South Africa – WCO ESA Regional Workshop on TFA implementation

ESA_Regional-WS_South-AfricaThe WCO Regional Workshop on Strategic Initiatives for Trade Facilitation and the Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) – Mercator Programme – for the WCO East and Southern Africa (ESA) region was held from 15 to 17 September 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was hosted by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) representing the WCO Vice Chair of the ESA region, and financially supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. More than 100 participants from 21 ESA Members (Customs, Trade Ministries/equivalent Ministries), the WTO and other international organizations, development partners and the private sector participated in the event.

The Workshop was opened by the Commissioner of SARS, Mr. Thomas Moyane. He expressed his view that the WCO Mercator Programme created significant conditions for contributing to intra-African as well as international trade facilitation benefits. As Vice Chair of the ESA region, he hoped that the Workshop could recommend immediate actions for the region.

The Workshop raised a lot of interest and active discussions from a variety of well-prepared and informative presentations, including the role of the WCO in TFA implementation;  TFA regulations such as Article 23.2 on National Committees on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) and specific national and (sub-)regional examples of implementation approaches; experiences of Trade Ministries and several partner institutions active in the region; and discussions on further approaches to Capacity Building and TFA implementation, including in cooperation with Development Partners.

The region agreed on next steps forward, including on a regional focus on the establishment and maintenance of NCTFs (for instance further provision of replies to the respective WCO survey; identification of the situation within ESA Members); reporting the outcomes of the Workshop to the ESA Regional Steering Committee; encouragement of ESA Members who are not yet Contracting Parties to the Revised Kyoto Convention to accede to it as soon as possible (and/or to identify related Capacity Building needs) – as one concrete way to also support TFA implementation; and responsibility of the ROCB and the Vice Chair to continue collecting and publishing information on ongoing Capacity Building projects and work of partner organizations such as SADC, COMESA, SACU and UNCTAD especially in the TF(A) area in the region – while encouraging Members and partner organizations to share such information.

The Workshop was successfully concluded with positive feedback from Members, partner organizations and development partners. A summary document on the discussions held during the Workshop is currently under finalization by the Vice Chair’s office and the ROCB and will be circulated to all participants of the Workshop in due course. Source: WCO

SARS R78 million Airport Cash Bust

Johannesburg – They [smugglers] had cash stashed in 11 pieces of luggage including four backpacks – R78 million destined for the United Arab Emirates.

But eagle-eyed customs officials at OR Tambo International Airport were on to them and confiscated the bags with R23m and $3.775m in notes.

On the same day, R50m worth of cocaine stashed in hair product bottles was seized at the same airport, in one of the biggest crime-busting days at OR Tambo.

On Monday, SA Revenue Service (Sars) officials said five people had been arrested after being caught with the undeclared cash as they were about to leave South Africa.

“Risk profiling earlier by Sars custom officials identified the passengers, and led to their apprehension as they boarded the aircraft at 9.45pm.

“Upon noticing the officials, the passengers retreated and headed back to the entrance of the boarding gate. At this point, officials closed the boarding gate door and the passengers were compelled to wait for the Sars officials,” Sars said.

When asked whether they had any currency, one of the passengers apparently said he had R100 000 and that the other members of the group had currency with them.

“The five individuals were escorted back to immigration at international arrivals, booked back into South Africa and escorted to customs.”

Sars spokesperson Luther Lebelo said the bags with the cash had been handed over to the SA Reserve Bank.

“The matter has been handed over to the SA Reserve Bank for further investigations. Once the bank is satisfied that there is an element of criminality, they can take the matter to the police,” he said.

The arrests on Friday – details of which were released on Tuesday – followed a R50m drug bust at the airport. National police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the consignment of cocaine, weighing about 143kg, was one of the largest drug recoveries at a South African port of entry.

“The drugs were hidden in 147 hair products bottles and were found during a routine inspection at the cargo section. The consignment arrived from Brazil, and information displayed on the cargo indicated it was in transit to Cotonou, Benin, in West Africa,” he said.

