and release, supervision and inspection.

With the launch of the VNACCS/VCIS, Vietnam Customs is trying to simplify customs clearance procedures, reduce clearance time, enhance the management capacity of customs authorities in line with the standards of modern customs, as well as to cut costs and facilitate trade. VNACCS/VCIS also purports to ensure Vietnam’s compliance with the ASEAN “single window” initiative.

VNACCS/VCIS is intended to improve on the current e-Customs system. For example, the VNACCS/VCIS provides new procedures for the management of pre-clearance, clearance and post-clearance processes, adds new customs procedures such as registration of the duty exemption list, introduces a combined procedure for both commercial and non-commercial goods, simplifies procedures for low unit value goods and offers new management procedures for temporarily exported/imported goods, etc.

After the testing phase (which took place from November 2013 until the end of February 2014), users have been raising concerns regarding the VNACCS/VCIS system’s complexity. VNACCS/VCIS provides a declaration process with 109 export and 133 import data fields, compared to the current 27 export and 38 import declaration fields. Many of them are not compatible with the actual systems of companies, and appear to require from declarers an extensive knowledge of customs-related matters.

Comment – from an outsider’s perspective, besides systems testing, it would seem to appear that insufficient time has been allocated for alignment of industry systems to Vietnam Customs’ new data requirements. This, and the fact that no ‘grace period’ (waiver of sanctions or penalties) will be considered by the customs administration does not bode well for a smooth transition.

VNACCS/VCIS employs the quantity reporting mechanism in the official Units of Measures (“UOMs”), often used in international trade statistics, yet creates significant obstacles to companies that do not have compatible manufacturing, inventory planning and control systems. Vietnam Customs has stated that it will work on improving this issue.

VNACCS/VCIS also applies the declaration of customs values at the unit level. Since unit costs and unit prices used in financial systems of companies may not always be identical to declared values, companies may fail to comply with such requirement. Sanctions may be applied from day 1 of the new systems activation.

Technical difficulties are also a matter of great concerns to business community, e.g. with asset tracking. Currently under VNACCS/VCIS, reporting is limited to 7 digits, incompatible with many companies having asset tracking systems with identification numbers of up to 20 digits. To address concerns raised by the business community about the new system, Japanese experts have agreed to support Vietnam Customs 1 year after the official implementation date of the system.

There are concerns for potential risks of non-compliance for wrong declaration due to lack of an adequate understanding of VNACCS/VCIS. Vietnam Customs has rejected a proposal for “grace period” before applying sanctions upon violations, but encourages companies to actively participate in training programs organized by customs authorities to better avoid potential non-compliance risks.

Another concern is the chance of system failure which may lead to severe interruptions and delays in clearance procedures. Vietnam Customs has ensured business community that they have a back-up contingency mechanism in place to support customs procedures in the event that VNACCS/VCIS fails to operate properly. In the meantime, a new circular detailing the implementation of VNACCS/VCIS is being drafted and should come into effect by the launch date. Various business associations are still trying to find ways to mitigate the likely disruption from the sudden transition to the new system. Source: Baker & McKenzie (Vietnam)

To fix the Bureau of Customs, President Benigno S. Aquino III needed a numbers guy, someone who could make sense of the thousands of shipments and billions of pesos passing daily through the Philippines’ ports. He turned to John P. Sevilla. Three months after taking over as commissioner in December, Mr. Sevilla told The Wall Street Journal he had been “shocked” by the Bureau’s failure to analyze the rich data it received, information that held vital clues to its endemic corruption problems.

“I’m amazed that nobody bothered to put the data together until about a month ago,” Mr. Sevilla said. “But we found out that we open up less than 1% of [shipping] containers, but of the containers that we open, 90% have problems.”

He was also incredulous that Customs lacked a single reference source to help examiners make complex calculations about duties and fees incurred by traders. One is now being compiled, Mr. Sevilla said, “to make it easier for people to do their jobs…so that they have no excuse” for undercharging importers, a common practice rewarded with illegal payments.

Customs is tasked with collecting revenue at the nation’s 17 major and 43 minor ports. But it has a history of missing targets: It pulled in 304.5 billion pesos ($6.8 billion) in 2013 — over a fifth of all government revenue, but still 35 billion shy of its goal. The under-invoicing of traded goods has cost the country $23 billion in lost tax revenue since 1990, according to a February report by Global Financial Integrity, a U.S. research firm. The Aquino administration’s keynote policy of improving governance thus made Customs a prime target for reform. A far-reaching overhaul was ordered last October, and Mr. Sevilla, a former finance undersecretary, was parachuted in soon after.

Before entering government in 2006, Mr. Sevilla held directorships at investment bank Goldman Sachs and ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, having earned degrees at Cornell and Princeton. His boss, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, hailed him as the right person to untangle the mess, “someone who is results-oriented.”

Not everyone was convinced: In January, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said Mr. Sevilla was “in the dark” about how turn Customs around. Undeterred, the studious-looking commissioner has spent the last three months poring over reams of customs data in which the dealings of smugglers and corrupt officials have long lain hidden.

All import-export transactions were now being published online for public scrutiny, Mr. Sevilla said, “I think we’ve turned from being the most secretive government agency to being by far the most transparent.”

