Monday, 25 August, 2008

High speed document processing soon

Frequent computer breakdowns at various ports, ICDs, CFSs and airports, delays in the processing documents and increasingly longer response time for filing of shipping bills and bills of entry has been causing cargo clearance costs to soar. Trucks getting detained for more than a day at container freight stations because the required duplicate and triplicate copies of bills of entry are not being generated quickly enough has become the order of the day. But this pathetic situation will soon be ‘history’ according to Customs authorities.

Indian customs are set to shortly bring in a sea change in the on-line processing of documents. There will be an overhaul of the present system by the consolidation of information technology infrastructure thus creating a wide area network connecting 95 locations all over the country and 1200 offices in the final stage of implementation.

Mr Yashodhan Parande, Director General System of the Central Board of Excise & Customs informed, “There will be a quantum leap in the EDI processing as there will be a change from the distributive operation now prevalent to a centralised environment. The current infrastructure has been under strain, being really outdated and leading to frequent breakdowns. Both the infrastructure as well as the software will undergo a sea-change. Being more facilitative, the response from the trade is expected to improve.”

“We are spending Rs 600 crore for the new system,” informed B Bhattacharya, Additional Director General, Directorate of System (Customs & Central Excise). “The Data Centre is finalised, the equipment is being put in place and the government has decided to start EDI (electronic data interchange) in 45 new locations across the country using the central server ICEF version 1.5, (this stands for the Indian Customs EDI system). The trade can do eFiling of documents through the ICE-GATE (which is the eCommerce portal of Indian Customs). All operations that are presently being done like ePayment, and sundry other tasks too, will be facilitated by the new system.”

A quantum leap in processing speed is expected with the brand new state-of-the-art server that has been installed. In the first phase of consolidation 45 sites have been approved by the Central Board of Excise & Customs, and in the second phase the exiting sites will be migrated from the old server to the new server. These sites include ports and air ports / air cargo complexes at Ahmedabad, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Jaipur, Kolkata, Kandla, Mundra, Tuticorin, and Visakhapatnam. Also included are the ICDs at Baroda, Coimbatore, Dadri, Ludhiana, Nagpur and Pondicherry, Tirupur, Tughlakhabad, the minor ports at Jamnagar, Pipavav, Paradip, Vadinar, Sikkha, Dahej and also the Alang Ship breaking yard. At the moment we have already rolled out to 23 locations all over India and the balance is being achieved between facilitation and the airport. We will also have the scanning of containers done apart from Nhava Sheva at four other ports viz. Mumbai, Chennai, Kandla and Kolkata ports.

With the consolidation process, the RMS for exports will also be introduced explained Mr. Bhattacharya. So far RMS exists only for imports that are for those who have registered themselves as accredited clients of customs (ACP). Today, there are over 250 ACP clients who have registered under the Risk Management System he stated. “We have set up an exclusive office for the RMS because we need people to run this national programme – that is we are nationally managing the risk. Under the RMS importers can enjoy the privilege of filing the bills of entry and pay the duty and clear the goods without any questions being raised or goods getting subjected to examination. We encourage more importers to come forward and apply as accredited clients of customs to avail this facility so that their goods can get cleared at top speed.”

“After the introduction of the Risk Management System the total time taken for assessment and examination has come down tremendously,” informed B Bhattacharya, Additional Director General of the Directorate of System (Customs & Central Excise). “However, the time taken for making the duty payment has remained the same because importers outsource the operation of custom clearance to custom house agents (CHA). The importers know the goods are ready for clearance and e-Payment can be made on-line the same day. But by the time the CHA informs and goes to collect the payment much time is lost.

“Importers should look to reducing the transaction costs and the dwell time thereby getting more competitive. If the documents get filed by say 10 a.m. and the processing gets completed within the next few minutes, the idea of urgency and rushing up with processing is lost if the duty payment gets completed only the next day or later. Much time is also lost when queries are raised by customs. If the custom house agent is involved in the clearance then by acting as a via media he wastes much time by shuffling back and forth to come up with the necessary documents and providing replies to the said queries.”

When the new system goes on-line it would expedite clearance, hopes Harish Thakker, Managing Director of Harish & Company (Logistics) Pvt. Ltd. a leading CHA firm. “I have had a few meetings with Mr. Bhattacharya who has assured that things will improve soon. At the moment none of the computer printers in the BPT docks are working. The touch screen machines by which we could know the status of our documents are also not working. By the manual process undertaking the amendment of bills of entry and IGM was easy but doing it on-line today is almost impossible the same day or even in the same week.”

No comments: