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Durban-based Hamburg Süd is the first shipping line – and the first South African Revenue Service (Sars) client – to be granted exemption from the requirement to submit paper manifests to local customs branches, thus becoming the first fully electronic cargo reporter.

While the electronic reporting of pre-arrival manifests to Sars has been a requirement since August 2009, shipping lines are, to date, still required to present pre- and post-arrival paper manifests to local customs branches in order to account for cargo. This was also because the data accuracy of electronic submissions varied significantly between different reporters.

Sars’ implementation of the new Manifest Processing (MPR) system in June 2016, provided industry with the mechanism to also report acquittal manifests electronically. Additionally, the system is able to match customs clearances to their corresponding cargo reports (manifests) in order to identify instances of non-reporting.

Three months after MPR was introduced, the facility for full paperless cargo reporting was made available to shipping lines and airlines who submit both pre-arrival and post-arrival manifests to Sars electronically; submit complete sets of manifests without any omissions; achieve a reporting data accuracy rate of 90% or higher in respect of both their pre-arrival and acquittal manifests reported for each of the three months preceding any application for exemption from paper reporting requirements; and can maintain that level consistently.

A significant benefit to carriers reporting electronically is the cost-saving of hundreds of thousands of rands spent per year in the paper and administrative costs associated with submitting paper manifests to Sars offices. The process is now more efficient allowing for improved risk management, security and confidentiality.

“Hamburg Süd’s core business strategy is to deliver a premium service to our customer, and to achieve this, compliance is a core driver. SARS paperless reporting is in line with our compliance and sustainability strategy,” said Jose Jardim, general manager of Hamburg Süd South Africa.

For Customs, the mandatory submission of cargo reports forms a significant part of the new Customs Control Act (CCA) in order to secure and facilitate the international supply chain.

With the impending implementation of Reporting of Conveyances and Goods (RCG) under the CCA – targeted for 2018 – carriers of internal goods in the sea and air modalities are urged to follow Hamburg Süd’s example and ensure that they become compliant in good time so that they can enjoy a smooth transition to the new legal dispensation.

Paperless cargo reporting would bring an end to one of the last remaining paper-based processes in customs while further contributing to the expedited processing of legitimate trade through an enhanced and integrated risk management environment.

According to a Sars spokesman technical stakeholder sessions to implement the reporting requirements introduced by the new Customs Control Act are due to commence soon and carriers and other supply chain cargo reporters are urged to attend in order to ensure they adapt their systems in good time.

Source: adapted from FTW Online, Venter. L, “German shipping line first Sars client to become fully electronic reporter”, September 14, 2017.

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confidentialAn interesting and pertinent issue has been raised in the social media area on the ‘confidentiality’ of carrier information submitted to Customs. In this particular regard it relates to the practice of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency. One blogger commented “It’s kind of ironic in the U.S. for example that importers/consignees are required to submit a request to customs to opt-in to keep manifest information confidential.”

CustomsNow, a direct filing solution for US traders relates “As a common practice, importers and consignees may submit a request to US Customs, pursuant to 19 CFR 103.31, to keep manifest information confidential.  Our previous blog post on this topic  includes several tips to ensure these requests result in the broadest degree of confidentiality.”

Recently, importers and consignees who have submitted confidentiality requests have complained to CBP that confidential shipping data — party/shipper/consignee name and address — for ocean freight have nevertheless been disclosed to the public.  After reviewing the matter, Customs has determined that “improper data entry” was the cause.  To avoid this, CBP advises in a recent CSMS publication, when filing e-Manifests in ACE, “the commercial party name fields must ONLY contain commercial party name data.”  Otherwise, “…the name of the party stored in the ACE database is corrupted because it includes address data. This inaccurate party name data fails the confidentiality edits resulting in confidential business information being shared publicly. This inadvertent disclosure is tied directly to the way in which data is transmitted by users.” Additional information can be found in CBP’s CSMS #13-000064.

In South Africa, and I’m sure a great many other countries too, one just has to accept that the Customs authorities will secure such information, because they say its safe. Read the link below – cause for concern.