Archives For Transportation and Logistics

Container terminal (CT1) with Nordschleuse in ...

Container terminal (CT1) with Nordschleuse in the foreground, Bremerhaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Port Technology International’s article is perhaps poignant to current logistics developments in South Africa. Optimisation at the terminal does not only mean improving productivity and reducing operational costs. Optimisation represents a new approach to managing container terminals; it is the most significant driving factor in changing the traditional operational approach and methodology applied at container terminals. It also allows terminals to have a focus on efficiency which needs to address the trade-off between vessel service time, terminal capacity, and cost per move.

In terms of the marine shipping industry, one of the most accurate definitions of optimisation is: “The act of making a system, design or decision as effective or functional as possible.” Optimisation as a discipline is an ancient science best illustrated over time.

The history of optimisation

Greek mathematicians used to solve optimisation problems related to geometrical studies. After the invention of calculus, mathematicians were then able to address more complex optimisation problems. Following the start of the World War II and the advent of the operations research field, the concept and practice of optimisation began to develop and received significant academic and industrial focus. Mr J. Von Neumann, a leading individual behind the development of operations research, contributed substantially to the field of algorithmic research. And in the 60s and 70s, complexity analysis began to further support the use of optimisation. Then, in the 80s and 90s as computers became more efficient, algorithms for global optimisation with the purpose of solving large-scale problems began to gain momentum and credibility.

Considering the present

The continual advancements in technology with respect to computing power along with significant research in applied mathematics and computer science have solidified the value of optimisation to the industry and the end user. This has enabled advanced theory to be applied in a way that has sometimes invisibly improved our lives during last 20 years. The progress is amazing. Today, companies such as UPS and Federal Express utilise complex routing algorithms for resource allocation and supply chain distribution to deliver an item to our door with seamless efficiency. Their results have in turn changed the way millions of us find information, shop, and even do our jobs.

Today, many industries use optimisation as a more general term that covers areas from manufacturing process efficiency to improved distribution techniques. The core objective of optimisation is improving and controlling the process – whatever it may be – and allowing people with responsibilities in those areas to make better decisions. Operations research, for example, is a discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions at the right time and within the time constraints of a live operation.

As with other industries, the shipping and container space is currently going through its own step change to achieve new levels of operational productivity in response to mega-trends, such as globalisation and sustainable operations. To compete, ports and terminals have decided they need to adapt to their changing demands by optimising their activities in areas such as berthing allocation, vessel planning, fleet size optimisation, shift resource planning and equipment scheduling. All of these areas are critical for minimising the cost per move factors and maximising overall terminal performance and throughput.

Optimisation also provides the intelligence and the tools to support this changing industry, but it is not meant to be a black box. A container terminal is a very complex system with many unpredictable variables. Those focused on achieving optimisation will need to be able to control, monitor and configure the behaviour of this intelligence behind the machine and systems, filling any critical gaps between the planning and execution.

Containerised cargo makes up about 60 percent of all dry cargo trade in the world; since the advent of the cargo container more than 50 years ago, this number continues to grow. The appeal of containerised cargo is well known – cargo can be seamlessly transported from origin to destination via a variety of modes without the need to unload and reload its contents. The marine container terminal is at the junction of water, rail and truck transport modes. And as a consequence, marine container terminals are some of the most essential, yet challenging, links in the global supply chain. Source: Port Technology International

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FTW - Gauteng Edition Sept 2013The latest Freight & Trade Weekly (FTW) [Gauteng special edition] publication reminds me of a very interesting article I read a few months back – refer to my post “What are surfaces?” of 23 June 2013. The article dealt with the question of surfaces (i.e. land and sea) in relation to the multimodal movement of containers and envisioned by the logistics and supply-chain management practices.

I bewailed the fact that the actual dissertation would set me back a US$1000 but remained intrigued by the content which such dissertation would contain given the very interesting abstract I had just read. Given the high cost of such, obviously acknowledging the expertise, knowledge and resourcefulness which often goes into the preparation such papers therefore puts them beyond the reach of most.

To my amazement, a few days later I received an email from a fellow blogger – an expert in supply chain logistics – who was happy to share with me his copy of the paper.  The paper is titled “Shipping container mobilities, seamless compatibility, and the global surface of logistical integration”, published by Environment and Planning (EPA) volume 45 (2013). The author, a Dr. Craig Martin has delivered a masterpiece (my view) which considers the subject matter way beyond what I, as a Customs and Trade specialist, would consider or envision. I thoroughly enjoyed his bringing together of historical and current concepts and principles (attributed to many experts and peers) in the matter of intermodal containerisation.

