More Customs operations should be brought on EDI and Custom House Agents need to enhance awareness of government rules and regulations says Atree, as he points at the need for more shipping lines should embrace digitization
Q What are the challenges facing Custom House Agents?
The most important challenge is to facilitate importers and exporters for quick and timely delivery and export of goods. The CHAs are facing a few acute problems with regard to facilitation to the industry. Firstly, at times, due to slow or breakdown of the EDI systems in the Customs, there is a delay in processing of Bills of Entry/ Shipping Bills. As a result, in imports for example, the delivery of the cargo is delayed to the consignee. Further, this delay causes an automatic imposition of penalty on us which is `5000 per day. Though the penalty is repealable, the process of waiver is time consuming.
Secondly the restriction of movement of commercial vehicles, by the traffic police, in the NCR region, is further adding to the delay. Vehicles carrying heavy goods can only ply between 11pm and 7am. However, the department has launched their project ‘SAKSHAM’ which will definitely improve the working of the system.
Q How do you plan to bring transparency in Customs clearance?
Transparency is possible only if maximum processes are shifted to the EDI. There has to be minimum of direct interaction between the Government and the trade.
Q What are the new trends in Customs clearing business?
CBEC has recently launched e-sanchit that enables registered persons to file documents online. Any document pertaining to export or import can be uploaded on the website. This process reduces processing time and brings in transparency.
Q Do you feel there is a lack of skill among CHAs, particularly in view of the Government going digital in a big way?
No. Majority of the CHAs have managed to pick up the necessary skills.To remain competitive it is necessary to keep abreast with the latest information technology. They are upgrading their knowledge according to the need. The number of new measures introduced by the Government itself provide opportunities to grow. The CHAS will have to be cognisant of the policies that are being introduced by the various ministries from time to time.
Q Do you think that the Ease of Doing business has been enhanced?
Yes very much. The Ease of Doing Business has resulted in increase of manufacturing activities in India. To be more specific, it has improved the dwell time in clearance of exim goods. It has also substantially reduced transaction cost for the businesses.
Recently on International Customs Day two new technology platforms were introduced, namely ICETRAK and and ICETAB. ICETRAK is a one-stop Portal for effective communication between the trade and the department of Customs. It is an application that facilitates tracking of export /import documents, duty calculator etc. ICETAB is a Tab with which an Appraiser in the warehouse is able to upload the report of his examination directly into the system. He can also take the photographs of the consignment and upload them directly into the system. This brings in certainty and accuracy to the entire process of examination.
Q What is your requirement from the shipping lines?
I require more transparency from them. All charges pertaining to a shipment should be reflected on a BL. The consignee or the shipper should not be charged anything more than what is reflected on the document. Further, their working hours should be in tandem with the Customs. If need be the shipping lines should work in shifts. A few lines have introduced E Delivery and E BL which I find very convenient. I would expect other shipping lines to follow suit.