Other drug busts at OR Tambo over the past month include:

  • The confiscation of 60 000 Viagra tablets with a street value of R6m at the airport’s mailing centre.
  • Cocaine weighing 3.46kg and valued at R993 020, found in the backpack of a passenger in transit from Sao Paulo and headed for Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Sixty-five packages of crystal meth valued at R4.2m, confiscated while being loaded into a bakkie in the cargo area.
  • Heroin valued at R201 810 destined for Spain and Ireland, discovered along with 2kg of cannabis at the airport’s mailing centre.

Source: The Star

Customs Non-Intrusive Inspection affects trade costs

DBN Relocatable ScannerThe following article suggests the need for greater consultation and collaboration between all supply chain parties. While the associated costs relating to supply chain movements is not the purview of SARS, these should be considered as part of the overall impact assessment in the lead up to such an implementation. For all intents and purposes this is an unintended consequence. Stakeholders should also note that the SA government has not imposed any fee for the scanning of cargoes to re-coup costs. Non-intrusive inspection (NII) capability is a tenet of international customs control intended to mitigate security threats and incidents of cargo misdeclaration, even legitimate cargo that can be used to mask harmful products stowed in vehicles/containers. The issue of increased cost of compliance has unfortunately been a trait of many international customs developments ever since the advent of ‘heightened security’ – post 9/11 and seems destined to remain a ‘challenge’ as we supposedly move into an era of increased trade facilitation.Joint collaboration between all parties not only assists in better understanding of the broader supply chain landscape but can also contribute to positive measures on the ‘ease of doing business’.

Freight & Trade Weekly (issue no. 2158, 10 July 2015) reports that Industry has called on customs to look into processes around its cargo scanners which they say are currently driving up costs.

Two state-of-the art scanners are currently operational at the Port of Durban and Cape Town and are part of South African Revenue Service’s (Sars) countrywide approach to risk management that aims for less intrusive inspections at ports and border entries.

The scanners were introduced in order to improve efficiency, with stopped containers being released more speedily than has been the case to date.

“It has however in some cases increased costs because it has resulted in double handling of containers,” said Dave Watts, a maritime consultant for the SA Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff).

Before the introduction of the scanners all stopped containers were moved by shipping lines to licensed depots for examination by Sars. Once the inspection was concluded and the container released the importer or his agent could collect it using their own transport.

The new process however sees the stopped container transported by the shipping line to the scanner where it is either released or has to be moved for a physical inspection to a depot.

If released at the scanner the container is however still on the shipping line’s appointed truck and not that of the importer or its agent’s nominated haulier.

There are no facilities to move it from one truck to the other at the scanners which means carrier haulage moves it to a depot anyway.

“The extra cost comes in simply because of the double handling,” explained Watts.

In Durban, where the new technology scanner was introduced just over a year ago, several importers maintain it is cheaper to just have their stopped containers taken to the depot for unpacks rather than going through the scanner and not unpacking.

According to Mike Walwyn, chairman of the Port Liaison Forum, the issue of carrier choice also comes into play as the importer now has to use carrier haulage for delivery as opposed to his or her own transport.

Whilst the Cape Town scanner has only been operational for a week, some very real challenges are foreseen and increased cost is one of them.

“The issue is not necessarily around the scanner,” says Watts, “but the rules and regulations around the customs act that stipulates all containers remain the liability of the shipping line until released by customs. In other words it has to be taken to the scanner by the carrier.”

It has been suggested that instead of doubling the handling of containers the carrier should just make the final delivery of the container, but it is generally accepted that carrier cartage rates are much higher than contracted cartage rates. In some cases the cost is said to be four times higher.” Source: FTW

BMA – This one is not implementable!

[Picture Credit: John Moore - Getty Images]

Border between South Africa and Zimbabwe [Picture Credit: John Moore – Getty Images]

The SA government is forging ahead with plans for a border management agency to handle all aspects of border control, from security to customs and plant and animal inspection – but MPs have said it can’t be done.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and his defence counterpart Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula launched Operation Pyramid – a transitional arrangement to improve interdepartmental co-ordination – on Friday, while a draft bill to create the legal framework for the agency was tabled at a workshop in Pretoria earlier in the week.

But there are serious concerns about the ability of one entity to manage the diverse requirements of border control, which would require a huge single body that may prove unwieldy, while it would also need to assume some of the functions of the police and defence force. This would put it in conflict with the constitution, which provides for a single police service and defence force.