Understanding the supply chain is a critical pre-requisite in the international Customs and Trade arena, at least since 9/11. In addition to the various WCO guides and standards, one needs to locate and digest papers such as this – and here I refer also to the many other websites, reference portals and publications of international experts in the global logistics and supply chain field.

Some of the more salient statements contained in the  Dr. Martin’s paper confirms that the ‘ideology of containerisation emanates out of a wider body of reasoning based on the notion of integration.’

The Need and Logic of Integration

Integration focuses on interactions between various aspects of a supply chain and is defined as “a systems approach to viewing the supply chain as a whole, and to managing the total flow of goods inventory from the supplier to the ultimate customer”.

From the late 1950s, management theory began to emphasize the importance of “how industrial company success depends on the interaction between the flows of information, materials, money, manpower, and capital equipment”.

By the 1980s, the emphasis of the logistics sector’s control of company functions, including materials management, transport, storage, and information management, highlighted the importance and process of integration.

During the mid-1990s, the notion of integration extended even further with the move towards supply chain management (SCM), where aspects of supply, materials management, distribution, and retail functions were placed under the control of a single company. The overarching ideology of logistics and SCM are systemic completeness and the management of flow.

The movement of containerised cargo is a critical component of SCM, as it accentuates surface control through the integration of land and sea transport. As far back as the 1960’s, experts opined that “most types of liquids and solids may someday be moved in sealed containers interchangeable among road, rail, air, and marine transport. Advantages would include reduction in damage and loss in the time and cost of loading and unloading. Containers may prove to be the catalyst that integrates the various components of the transport sector which are now being independently planned, financed, and operated” – and this is exactly what is happening today.

Standardisation towards Intermodal Integration

In 1953 Malcolm McLean developed the idea of transporting truck trailers on ships rather than on the congested highways of the US East Coast. His rationale was to overcome congestion by consolidating the transport system: at this time the truck and ship industries were entirely separate. He is ultimately credited for the invention of the modern cellular container we have today.

Vital to structural integration was the standardized nature of infrastructure itself – enabling the coupling of a container with a variety of nodes. These include the design of container-cell vessels, the redesign of road haulage vehicles and railway rolling stock, the design of container handling vehicles in ports, the construction of large-scale dockside gantry cranes, the design of spreader bars, and not to forget the design of the container corner fittings – these are standardized across all of the equipment related above.

It can therefore correctly be asserted that “the container links land and sea transport in an almost seamless and profoundly international continuum” (Broeze 2002)

So I guess what I’m trying to emphasize is that close on 70 years of continuous harmonization and integration in the supply chain logistics industry, specifically in regard to multimodal (door-to-door) containerized transport, as well as the substantive facilitation support accorded thereto by both the WTO and WCO, the basis of containerisation must surely be a consideration when applying regulatory control measures whether it be in the export leg or import leg of an international supply chain movement.

The key enabler in a modern Customs environment is undoubtedly automated processing and no less automated risk assessment. Facilitation on the other hand is a tool whereby, in combination with risk assessment, Customs focuses on entities and patterns rather than transnational intervention. Unreasonable (and mandatory) termination of a multimodal movement destroys the benefits of containerization and will add costs and loss of competitiveness for traders. Our beautiful country can ill-afford this given burgeoning competition from our neighbours up north. Finally, The matter of regional integration is another aspect which needs in-depth consideration. As we enthuse and wallow in our new found technological state, physical borders remain the biggest inhibitors to trade. More on this another time.

Recommended Link

TT ClubThe TT Club, has called for higher levels of training to maintain and improve the expertise of those employed by shippers, consolidators, warehouses and depots to pack containers properly.

The insurance organisation said it is no surprise that the correct packing of containers is high on the agenda for industry bodies, regulators and insurers, as the consequences of unsafe and badly secured cargo are serious. According to freight transport insurer TT Club’s claims, some 65 per cent feature cargo loss or damage, of which over one-third result from poor packing.

It is timely that TT Club and Exis Technologies have come together to develop CTUpack e-learning, an online training tool for those involved in the loading and unloading of containers or Cargo Transport Units.

Designed and produced by Exis Technologies on the initiative of the TT Club, and with its financial investment, the CTUpack e-learning(tm) course is aligned with IMO/ILO/UN ECE guidelines for packing containers. Beginning with the foundation course, which will be launched later this year, it will comprise modules that include topics such as cargo or transport and elements equivalent to lessons, covering areas like forces and stresses.

In future the course will evolve to reflect developments and updates to the ILO guidelines and there is a capacity for additional modules to incorporate cargo specific and more advanced training elements. Source: Seanews.com

Mozambique flagA new cargo terminal will be opened at the Ressano Garcia – Lebombo border crossing before the end of the year to speed up the processing of customs clearance for goods moving between Mozambique and South Africa.

To further the project an agreement has been reached between the Mozambique Tax Authority (ATM) and a consortium composed of the Matola Cargo Terminal (Frigo), Matrix and the “Zambian Border Crossing Company”.

The 15 year concession contract was signed on 14 June in Ressano Garcia by the chairperson of ATM, Rosario Fernandes, and by the managing director of Frigo, Filipe Franco.

Filipe Franco told AIM that a new truck terminal is being built where facilities will be available for all the necessary services including customs, migration, and officials dealing with health and agriculture.

He pointed out that “our objective is to ensure that the terminal will be completed and operational by December”, adding that the consortium is composed of companies with a great deal of experience in managing cargo terminals.

Rosario Fernandes said that the cargo terminal project will facilitate trade by speeding up customs clearance at the border post through a one stop system and the single electronic window system which is being implemented throughout Mozambique. Source: AIM (Mozambique News Agency)

The fifth annual congress of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) takes place on 8-9 October 2013 at the Hilton, Sandton.

David Logan - SAAFF

David Logan – SAAFF

David Logan, CEO of SAAFF says, “The freight forwarding market has been a major beneficiary of an increasingly globalised world economy. The significant year-on-year growth in international trade volumes has driven the evolution of the freight forwarder, inherently linked to the success of global trade and the development of new markets.  Against this backdrop, it hardly seems surprising that the congress continues to grow and attract robust debate from key players in the market.  This year’s event also receives the endorsement and support of the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA), which represents the multi-billion Rand South African courier industry, another major role player in facilitating global business.”

“Having long-abandoned the image of transport intermediaries, today’s freight management logistics providers manage an array of complex functions and issues, being responsible for an entire array of services within the supply chain. The two-day congress will highlight and debate many of the pressing issues from customs modernization, security, piracy, supply chain efficiencies, trade credit, risk management, political risk, legislation, FAIS, economic trading factors, transformation, training and in-demand skills and more.”

“Our industry is also in a unique position to tap into the incredible growth currently shaping the African continent where some of the fastest growing economies reside.  Added to this the rapid reconstruction and development projects taking place throughout the continent will rely heavily on the services of freight forwarders.  Africa’s abundance of commodities is estimated to generate about a third of Africa’s growth.  All this requires trusted partners in the movement of goods to facilitate global trade, and the forwarders best positioned to capitalise on this are those that have robust infrastructures, global capability, solid expertise and a deep understanding of trade in African countries, which is not without its fair share of risk,” adds David.

“Global pressures on world markets are impacting on our members and the congress is an ideal platform to really get to grips with the realities and challenges of our current trading environment.  It’s an ideal platform for sponsors and suppliers to engage directly with the senior decision makers of freight forwarding companies, government, suppliers and policy makers,” he concludes.

Running alongside the congress will be a two-day industry supplier exhibition as well as a one day training and education workshop on Tues 8 October covering important issues regarding skills development, industry qualifications, talent management, training, BBBEEand more – all critical issues for HR managers and directors in the freight forwarding industry. For more information about the congress or to book your seats contact the congress organisers, Teresa Settas Communications on (011) 894 2767 or e-mail nadine@tscommunications.co.za. Source: transportworldafrica.co.za

services_import_SnapseedActually, this is a view from the Ukraine. In modern practice, the organisation of the transport process often necessitates direct international multimodal transportation, in which case the freight forwarder carries out the contract of carriage as a multimodal transport operator, even if it does not directly own any vehicles. However, a trend has arisen in which the functions of the carrier and forwarder are combined. Under this model, traditional carriers diversify their activities by creating a forwarding unit within their companies, or forwarding agents acquire vehicles or create dependent carriers. Furthermore, forwarders often hire subcontractors to undertake the shipment; as a result, cases of loss or shortage of goods and claims against forwarding agents can become quite complicated. 

General provisions

Ukrainian legislation does not provide detailed rules governing freight-forwarding activities. The Law on Freight-Forwarding Activities, the Civil Code and the Economic Code stipulate only the general regulations of freight forwarding.

In accordance with Clause 1 of the Law on Freight Forwarding Activities, the contract of freight forwarding is a contract in which the freight forwarder agrees, at the client’s behest, to perform or arrange for the performance of certain contract work related to the transportation of goods. The forwarding agent is entitled to engage other parties for the execution of certain work under the contract (eg, transportation, storage, loading and unloading).

The law includes only general provisions under which the freight forwarder may be held liable to the customer (unless provided otherwise in the contract) for:

  • the number of packages;
  • the weight of the packages (if the weighing was conducted in the presence of the carrier and confirmed with its signature); and
  • packaging requirements under the related shipping documents (signed by a representative of the carrier).

Issues regarding the forwarder’s liability are also governed by the general provisions of the Civil Code, which provides for liability for breach of obligations under the contract. Thus, Article 623 of the code provides that a debtor in breach of its obligations must compensate the creditor for losses caused.

Where the freight forwarder engages third parties to fulfil its obligations under the contract of freight forwarding, the forwarding agent will be held fully responsible for the actions and omissions of the third parties.

Ukrainian law lacks specific rules that directly limit the freight forwarder’s liability to the client. Detailed rules governing the forwarding agent’s liability to the customer, as well as grounds and limitations of such liability, are fixed by the parties in the contract of freight forwarding.

At the same time, Ukrainian legislation contains general rules that allow for the release of the freight forwarder from liability. In accordance with Clause 614 of the Civil Code, a party that has violated its obligations will be held responsible only if found guilty (intently or negligently), unless otherwise agreed in the contract. Disputes in connection with claims against freight forwarders for loss of cargo in transit are common in Ukraine, so there is ample case law in the area. However, since Ukrainian legislation provides only general provisions on the freight forwarder’s liability, court practice for such disputes is often ambiguous and contradictory. In particular, there have been separate cases with similar circumstances in which the court variously found the freight forwarder both liable and not liable for cargo loss in transit. Continue Reading…

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.

Mobile-scanner installed at Apapa Port as part of DI contract

Mobile-scanner installed at Apapa Port as part of DI contract

Destination Inspection takeover – it seems that all is not well. A stand-off between officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and members of the freight forwarding community is festering over trade facilitation issues. The  long association between officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and big time freight forwarders, including association leaders may have gone sour. THISDAY checks at the ports revealed that most leaders of freight forwarding associations are on the warpath with the Customs. The agents are aggrieved over what they described as high handedness on the implementation of trade policies by the Customs. They alleged that the Customs has in a bid to meet revenue targets embarked on measures that will force most traders who are mainly their clients out of business.

It is lead to believe that made some leaders of customs agents associations work against the Customs Service concerning the take-over of Destination Inspection from agencies handling the project. The Federal Government had extended the contracts of the Destination Inspection Agents (DIAs) by six months at a time that the Customs had prepared to take over the scheme. Customs had trained about 2000 officers for the scheme. The Service, it was gathered had also planned to inherit the scanning machines from the DIAs before the contract was extended. Indications are that the contracts may be further extended by more than one year at the expiration of six months. Since the extension was announced, many leaders of customs agents have not come out openly to condemn it.

Bone of Contention – When the NCS failed to introduce duty benchmark at the ports last year, the relationship between the it and freight forwarders has changed.Customs issues Debit Note (DN) to recover what is lost due in terms of under-valuation, this has often been abused as importers and their customs agents negotiate what to pay with some of the valuation officers responsible for this. So, the management of the Customs believed that the only way to address this problem was a duty benchmark which saves the importer. The idea of the benchmark was to check revenue losses as a result of under-valuation of goods coming into the country. However, the benchmark arrangement was dropped on the order of the Presidency. Since then, the Service has adopted other means to ensure that no revenue is lost, a development that has angered the clearing agents.

Duty Targets – With a revenue target of N1trillion last year, the Customs had worked hard to ensure that it meets its revenue target. The Service realised about N800bn. Freight forwarders are bitter that so many containers have been abandoned by their owners at the ports due to high-handedness by the Customs in terms of outrageous DNs on the goods. A member of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) told THISDAY that the amount being issued as DN is such that many importers have been unable to pay. A top official of NAGAFF who did not want to be quoted said that it appears there is a grand plan by some officials of customs to frustrate some importers out of business by issuing outrageous DNs. “In some cases, the DN is such that the importer will be at total loss after clearing the goods. We have appealed to the management of the customs about this thing, but their officers have failed to come down on the value placed on these goods. Source: This Day (Nigeria)

Interfront logo2

Its been some time since I’ve penned an article on the South African Customs Modernisation Programme. Aside from it being the SA Revenue Service’s prerogative to communicate and publish notice of its internal developments and plans, some caution always needs to be exercised observing bureaucratic protocol, ensuring that the official message is forthcoming from SARS. Given the widespread interest in the programme as well as the development of the Interfront [formerly Tatis] integrated customs border management solution (iCBMs) as a wholly owned development of South Africa, I think it not out of place to inform the public interest on this matter. Readership of this blog has an extensive global following and a specific interest in Interfront developments.

