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Trade up in arms against new procedures introduced by customs

The EXIM Trade is up in arms against new procedures introduced by the customs which may be well intentioned but cause severe problems including posing additional financial burden while clearing of cargo from Port.

The trade faced a serious problem in getting the documents in time for short transit cargo which arrives here from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or other neighbouring countries said Mr Diwakaran Nair, Head of the EDI committee of Chennai custom house brokers association.

Talking to Sagar Sandesh Mr Nair said short transit cargo account for nearly 30 per cent of the total traffic in Chennai and other neighbouring ports. The documents reach them several days after the cargo was loaded in the previous port.

Under the new customs rules the custom house brokers should file the bill of entry within 24 hours of the customs giving the inward clearance.

Customs inward clearance is given after they receive the general manifest from the shipping lines. Thereafter the custom official boards the vessel and gives the inward clearance for discharge of cargo at the port.

The customs brokers who work on behalf of the importers have to file the bill of entry within 24 hours of customs grant of inward clearance. Failure to do so means a levy of fine of Rs 5000 every day for three days. Thereafter the quantum of fine increases in a graded manner.

Mr Nair said they face problems in getting the documents in time pertaining to short transit cargo. Without the receipt of the documents the cutoms brokers cannot file the bill of entry. So they end up paying fines which add to the transaction cost of their clients.

Under the RMS scheme if the bill of entry is filed and processed through ICEGATE without any manual intervention, the customs duty has to be paid the same day. Any delay in payment of duty meant the clients have to pay interest charges to the customs.

There are problems in the ICEGATE, the customs EDI system for clearance of imports and export goods. The system is under the jurisdiction of DG Systems, Central board of excise and customs. The smooth and uninterrupted functioning of ICEGATE on 24X7 basis is vital for the time clearance of export and import goods.

The system is however prone to slow response, frequent shutdown for long periods, inability to print relevant documents. Consequently the processing and clearance of import and export shipments is often delayed considerably.

Citing an instance Mr Nair said there was virtual shutdown of the system between May 22 and 28 at the Chennai port.

Even if the system is down the clients have to pay the duty the same day and any delay meant payment of interest charges. The onus of proof that they could not process the documents because of the erratic icegate system lies with the clients.

The Air Cargo Agents Association of India has urged the Prime Minister's office to coordinate with DG Systems Central Board of Excise and Customs for the expeditious commissioning of the new hardware for the ICEGATE system. Waiver of demurrage charges and other penalites levied by the customs authorities for late filing of Manifest and bills of entry until the ICEGATE system is upgraded and becomes fully functional on a 24X7 basis.


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