- Exporters’ forum by Shippers Council stresses need for one stop shop for logistics and transport
- Cost of container transportation remains unchanged for thirty years
By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka Customs will soon be updated with the faster and efficient Automated System for Custom Data (ASYCUDA) World program to cater to the increasing demand in the system.
Speaking at a Exporter’s Forum with the shipping industry, Customs officials last week stated driven by the need to speed up process and run an integrated system, the institution is currently testing the new program. Customs currently run on ASYCUDA++ program which was implemented in 1998 after the ASYCUDA 2.6 version which was installed in 1994.
Even though a date could not be given as to when the system will be fully installed, ASYCUDA World is expected to make available faster clearance for cargo consignments, improve revenue control and collection and generate up-to-date trade statistics to make informed policy decisions. The computer based program is also believed to minimize long term administrative costs.
“We are at the testing stage. We have already implemented one stage, the manifest. The Customs management will have to decide when it would be fully connected. The date is not currently fixed even though we believe everything should be ready by October,” officials said.
Explaining on how the system would work, the official stated, “As at now when an importer submits a transparency there is no way to assess the amount he should pay. But when the World is implemented we would be able to let the payment amount be known via sms or email.” He stated that Customs is looking at a paperless scenario. “As soon as the importer knows how much is to be paid, he can pay it electronically from any bank.” Currently the process in play is a manual one where the pay order must be paid to the bank at which the bank system is updated after which the bank would inform the Customs. “World can allow electronic payment. As soon as the payment is made there would be an email or sms confirming the receipt.”
Also, under the current system, a team of senior custom officers are on stand to examine the goods based on experience. But with ASYCUDA World, a system could be worked out where Customs could enter certain criteria which would automatically select what to examine and what not to. “For example we could let the goods that goes under green channel go without examination.”
With the current ASYCUDA program, Customs did not receive a source board, he said. The World however will come with one which can be used to develop its own modules to cater to its needs.
Vice President of Sri Lanka Shipper’s Council Dinesh De Silva added that the implementation of ASYCUDA World is something the industry has been waiting for, for a long time. “We will keep the pressure on to relevant authorities to see that the electronic system is in full swing soon,” De Silva said.
At the forum, the need for a one-stop-shop to increase efficiency of the entire network connecting to logistics and transport was also brought up. Member and Office bearer of Association of Container Transporters addressed that with the expected increase in vehicles, congestion at the port would increase in leaps and bound and that the container shipment industry is facing huge problems thanks to the unregulated procedures. “When we imported cargo for Victoria dam in 1980 a container to got to Kandy cost Rs.21, 000. 30 years later the price remains the same. Diesel then was Rs. 8.10 which is now Rs. 76. Tyres cost Rs. 4200 then which is now priced at Rs. 35,000. This very unhealthy, uncomfortable situation has gone on as no one has taken the trouble to resolve problem at an early stage.”
“Time and again we have suggested the formation and implementation of one body which represents both government and private sector with authority to make decisions,” he said. Ho pointed out that the industry has just been looking at one side of the story so far. “Also we have to go to eight to ten departments to get documentation done which takes a lot of time.”
Vice President of Sri Lanka Shipper’s Council Dinesh De Silva claimed that the government is “trying to” look at a one stop shop. “Today speed is a currency, we have to be faster. Today authorities are placed in different places and the need for a one shop concept is an important one. However it might take some time,” he warned.
Pic by Upul Abayasekara