Unlike ASYCUDA, Sofix, e-Biscus, and a host of other integrated Customs-tailored business solution offerings, Interfront’s solution for SARS will not include a client user frontend. In other words, the Interfront system (iCBMs) will essentially drive declaration backend processing. This comprises a fully integrated declaration validation and processing engine, supported by a sophisticated tariff engine and duty calculator; the latter offering future web-based services for customs users. In order to compliment the SARS corporate and standardised user interface approach, the iCBMs interfaces with SARS’s revenue accounting, trader registration, risk management, and case management workflow systems. Not only does this leverage cost savings and efficiencies, but ensures a unified ‘workspace’ for all of SARS employees.

Much of the Interfront technology is therefore hidden to the customs user, with traders experiencing an identical interface with SARS Customs, as it does today. From the outset of the Customs Modernisation Programme (July 2010), the approach has followed pragmatic migration of customs electronic clearance processing – across its 30 odd legacy systems – towards an integrated clearance process that could mimic the functionality featured on the new iCBMs. The modern technology and scalability of Interfront offers the ability and agility to enhance service levels and efficiencies to another level. At the same time, operational policies and procedures have been modernised with the aim and intent of meeting the requirements contained in Customs new Control and Duty Bills.

Much of the ‘change’ experienced by both customs officers and the trade over the last 2 years has prepared the country for the eventual migration to the new system. These have been significant, and at times painful changes, not without anxiety and apprehension. Over the last 6 months an even more painstaking and taxing effort has been expended by the Customs Modernisation Team, Interfront and other service providers in addressing a seamless harmonisation and switchover of customs business from disparate legacy systems to a new customs technology platform. The “Parallel Run” has witnessed the daily comparison of customs clearance data between the old and new systems, identification and logging of disparities (bugs), modification of the two environments to ensure the same result is achieved. This has not been an easy and simple process, as any country having undergone a system switchover can attest to.

This month, February 2013, service providers to the customs industry are readying their resources to commence user testing. This implies that service providers (computer bureaus) will engage their clients to prepare test cases for submission to customs to test the new Interfront process. Given that Customs legacy systems and Interfront have been synchronised to a high level of compatibility, the process for traders should not reveal much difference to what they have experienced over the period of modernisation over the last 2 years. One area of note will be the structure and content of Customs Response messages. Traders will have to familiarise themselves and test their interpretation of these messages to ensure they perform or respond appropriately to the instructions.

Satya Prasad Sahu - Technical Officer at the WCO provided members of SACU, SADC and the EAC comprehensive guidelines for the development of the GNC Utility Block concept in Africa (February 2012)

Satya Prasad Sahu – Senior Technical Officer at the WCO provided members of SACU, SADC and the EAC comprehensive guidelines for the development of the GNC Utility Block concept in Africa (February 2012)

In terms of compliance and compatibility with international developments, the new iCBMs is engineered on the WCO Data Model. All relevant simplification processes as exemplified in the Revise Kyoto Convention are likewise factored into its design, although not all of these will be immediately available with the initial rollout. Introduction of the new Customs Control and Duty Acts will require these principles to be fully functional and operational, however.

The WCO Data Model is the pivotal design component around which most of the new system’s business and validation rules are centred. This in itself is a major achievement as it bodes well for all future ‘cross border’, customs-2-customs connectivity initiatives. In this regard SARS is well advanced in bilateral and multilateral projects with key trading partners, for example IBSA (cross-global trilateral initiative), and in Africa, we are working with SACU, SADC, COMESA and the EAC to bring about regional customs connectivity. On a bilateral basis, initiatives with Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are developing nicely. A significant contributor to cross border/cross global customs connectivity is undoubtedly the excellent work brought about by the dedicated members of the WCO’s Globally Networked Customs adhoc workgroup. In June last year, the WCOs policy Commission unanimously endorsed the GNC architecture and Utility Block approach. African customs connectivity efforts have likewise adopted this model which ensures harmonisation and uniformity in approach, legal dispensation, data exchange, risk management and procedure. The WCO moreover plays a overseeing role in many of these GNC and capacity building initiatives across the globe – this assists greatly in sharing and learning of experiences.

I would think that the above should be sufficient to wet the appetites of customs practitioners, traders, ICT technocrats, and perhaps even legislators and bureaucrats on developments in South Africa. Subsequent to the launch of Interfront SARS will make its ideas and strategy relating to forthcoming initiatives known to trade and the business community. A Year of Innovation? Yes, and hopefully a happy tale that will bode well for the South African trade and supply chain logistics community, and some good fortune for Interfront in its business development in the region and beyond!

Creamer Media have published 2012 Road and Rail – a comprehensive review and insight into South Africa’s road and rail transport infrastructure and network. This should be a must read for any serious investor and comes at a price just shy of R 2000,00. 

