SARS publishes updated EDI User Manual

sars-edi-user-manualSARS 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!

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SAD Story – Part 2

What is clear in regard to modern day business is the fact that ‘harmonisation’ in the international supply chain is essentially built around ‘data’. E-commerce has been around for decades, plagued by incompatibilities in messaging standards, and computer software, network and hardware architecture. However, one of the key inhibitors has been organisations and administrations having to adhere to domestic ‘dated’ legislation and so-called standard operating procedures – seemingly difficult to change, and worst of all suggesting that law has to adapt!

A lot has had to do with the means of information presentation (format) and conveyance (physical versus electronic) rather than the actual information itself. Standards such as the UN Layout key sought to standardise or align international trade and customs documentation with the view to simplifying cross-border trade and regulatory requirements. In other words, each international trade document being a logical ‘copy and augmentation’ of a preceding document.  This argument is still indeed valid. The generally accepted principle of Customs Administrations is to maximise its leverage of latent information in the supply chain and augment this with national (domestic) regulatory requirements – within a structured format.

The Single Administrative Document (SAD) was itself borne out of this need. The layout found acceptance with UNCTAD’s ASYCUDA which used it as a marketing tool (in the 1990’s) in promoting ‘What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get’ (WYSIWYG). It certainly provided a compelling argument for under-developed countries seeking first-time customs automation. Yet, the promise of compatibility with other systems and neighbouring customs administrations has not lived up to this promise.

Simultaneous to document harmonisation, we find development of the Customs data model, initially the work of the Group of 7 (G7) nations at the United Nations. Its mandate was to simplify and standardize Customs procedures Customs procedures. In 2002, the WCO took over this responsibility and after further refinement the G7 version became version 1 of the WCO Customs Data Model. Once more a logical progression lead to the inclusion of security and other government regulatory requirements. This has culminated in the recent release of WCO Data Model 3. Take note the word “Customs” is missing from the title, indicating that Version 3 gives effect to its culminating EDI message standard – Government Cross Border Regulatory (GOVCBR) message – an all inclusive message standard which proposes to accommodate ALL government regulatory reporting requirements.

Big deal! So what does this mean? The WCO’s intent behind GOVCBR is as follows –

  • Promoting safe and secure borders by establishing a common platform for regulatory data exchange enabling early sharing of information.
  • Helping co-operating export and import Customs to offer authorized traders end end-to to- end premium procedures and simple integrated treatment of the total transaction.
  • Contributing to rapid release.
  • Elimination redundant and repetitive data submitted by the carrier and the importer.
  • Reducing the amount of data required to be presented at time of release.
  • Reducing compliance costs.
  • Promoting greater Customs Co-operation.

Undertaking such development is no simple matter, although a decision in this direction is a no brainer! Over a decade’s work in the EDI space in South Africa is certainly not lost. Most of the trade’s electronic goods declaration and cargo reporting requirements remain intact, all be they require re-alignment to meet Data Model 3 standard. Over and above this, the matter of government regulatory requirements (permits, certificates, prohibitions and restrictions, letters of authority, etc.) will require more ‘political will’ to ensure that all authorities administering regulations over the importation and exportation of goods are brought into the ‘electronic space’. Some traction is already evident here largely thanks to ITAC and SA Reserve Bank willingness and capability to collaborate. In time all remaining authorities will be brought on board to ensure a true ‘paperless’ clearance process.

So, I digress somewhat from the discussion on the SAD. However, the bottom line for all customs and border authorities, traders and intermediaries is that ‘harmonisation’ of the supply chain operation follows the principal and secondary data required to administer ALL controls via a process of risk assessment, to facilitate release including any intervention required to ensure the compliance of import and export goods. As such even legislative requirements need to enable ‘harmonisation’ to occur otherwise we end up with a non-tariff barrier, uncertainty in decision-making, and a business community unable to capitalise on regional and international market opportunities. Positively, the draft SA Customs Control Bill makes abundant reference to reporting – of the electronic kind.

In Part 3, I will discuss regional ‘integration’ and the desire for end-to-end transit clearance harmonisation.

Next Generation High-Energy X-ray System for Rapid Cargo and Vehicle Screening

Smiths Detection HCVportalSmiths Detection has unveiled its next-generation high-energy X-ray scanner, the first pass-through cargo system to offer steel penetration of 30cm combined with three-colour material discrimination. The HCVP 6030 viZual, based on Smiths Detection ABRATM technology, is designed primarily for high-volume cargo screening. It can inspect up to 100 trucks or container loads per hour. The new system is a combination of proven high-energy X-ray technology and advanced material discrimination provides best-in-class performance at the lowest total cost of ownership. It is ideal for rapid cargo throughput with high safety standards for truck drivers and operators alike allowing customs quick and effective enforcement of tax, revenue and fraud laws.

Customer interest in the new cargo screener is already significant and a series of orders has been placed with Smiths Detection even before official market entry.

The HCVP 6030 viZual is based on the most powerful HCV technology platform, incorporating Optical Character Recognition, Automatic Radiation Detection, Electronic Data Interchange and Remote Service maintenance.

The HCVP series systems offer accelerators delivering energy levels from 4MeV to 6MeV, allowing for steel penetration ranging from 230mm (9”) to 300mm (11.8”) while providing a high throughput of up to 195 trucks per hour with a scanning speed of 7 km/4 mph. This innovative automatic free-flow scanning procedure will guarantee a constant vehicle flow on site.

The system’s high performance imaging capability, known as viZual technology (optional), provides the operator with detailed radioscopic images of the container or vehicle and its contents with organic and inorganic material discrimination and colorization based on atomic number for the assisted recognition of threats. The viZual feature allows for reliable results in a single scan.

The modular compact design of the HCVP provides the ability for the system to be relocated, adapting to the customer’s specific needs. The HCVP is a standalone unit which requires limited external infrastructure. The system is designed for ease of operation with a minimal footprint, while still integrating the most demanding international security screening requirements.

The HCVP system’s automated scanning procedure allows the vehicle or container to pass through the x-ray system. The scanning process starts when the end of the driver’s cabin has been detected. The driver and driver’s cabin are not scanned. When equipped with the automatic radioactive material detection – ARD (optional), the HCVP simultaneously carries out both the X-ray inspection and an analysis to detect the presence of radioactive gamma and/or neutron materials within the container or vehicle. The system requires 1 traffic receptionist, 1 system operator, an up to 8 image analysts depending on need. Source: Smiths Detection