The BMA Bill – a little more for stakeholders to ponder over

The BMA Bill No.39058In recent months ‘Joe Public’ has witnessed developments relating to new visa requirements regarding international travel to and from South Africa. Tourism and the hospitality industry have been impacted in no small way while government has now established a committee to investigate the claims to the effect that the country’s tourism industry has been severely impacted.

It is now commercial trade’s time to consider the next set of legal requirements emanating from the Department of Home Affairs which, in the main, affect legislation under other departments and organ’s of state – in particular SARS Customs. Interested parties can find/download the document by clicking the link http://www.gpwonline.co.za/ and searching for eGazette No.39058.

In essence function of the Border Management Agency (BMA) Bill is – To provide for the establishment, organisation, regulation and control of the Border Management Agency; to provide for the transfer, assignment, and designation of law enforcement border related functions to the Border Management Agency; and to provide for matters connected thereto.

Be sure to digest the content of the Schedules to the Bill which contain the extent of the ‘meat’ and authority which the proposed Border Management Agency will exert if, or once approved. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) invites comments to the draft Bill which must reach DHA no later than 14 September 2015.

The Protection of Personal Information Bill

Grant ThorntonThe folks at Grant Thornton have prepared a paper on this important subject, which is no less relevant to the Customs environment. The Protection of Personal Information Bill (POPI) is expected to be passed into law soon. It makes sweeping changes to the way all organizations are going to be allowed to deal with personal information, laying down very strict guidelines about what we can do with such data once it is received and processed.

As with all acts of law, it is imperative that the public sector leads by example and ensures that staff are trained and systems in place so that personal data of South African citizens remains secure.

In its latest issue of In the Public Eye (available on their website), Grant Thornton provides a comprehensive legal and technical framework to assist you in getting ready for POPI. Remember that failure to comply with the POPI Bill may result in significant penalties including fines and imprisonment. Source : Grant Thornton

Why 2013 Is the Time to Adopt e-Invoicing

e-Invoicing INTTRA

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

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

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

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

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

1. Demand Is at a Record High

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

2. Proven to Lower Costs and Speed Internal Operations

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward – 2013 and Beyond

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

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

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

City Deep Inland Terminal [port] to be hit hard by Customs Bill

Trucks at Transnet Freight Rail's City Deep Terminal (Engineering News)

Trucks at Transnet Freight Rail’s City Deep Terminal (Engineering News)

Following up on last year’s meeting (click here!) of the minds, convened by the JCCI, a recent meeting in Johannesburg placed fresh emphasis on the dilemma which impending changes contemplated in Customs Draft Control Bill will have for the import and logistics industry in particular. The following report carried by Engineering News highlights trade’s concerns which are by no means light weight and should be addressed with some consideration before the Bills come into effect. Gauging from the content below, there is a clear disconnect between business and policy makers.

The closure of Johannesburg’s inland port seemed to be a “done deal” as Parliament deliberated the recently tabled Customs Control Bill that would leave the City Deep container depot invalid, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Johannesburg (JCCI) former president Patrick Corbin said on Friday.

The promulgation of the South African Revenue Services’ (Sars’) newly drafted Customs Control Bill, which, in conjunction with the Customs Duty Bill, would replace the current legislation governing customs operations, would have a far-reaching impact on the cost and efficiencies of doing business in South Africa and other fellow Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) countries, he added.

The Bill, which was the product of a three-year development process within the National Economic Development and Labour Council, declared that all imported goods be cleared and released at first port of entry. This was part of efforts by customs officials and government to root out any diversion and smuggling of goods, ensure greater control of goods moving across borders and eliminate risks to national security.

Speaking at the City Deep Forum, held at the JCCI’s offices in Johannesburg, Corbin noted, however, that City Deep had operated as an inland port for the past 35 years, easing the load on the country’s coastal ports, which were already strained to capacity. Despite customs officials assuring the chamber that the operations and facilities in City Deep/Kaserne would retain its licence as a container depot, he believed customs had failed to recognise the critical role City Deep had played in lowering the cost of business, easing the burden on South Africa’s ports and ensuring ease of movement of goods to neighbouring countries. As customs moved full responsibility of container clearances to the ports, port congestion, inefficiencies, shipping delays and costs would rise, and jobs would be lost and import rail volumes decreased, he noted.

Economist Mike Schussler added that the closure of the City Deep inland port operations would add costs, increase unreliability and induce “hassles”, as the Durban port did not have the capacity to handle the extra volumes and its productivity and efficiencies were “questionable” compared with other ports.

“The volume of containers going to overstay or being stopped for examination in City Deep [will] need to be handled by [the coastal] ports. If they can’t cope with the volume at the moment, how are they going to handle increased volumes,” Iprop director Dennis Trotter questioned. He noted that only the containers cleared 72 hours prior to arrival would be allocated to rail transport. Those not cleared three days before arrival would be pushed onto road transport to prevent blocking and delaying rail operations.

This, Schussler said, would also contribute – along with port tariffs and the cost of delays – to higher costs, as road transport was more expensive than rail.

He pointed out that South Africa was deemed third-highest globally in terms of transport pricing. It would also result in less rail capacity returning for export from Johannesburg, further leading to increased volumes moving by road from City Deep to Durban.

Sacu countries, such as Botswana, would also be burdened with higher costs as they relied on City Deep as an inland port. Trotter noted that the region would experience loss of revenue and resultant job losses. Over 50% of South Africa’s economy was located closer to Gauteng than the coastal ports. Johannesburg alone accounted for 34% of the economy, said Schussler, questioning the viability of removing the option of City Deep as a dry port.

However, unfazed by the impending regulations, Transnet continued to inject over R1-billion into expansion and development opportunities at City Deep/Kaserne. Corbin commented that Transnet had accepted the assurances from customs that “nothing would change and the boxes would still be able to move seamlessly once cleared.” The City of Johannesburg’s manager of transport planning Daisy Dwango said the State-owned freight group was ramping up to meet forecast demand of the City Deep/Kaserne depot.

The terminal’s capacity would be increased from the current 280 000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year, to 400 000 TEUs a year by 2016, increasing to 700 000 TEUs a year by 2019. Transnet aimed to eventually move to “overcapacity” of up to 1.2-million TEUs a year. Dwango said projections have indicated that by 2021, the City Deep/Kaserne terminals would handle between 900 000 and one-million TEUs a year. Source: Engineering News