For the much of the six-and-a-half decades from 1910, South Africa’s rail sector was carefully nurtured and handsomely resourced by successive administrations. Growing competition from road was kept at bay by tough regulatory practices that ensured rail freight of a virtual monopoly.

From the mid-1970s, however, rail’s pre-eminent position in South Africa began to come under scrutiny. A series of National Transport Policy Studies reviewed worldwide trends in transport deregulation. The findings reinforced a growing belief that an overprotected rail industry and an over-regulated road-freight sector were detrimental to the overall South African economy. This was undoubtedly true – but as often happens in these matters, in the following decades, and indeed, right up to the recent present, the stick was then bent excessively in the opposite direction.

The net result is that, on the freight side, rail has massively lost market share to road over the past 20 to 25 years. Road transport has been allowed to grow, but without the implementation of an effective road transport quality system. This imbalance in the modal split has been a key contributing factor to high direct logistics costs in the economy. The disproportionate shift of freight to road has had many other perverse and costly impacts – the road freight industry (unlike Transnet Freight Rail) does not directly carry the cost of building and maintaining the public infrastructure it uses and this has resulted in an increase in road construction and maintenance costs, deteriorating road conditions, congestion problems and road collisions.

This report investigates South Africa’s road and rail infrastructure, including the country’s road and rail networks, maintenance and the challenges facing the sector, among others. For details as to the content of the report please click here! Source: Creamer Media

In an interview with The Maritime Executive, Peter Kant, executive vice president for Rapiscan Systems informed that the primary business of a port is serving as a hub for water-borne commerce and all of the logistics that entails, with each port competing for the business of shippers and container operators. Every investment made by a port authority, from a crane to a dredge to a security checkpoint, must be based on how this activity will not only position the port to current customers, but how it will affect the attraction of future customers.

Increasingly, however, these investments are including more and more security needs, from container scanning equipment to operator training to security architectures. Security, and in particular security screening, is not the core business of a ports authority, but compliance with national and international guidelines demands that certain security standards be met, or losing customers will be the last of a port authority’s worries.

But even though security screening is an absolute necessity, many ports are looking to get out of the security game altogether. But will the departure from security make ports less secure…or could it actually enhance cargo scanning operations?

The Heavy Burden of Screening
As mentioned earlier, port authorities are not experts when it comes to security, especially a task as granular as cargo screening. It’s not just about a “mean guard and a magnet” when it comes to screening anymore, and this especially holds true to the world of maritime cargo. First, the right technology must be installed, a solution that can effectively analyze cargo for potential contraband or threats, both conventional and radioactive. Then, a port authority must determine the best location for the screening checkpoint, and oversee the construction of the location, both in terms of port impact and traffic optimization.

Next come the installation and calibration of the scanning technology, as well as the hiring and training of security operators. The authority must also establish a workflow for what happens when a container is flagged – what requires a manual inspection? Who approves such an operation? What remediation must take place after the fact?

The fact of the matter is, cargo scanning isn’t just about putting containers through an X-ray machine. It’s much, much more than that, and consumes enough time that establishing and running a checkpoint can adversely affect port business.

But there is an easier way to run cargo screening operations. Port authorities are experts in maritime commerce, so why shouldn’t they turn to experts in security screening to run cargo scanning operations?

Cargo Scanning-as-a-Service
Rather than trying to become cargo screening experts overnight, port authorities can take advantage of a major trend in the overall security world: security-screening-as-a-service. Essentially, port operators form a partnership with an experienced security screening solutions provider, tasking the provider, not the port, with the onus of establishing and running a cargo scanning checkpoint.

Other than the obvious benefit of freeing the port authority from the security logistics headache, why turn to cargo screening as a service? For one, 100 percent screening in the United States has not gone away…at least not yet. But even if the requirements on cargo entering the USA are loosened, port screening for contraband is not going to decrease – in this economic climate, governments want to ensure that everything that can be taxed is taxed. This is a nightmare scenario for port authorities to deal with, but one with which screening solutions provider are comfortable. With their experience in the field, these providers can find the right equipment and checkpoint set-up to be as thorough and detailed as needed when it comes to cargo scanning, ensuring that not only are potential threats detected, but any contraband can be swiftly dealt with by the appropriate authorities.

Going with an experienced screening partner can also add radiation detection capabilities, a growing problem in the world of maritime commerce. Radioactive materials, either improperly labeled or being shipped as contraband, can shut ports down for days and are impossible to detect via conventional cargo screening technologies. By utilizing screening-as-a-service, however, port authorities can place this additional burden on the solutions provider, which has the experience and the right capabilities to detect radiation alongside conventional contraband and threats.