Section 199.2 of the constitution states the defence force is the “only lawful military force in the Republic”. Establishing a border management agency performing security functions in parallel with the police and SANDF would thus require a constitutional amendment, but this is just one among many challenges.

The need for such an agency arose in the first place because numerous national intelligence estimates had said the lack of co-ordination in the border environment resulted in “significant weaknesses, threats and challenges”.

Briefing Parliament’s police oversight committee this week, Brigadier David Chilembe, head of border policing, outlined steps that had been taken to get the agency off the ground, six years after President Jacob Zuma ordered it to be done.

The Department of Home Affairs, the lead agent in the project, had established a project office to oversee implementation, heads of affected departments had signed a multiparty agreement and sat on a committee together to co-ordinate their efforts, while an interministerial committee ironed out the policy questions.

The Government Technical Advisory Centre in the Treasury was working on the business case for the agency, Chilembe said.
The plan was to set up the agency in stages and identify the legal and operational implications at each stage so they could be addressed.

But a follow-up briefing on concerns raised by MPs after an oversight visit to the Lebombo border post near Komatipoort in Mpumalanga opened a window into the difficulties the agency will face.

The committee wrote a damning report on the Lebombo border post after a visit earlier this year, when MPs found the ceiling was collapsing because air-conditioning ducts dripped on to it, the door was shattered and the gate jammed, meaning it was possible to drive or walk through it without stopping.

Police complained they had to stand unprotected in the sun or rain and had to make their own travel arrangements from town.
Lieutenant-General Kehla Sithole said the problems originated in a 1998 agreement between Mozambique and South Africa for the post to be established as a “one-stop” facility, with officials sitting back-to-back under one roof.

Mozambique later said it had expected South Africa to pay for its construction, but the Treasury balked at this.The resulting limbo meant new facilities could not be built and neither could the existing ones be refurbished because the Public Works Department refused to upgrade buildings earmarked for demolition.

There were perceptions that the SA Revenue Service, which was the lead agency in the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee – the body charged with harmonising the environment since 2001 – looked after its own interests first, leaving the SAPS short-changed in accommodation and office space.

MPs were shocked to hear an 80-room residential complex for SAPS personnel stood empty because police were expected to pay for it themselves but, unlike SARS officials, did not receive an accommodation allowance. As a result, they preferred to rent a shack in town and travel to the border post daily.

There was also no scanner at the border post, meaning truck cargos, for instance, could only be inspected manually. Opposition DA spokeswoman on police Dianne Kohler Barnard said this almost certainly meant the majority of vehicles went through the post unchecked, meaning it could easily be used for child trafficking, for example.

Sithole said the lack of a scanner was the result of a Treasury instruction for departments represented at the post to make a joint proposal for one to be procured, instead of each asking for their own – at a cost of millions a unit.

A “scanner committee” had been established in the late 1990s but, because one was provided for in the plans for the one-stop concept, it had yet to be bought.

Committee chairman Francois Beukman said MPs weren’t interested in the history of the problem, but rather in what would be done to get a scanner in place.

ANC MP Jerome Maake, supported by Leonard Ramatlakane, said after the presentation it was clear the border management agency couldn’t work. If it was established as a government department – one of three options on the table – this would create a “super department” that would reach into the functions of the others. This would confuse lines of accountability.

If it was established as a government component under an executive authority, or as a public entity, the other two options, it would run into the constitutional challenges related to the police and defence functions.

“All I see here is problems and I don’t see how they can be solved,” Maake said.

“Maybe you’re just afraid of telling the president, this animal can’t be implemented and you’re moving around it, on the periphery, afraid to just say, no – can we come up with something new?

“This one is not implementable.”

Source: Independant On Line (IOL)

Sniffing out trouble at SA ports

SARS DDU2A gruelling four months of training came to an end during May 2015 as 33 Customs officers and their detector dogs graduated from the SARS Detector Dog Training Academy. A graduation ceremony was held in Pretoria. It was the culmination of a training course where officers were, together with their canine charges, were trained in the finer aspects of the detection of illegal substances and goods in vehicles, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail, luggage and buildings.

“The substances that they would be able to detect are explosives, firearms and ammunition in addition to narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, mandrax, crystal meth and ecstasy,” states Hugo Taljaard, Senior Manager for the Detector Dog Unit (DDU). “They will also be able to find rhino horn, ivory, wet or dry abalone, crayfish and lion bones. This also extends to currency, tobacco products, copper wire and cell phones,” he added.

The training began in January 2015 and covered both practical and physical aspects. The following modules were accomplished during the development programme:

  1. Bonding and socialisation phase with the dog.
  2. Imprinting of substances.
  3. Paramilitary Drill – Salute and Compliment.
  4. Practical search and detect training on vehicles, vessels, aircraft, containers, cargo, mail, rail, luggage and buildings
  5. Physical training – dog and handling – Theoretical training on identification and handling of narcotics and endangered species; Dog conditioning process; Basic animal behavior; and General dog care.
  6. Change of environment training at land ports of entry.
  7. Formal assessment.

After this training, detector dog units will be established in Mpumalanga (Lebombo Detector Dog Unit), Northern Cape (Nakop Detector Dog Unit), and Northern Cape (Vioolsdrif Detector Dog Unit) to support SARS’ strategic objective to increase customs compliance at ports of entry.

Currently, all SARS DDU recruitment is sourced from within the organisation.

Visit the Servamus website (a community-based safety and security website and magazine) for an article published on Customs Detector Dog Unit – “Sniffing out trouble at SA ports” (May 2015 Edition). Source: SARS and Servamus.co.za

Related articles

Non-Intrusive Inspection capability – now in the Port of Cape Town

South African Customs has introduced non- intrusive inspection (NII) capability at the Port of Cape Town. The recent completion of an impressive relocatable scanner facility within the port precinct will now afford state of the art inspection services for customs targeted consignments for inspection. This is the third X-Ray scanner installed and operated by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

In March 2008, a mobile scanner was implemented at Durban Container Terminal. More recently, a relocatable X-Ray Scanner was implemented adjacent to the container terminal in Durban to allow for improved capacity and efficiency.

The new facility in Cape Town not only extends customs risk and enforcement capability in the use of such technology but acts as a deterrent against any possible threat posed by international cargoes entering or leaving the country’s ports of entry.

In addition to the new x-ray inspection hardware, SARS has developed bespoke support to allow scanned images to be reviewed remotely – away from the port area – affording customs increased flexibility, allowing image analysis experts elsewhere in the country to provide almost real-time analysis and support for the inspection team. The approach also meets SARS differentiated inspection case methodology which ensures that case finalization and cargo release does not rest with a single customs official.

Remote screening analysis is a practice that has already been pioneered in Europe with great effectiveness in recent years.

The benefit of non-intrusive inspection (NII) allows customs to ‘see whats inside’ the container, vehicle or tanker without having to break the seal. All of this can be done in a few minutes. It forms part of Customs overall approach to minimise the time taken to conduct a customs intervention and latent cost, damage and theft which plague conventional physical inspection of cargoes.

The new inspection site also enables SARS to increase its participation and effectiveness in the US Container Security Initiative (CSI) which was launched in Durban, December 2003. Under the CSI Agreement, SARS officials together with US Customs & Border Protection Agency (USCBP) officials – co-located at the Port of Durban – analyze and mitigate risks relating to any containerised cargo destined to ports in the United States.

Credit to Indresan Reddy (Customs Business Systems) for the photographs.

Related documents

Contraband Cigarettes – 3 Zimbabweans and a South African arrested

cigarettes1Three Zimbabweans and a South African were arrested in Limpopo province for allegedly teaming up and smuggling cigarettes worth $200,000 into the neighbouring country. The Zimbabwean trio, Takuzo Mutswiro, 22, Tatenda Nyamhunga, 31, Joseph Mhembwe, 27 and Gilbert Mamburu, 54, a South African from Tshiozwi village in Limpopo province, were arrested last week at Tshilwavhusiku near Thohoyandou after police intercepted a truck they were using to transport the cigarettes.

