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Customs Automation

Prospects for Paperless Logistics B2G Interaction

By Advantum


Customs automation appears to be part of the wider Customs reform process that many countries worldwide have been implementing. This is against the background of driving efficiencies in Customs cargo processing, managing risks and protecting revenues. In recent times, Customs Authorities across the region have been upgrading their processes with the use of technology. In some jurisdictions, improvements are in the form of replacing paper based processes, while in others, this is by way of strengthening their technology platforms.

Countries in the region such as Trinidad & Tobago, St. Kitts and Haiti have already started the improvement in their Customs technology. So far, most jurisdictions have been implementing the Automated Systems for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) World application developed by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which incorporates international best practices.

Efficiency & Security

Customs automation has proven to be the most powerful tool for increasing efficiency by facilitating:

  • Electronic submission of cargo manifests to Customs by shipping agents.
  • Real-time consignment status updates from Customs.
  • Greater accuracy in describing goods shipped through the use of Harmonized System (HS) Codes. This in turn facilitates better screening of goods (e.g. to identify banned items).
  • Historical Data Analysis leading to Risk Analysis by Customs, which in turn allows for a more targeted selection of consignments for scrutiny.
  • Reduction/elimination of paper usage.

Effects on Economy

The World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business Report highlights the Caribbean as being a “bright spot”, having improved its business environment through the implementation of such systems. The report delivers a sobering reminder that the prospects for growth for developing countries such as those in our region depend on initiatives that make it attractive for other countries to do business here.

As provided in the example above, the effects of customs automation on a country’s economy are substantial. Investment in automation will lead to:

  • More accurate, precise data means better statistics are available for the Government on the types and volume of goods being traded.
  • Increases in Revenue Collection made possible by more accurate capture of cargo details.
  • Increased throughput velocity in the supply chain, effectively increasing the ability to manage higher volumes of shipments in shorter periods and making the implementing country a more favourable trading partner globally.

Coordination and Partnership

All stakeholders have a role to play. Governments and Customs authorities need to ensure that agents, brokers and facility operators, have a voice and are brought to the table early in the process. This is to ensure that new processes work with minimal disruptions and that stakeholders view the road to automation as a partnership rather than an imposition. It is also imperative that shipping and commercial interests are willing and committed to play their part in this transition, as the region moves to utilize ICT to strengthen its trading position and improve its competitiveness in this hemisphere.