Training of security operators is another headache that cargo scanning as a service eliminates for the port. The difference between a major international incident and millions of dollars in fines can hinge entirely on the competency of a security screening operator. Do port authorities really want to be responsible for the skills of these professionals, especially when it’s in a field far outside of their comfort zones?

With cargo scanning as a service, training falls into the lap of the solutions provider, a task with which they are well familiar. Because they have built, installed and maintained the security technologies selected, these organizations best understand how to train professionals on the ins-and-outs of analyzing scanned images and detecting potential threats and contraband.

The service also gives ports a major competitive advantage, as a well-designed, specially-staff cargo scanning checkpoint makes the entire security process far easier for customers to deal with. Throughput is often increased, meaning that cargo makes it to its end destination more quickly and with fewer roadblocks, a paramount concern for shippers everywhere. Even a few hours delay can be costly, especially when perishable goods like imported produce are involved.

The Real World
Perhaps most importantly, cargo-scanning-as-a-service is not a pipe dream or some theoretical solution for ports. It’s already in practice and being used by some of the largest customs and port operations in the world.

The Ports Authority of Puerto Rico, for example, utilizes cargo-screening-as-a-service from a customs perspective, ensuring that no contraband is entering the island through its major ports. By enlisting an outside, specialized security solutions provider, the Port has increased throughput without sacrificing the integrity of its customs or security operations.

The Mexican Customs Authority has also turned to a wide-ranging cargo-screening-as-a-service solution for their operations, both land-locked and maritime. The major project has just recently been undertaken, but ultimately the vast majority of Mexican ports will soon be turning to screening-as-a-service when it comes to cargo, freeing the ports to focus on the business, not contraband detection.

Detecting threats and contraband via maritime cargo is not going to get any easier. If anything, smugglers, criminals and terrorist organizations are becoming more and more clever when it comes to getting illicit goods, weapons and hazardous materials across national borders. Port authorities trying to stay one step ahead of these issues are in for a struggle, as other aspects of the port business suffer.

Keep the port operator’s attention where it belongs (on the port) and let specialized experts handle the cargo scanning burden. It’s proven, it works, and it’s the best way forward to maritime prosperity and safety. Source: The Maritime Executive

 

Its been a while since I penned some comment on the customs modernisation programme in South Africa. Amongst the anxiety and confusion there are a few genuine ‘nuggets’ which I would hope will not go unnoticed by the business community. With stakes high in the area of business opportunity and competitiveness, such ‘nuggets’ must be adopted and utilised to their fullest extent. Lets consider two such facilities.

The widespread implementation and adoption of electronic customs clearance has allowed brokers to file declarations for any customs port from the comfort of their desks. Brokers can now consider centralised operations especially for customs clearance purposes. Likewise the withdrawal of the annoying goodwill bond should also come as a welcome decision. Hopefully this may translate into cost-savings over time.

As of 11 August 2012, the business community will also be glad to learn that imported goods which do not fully meet all national regulatory requirements can be entered into bond on a warehouse for export (WE) basis. While this may not sound like anything new, the provisions which come into effect, will accord the identical treatment of such goods as if they were being entered for warehousing. In short the new provisions will allow more flexibility with the ability to re-warehouse WE goods; the ability to change ownership on WE goods; and the ability to declare WE goods for another customs procedure.These provisions can be considered a relaxing of the original approach which mandated compulsory exportation. All government regulatory requirements (i.e. permits, certificates, etc.) will however be strictly enforced upon clearance of WE goods for home use or another customs procedure. The apparent relaxation forms part of ongoing alignment of customs procedures with the Customs Control Bills, which are in the process of finalisation.

For those who have enquired about the followup to the national transit procedure, I have not forgotten about it. The ‘touchy’ nature of the subject requires a mature and fair response. Please bear with me.

 

The following piece suggests that the realisation of AEO obligations on shippers is real and will be augmented by support systems that may marginalise the highly competitive freight forwarding industry.  While there is a suggestion of cost savings due to non-reliance of shippers on traditional forwarding agents, I believe this is a short-sited view as the ‘real challenge’ lies in whether or not shippers are up to the task in meeting these obligations given their unfamiliarity with customs and transport requirements. I see many shippers having to recruit experienced customs and forwarding experts to maximise their compliance given the burgeoning obligations materializing in international shipping!

In October 2011, Aircargoshop an online booking portal provided shippers the possibility to book their own airfreight without involvement of the traditional shipping agent via the online portal Aircargoshop. This is a development that might have important consequences for the closed airfreight industry. As a consequence the online booking portal offers a lower-priced, more efficient and more transparent process for aircargo booking.