Limpopo provincial spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto, in a statement, said police followed up on information they received about suspicious activities at Mamburu’s house. Upon arrival at the scene, the three Zimbabweans attempted to run away, but were apprehended. Cigarettes with an estimated value of more than R2 million were found hidden in a small truck as well as a light delivery truck. It is suspected the cigarettes were smuggled from Zimbabwe, however their origin and destination is still being investigated.

Lately there has been an increase in the number of cigarette smugglers being arrested in the neighbouring country. Some of the cigarettes are smuggled out of the country through undesignated entry points along the crocodile-infested Limpopo River while others find their way into South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post despite the presence of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) scanners.The machines are able to detect concealed goods hidden in sealed containers.

The South Africa reportedly charges high rates on cigarette imports, which has resulted in a marked increase in cases of smuggling between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Most of these cigarettes are repackaged when they get to South Africa before being shipped to either Europe or Asia.

According to the South African Revenue Services (SARS), Beitbridge Border Post accounts for 70 percent of the cigarettes which are smuggled into that country. A recent statement from the South African Police Service said cigarette smuggling from Zimbabwe was being prioritised after it emerged the country supplied 55 to 70 percent of the 10 billion cigarettes reaching the neighbouring country’s black market. Source: The Chronical (Zimbabwe) & Customstoday.com

SEZs – SARS proposes changes to current Rules

Trade policy - a balancing actA draft Notice for the rules under section 21A relating to Special Economic Zones has been made available for public comment. The draft rule amendments proposed under section 21A refer to the substitution of Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) for Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The draft rules can be accessed on the SARS website. Stakeholders have until 28 November 2014 to lodge any comments. Source: SARS

New SARS Commissioner Appointed

Thomas Swahibi Moyane - Newly appointed Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services

Thomas Swahibi Moyane – Newly appointed Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services

The President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma, has in terms of section 6 of the South African Revenue Services Act, 1997, appointed Mr Thomas (Tom) Swabihi Moyane as a Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services. Mr Moyane’s appointment is with effect from 27 September 2014.

Mr Moyane, a development economist, recently served as the advisor on turnaround and security strategies at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

His qualifications include a BSc Economics from the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, Diploma in consulting to small Business from the University of the Witwatersrand, and certificates in Strategic Management, Managing Markets from Henley, Micro-economics from London School of Economics and Mastering Finance from GIBS.

Mr Moyane will bring more than 30 years’ experience to the position, having worked as a senior executive in various government and private sector entities.

Mr Moyane has served as National Commissioner at the Department of Correctional Services, as Chief Executive Officer for the Government Printing Works, as managing director for Engen Mozambique as well as regional coordinator for the regional spatial development initiatives and as chief director for industry and enterprise development at the department of trade and industry. During his period in exile he worked for government departments in Mozambique and Guinea Bissau.

The President has wished Mr Moyane well in his new responsibility of steering SARS to the future.

Mr Moyane said: I thank the President and the Minister of Finance, Mr Nhlanhla Nene for the confidence they have bestowed upon me. I look forward to working with the successful team at SARS to assist to take forward all priority development programmes and policies. Source: Office of the Presidency

South African Customs launches new X-Ray Inspection Facility in Durban

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.

A dedicated webpage for SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit

Picture1Due to overwhelming interest in the SARS Customs Detector Dog Unit, a dedicated page is now included – see the Detector Dog ‘tab’ at the top of this webpage for a direct link, or click here!

New Customs Control Act published

Customs Duty ActThe Customs Control Act, 2014 (Act No. 31 of 2014) and the Customs & Excise Amendment Act, 2014 (Act No. 32 of 2014) were published in the Government Gazette on 23 July 2014. For copies of these documents lease click here!

The first batch of draft rules has also been circulated in terms of the Customs Control Act, 2014 for comment with the deadline for comments looming – 29 July 2014. The ‘draft rules’ can be located by clicking here.The rest of the rules will follow in due course. Source: SARS

All stakeholders – doing business with SARS Customs – are collectively urged to take the time and opportunity to review the draft rules as they provide further detail to the future requirements and obligations for transacting Customs business when the Customs Duty and Control Acts come into operation.

New feature on SARS website – Customs Bills History

For those interested or concerned with the status of the Customs Bills from their first circulation until now, a ‘new’ SARS webpage contains all the official copies of the Draft Bills released for public comment in 2009 and in 2010 up until they were introduced in Parliament in October 2013. All the versions of the Bills after their introduction in Parliament are available as well, up to the final versions after publication in the Government gazette as Acts of Parliament.

These Acts, when they come into operation, will replace the current Customs and Excise Act, 1964 and provide for new modernised customs legislation. The Customs and Excise Amendment Act, 2014 will amend the 1964 Act to the extent that only the excise provisions will still be in force.

New Customs Duty Act, No.30 of 2014 published

Customs Duty ActThe Customs Duty Act, 2014 (Act No. 30 of 2014) was published in Gazette 37821 today and a copy thereof is available on the SARS Website at the following hyperlink – Acts Administered by the Commissioner.

The purpose of this Act is to provide for the imposition, assessment, payment and recovery of customs duties on goods imported or exported from the Republic; and for matters incidental thereto.

Take note that this Act is not in force as yet.It will come into operation the date that the proposed Customs Control Act (still to be published) takes effect, as indicated in section 229. That date will be announced by the President by Proclamation in the Gazette. The implementation will occur when SARS and the industries are ready, which means that the relevant rules and processes need to be in place. Source: SARS

State-of-Art Port Control Centre opens in Cape Town

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.

Getting to Grips with the Future Customs Control Act

Having recently introduced a whole new integrated customs business solution last year the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has spent the last six months stabilising its system. At the heart of the system is the Interfront Customs and Border management (iCBS) engine which takes care of all customs declaration processing.

CCB

Click on the image to download the Infogram

A new ‘state-of-the-art’ EDI Gateway infrastructure is at an advanced stage of development and configuration, and will be subjected to a series of rigorous testing both internally and with industry service providers over the next few weeks. The gateway is an important component of the organisation’s future aspirations in C-2-C, C-2-B and C-2-G information exchange with it’s stakeholders.

Over the last 2 years, SARS has been a key participant in the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs (GNC) initiative which seeks to develop standardised electronic information exchanges of commercial customs data and common border procedures between customs administrations. This is ‘greenfield development’ and requires innovative thinking between potential customs partners. In this specific area SARS has engaged both Mozambique and Swaziland Customs as willing partners in such an initiative. Developments with Mozambique are at an advanced stage and will shortly become a reality with the conclusion of the bilateral One Stop Border Post (OSBP) agreement that includes provision for electronic data exchange between the two administrations. More on this in a future post.

Technology aside, perhaps the most daunting task on the horizon is the introduction of the new Customs Duty and Control Acts which are currently in the parliamentary process. Much publicity and robust argument was aired in the printed media over the last year, all of which culminated in the parliamentary hearings overseen by parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF) during November and December 2013. While an agreement was reached with the freight forwarding sector of the local supply chain and logistics industry on certain aspects of the Control Bill, there still lies much work and clarification to be addressed in these and other areas.

Notwithstanding the signing into law of the Customs Bills, operational enactment thereof can only occur once the ‘rules’ to execute this legislation are circulated for comment, finalised and gazetted. Even considering the legal and approvals process in a simplistic form, the implementation of this new legislation is just too complex to introduce in a once-off, big-bang approach.  Due consideration must be given to a transitional approach taking into account the practicalities thereof as well as economic and logistical consequences of such approach.   It is no understatement that the impact of the new legislation, its incorporation into current automated systems, policies and procedures as well as the necessary re-adjustments to be made by every entity engaged in business with SARS Customs is no small feat.

Furthermore, the implications of the recently concluded WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation for South African Customs and Trade also needs to be determined and understood. While a large proportion of its content is encapsulated within the Revised Kyoto Convention, it is the first time ever that such requirements are subject to the conditions of a trade agreement.

It’s been some time since I last penned thoughts on the Customs Modernisation initiative. In retrospect and thinking ahead, the underlying bottom line to its longer term success lies in increased ‘communication’ with stakeholders – ironically, the World Customs Organisation’s adopted theme for 2014!

Please feel free to download the infogram on the future Customs Control Act by clicking on the picture above. Official links to the Customs Control and Duty Bills are included below. It would also be wise for parties involved in Excise to consider the contemplated changes contained in the Excise Duty Bill (Customs and Excise Amendment Bill).

Related documents