At the Port of Manila, one of three ports in the capital, importers and brokers crowded around glass service windows, an innovation from before Mr. Sevilla’s time designed to block access to officials and make them harder to bribe. Inside, on computers surrounded by mountains of paperwork in what remains a semi-automated operation, customs examiners placed their electronic signature on each shipment after calculating the requisite duties and fees.

The electronic signature system also predates Mr. Sevilla. The difference now, he said, is that he is actively policing it, cross-referencing signatures against undervalued shipments, and punishing the officials responsible. He said the threat of being caught was critical when front-line staff are offered bribes equivalent to their monthly salaries “a couple of times a day.”

Likewise, the credible threat that your container might be physically inspected is the best deterrent against false import declaration, Mr. Sevilla argued. But with 18,000 containers piled up at Manila International Container Port alone, the challenge is to open the right ones.

The Bureau has 3,600 staff, but aims to hire nearly 3,000 more, partly to increase the inspection rate. Around a fifth of shipments are flagged for further examination. Some of these are X-rayed and, if necessary, physically inspected.

Mr. Sevilla said he is seeking an extra 250 million pesos for more inspections after figuring out that Customs collects an average of 125,000 pesos per opened container, against a cost of 10,000 pesos for conducting the inspection — making the process “a no-brainer.”

The Bureau also regularly auctions off seized items to further boost revenues. At one such auction in mid-February, buyers snapped up everything from a smuggled Harley Davidson to batches of animal feed. Other illegal shipments are sent straight back to their point of origin, such as the 50 containers of rotting garbage — declared as “recyclable plastic” -from Canada last month.

The new regime is already producing results, Mr. Sevilla said, citing a 19.3% year-over-year increase in collections to 81.3 billion pesos in November to January. Further improvements will be needed: Customs has been tasked with collecting 408.1 billion pesos this year, far more than it has ever managed before. The true test of the Bureau’s progress under Mr. Sevilla will lie, fittingly, in the numbers. Source: The Wall Street Journal

SRA-logoThe Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) will before the end of the year migrate from the Automated System of Customs Declaration Administration Plus (ASYCUDA) to ASYCUDA World. ASYCUDA Plus is about 25 years old and sits on very old technology. The migration to a more modern web based system would improve the processes of customs clearance. Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade acting Principal Secretary Titus Khumalo said this change would also improve data collection as well as reconciliation, particularly with the country’s major trading partner South Africa in the context of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenue sharing formula.

He said the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Fund had provided SRA with funding and technical assistance for the migration to take shape and be fully implemented.

“The ministry is eagerly looking forward to full implementation of the migration of ASYCUDA Plus to ASYCUDA World, which will greatly improve our systems of customs clearance. We are looking forward to implementation of the findings of the Time Release Study (TRS) which was funded by the World Bank. The TRS is aimed at improving the movement of trucks and the clearance of goods across our borders as well as in our inland and dry port in Matsapha,” he said during the International Customs Day celebrations hosted by the SRA on Friday evening at the Royal Swazi Convention Centre.

Khumalo said they welcomed the substantial progress made on the trade facilitation negotiations by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) during the ministerial conference that was held in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013. The acting PS said agreements of the meeting included transit of goods as well as fees and formalities in relation to exportation and importation. He said the framework also spoke to issues of publication and administration of trade regulations.

“Another section deals with the necessary technical assistance that may be required by developing members of the WTO including Swaziland to implement the trade facilitation agreement. We were very fortunate as a country that before the ministerial conference in Bali, we hosted a workshop with the assistance of TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA), which focused on self-assessment and priorities for Swaziland in the area of trade facilitation in the context of the WTO negotiations,” he said.

Khumalo said the report on the workshop identified trade facilitation needs for Swaziland, which would trigger funding from cooperating partners in line with provisions of the Multilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement. Source: Swaziland Observer

WCO ESA_Snapseed

Participants from all 24 members of the WCO’s Eastern and South African region attended the forum. [SARS]

Customs officials from 24 eastern and southern African countries met in Pretoria this week to share knowledge and experience with regard to the successful modernisation of Customs administrations.

Opening the three-day forum, Erich Kieck, the World Customs Organisation’s Director for Capacity Building hailed it as a record breaking event.

“This is the first forum where all 24 members of the Eastern and Southern African region (ESA) of the WCO were all in attendance,” he noted. Also attending were officials from the WCO, SACU, the African Development Bank, Finland, the East African Community and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Michael Keen in the 2003 publication “Changing Customs: Challenges and Strategies for the Reform of Customs Administrations” said – “the point of modernisation is to reduce impediments to trade – manifested in the costs of both administration incurred by government and compliance incurred by business – to the minimum consistent with the policy objectives that the customs administration is called on to implement, ensuring that the rules of the trade game are enforced with minimum further disruption”

The three-day event witnessed several case studies on Customs modernisation in the region, interspersed with robust discussion amongst members. The conference also received a keynote addressed by Mr. Xavier Carim, SA Representative to World Trade Organisation (WTO), which provided first hand insight to delegates on recent events at Bali and more specifically the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

The WCO’s Capacity Building Directorate will be publishing a compendium of case studies on Customs Modernisation in the ESA region during the course of 2014.

WCO ESA members – Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Source: SARS