Founder Paul Parramore of Rhenus Logistics suggests that this system will bring down the cost of airfreight by as much as 50%. The Dutch Shipping Council EVO, gave the system the thumbs up and said that it will revolutionise the manner in which the freight business is currently being conducted.

Joost van Doesburg, a consultant with EVO said that in the long run restructuring of the industry is necessary in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Many of the forwarders will lose out, but the system is geared towards cost effectiveness and being competitive. He also added that if the forwarder is to add value to the supply chain, then he has to comply to adapting to the system rather than working against it.

On the home front, a recent article featured on the website Freight into Africa reports that the South African Cross Border Transporters Association (SACBTA) will be introducing a similar system which is currently under development for the cross border road freight industry. It will be called “ROAFEonline” or shortened form of Road Freight online which will allow the customer to book directly his freight with accredited SACBTA members hence cutting out the middleman and brokers.

All payments can and will be done online and this system will integrate with SARS EDI (Would like to hear more on this!). The consignor will only have to ensure that his goods are loaded onto the truck, the rest will be done by the system. The cost per transaction to the customer will be a paltry R100.00 in relation to a few thousand Rands normally swallowed up by the middlemen.

Based on our estimations a regular consignor can save up to R3-5 million Rands per annum which hopefully will be passed onto the consumer. With the looming integration of the SADC countries towards one stop clearing, it makes sense to further integrate the system. So whether you are in Dar es Salaam or Lubumbashi, you can now book your freight from Cape Town without having to go through a string of brokers. You also have the assurance that your cargo will be loaded by an accredited SACBTA transporter who complies to the standards set out by SACBTA. It will facilitate consolidations as any accredited transporter will at any given time be able to see what cargo is available. If Transporter A has only 20 tons, he can check which other transporter on the system has another 8 tons to Dar es Salaam for example. The transporters can then consolidate a load on the system which will happen in a shorter period of time than say for instance waiting a month to fill a tri axle.

This system will have many other functionalities that have been incorporated like online tracking, bar coding, which will give the consignor and consignee piece of mind knowing at any given time where their cargo is. It will also be accessible to border agents and customs officials who will be in a position to extract vital information on any consignment long before it actually gets to a border.

The system will go into testing around March of this year and if all goes well should be ready for implementation by the latter part of 2012 or early 2013. We hope that this will go a long way towards restructuring the industry for the better. It has long been the desire of SACBTA to allow industry players to come on board to create a better industry. However, there has been very little interest shown in transforming the industry and we feel this system will by virtue of its nature, transform the industry whether industry players are willing participants or not. Source: Freight into Africa and various own sources.

The International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) has joined the World Shipping Council (WSC) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in urging the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish an international legal requirement that all loaded containers be weighed at the marine port facility before they are stowed aboard a vessel for export. In what has been a much publicized issue since 2008 in the maritime industry, much the same view is taken by customs administrations. Like many other changes in the supply chain, it is a lot easier said than done. Modern ports are designed and developed taking into account requirements for weight bridges, radiation portal monitors, networks to monitor vehicle and container movements in and around port precincts, and inland transportation routes. While the expense and budget for these are usually borne by the relevant port authority, would it not indeed be good if those responsible for the packing/stuffing of containers took it upon themselves to ensure the correct weight, quantity and content are properly declared?

Refer to the joint WSC/ICS paper on “Solving the Problem of Overweight Containers” as well as the ICS’s “Safe Transport of Containers by Sea”. Both are self explanatory and short enough so as not to be considered laborious. In the South African context the question of who packed the box is often unanswered given that a variety of entities could be involved in this activity. In some instances it could be a container depot operator or a freight forwarding and consolidation agent; depending on how ‘safety and compliant conscious’ the shipper wants to be. While it will still take some time before the entire supply chain becomes properly regulated and monitored, now’s the time for ‘operators’ to take stock of what might in future be a new standard. New standards mean more capital outlay with pass-on costs for which the shipper ultimately carries the can.

Upgrades and Downgrades

November 25, 2011 — Leave a comment
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The global shortage of intermodal shipping containers is making the companies that lease them rich. In a year that will probably go down as the worst in shipping history, a small group of companies is making a fortune. These are the companies that buy and then lease to major shipping lines the humble “box,” or intermodal shipping container. You know, those ugly rust- or gray-colored containers that sit atop 18-wheelers and block your view of the road and cause massive congestion and beaucoup emissions? And I bet you can’t name a single one of these companies. I couldn’t, until I started researching this article. They’re not exactly household names, but they should be for any investor worth his or her salt. Read the full article here! Source: The Maritime Executive