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After SWIFT’s success, customs dept streamlines export clearance system
Monday, 09 January, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Pushkar Oak, Mumbai
Following the success of the single window interface to facilitate trade (SWIFT) system for faster food import clearances, the customs department has streamlined pilot runs of the said system of exports clearances at Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai air cargo complexes for CITES.

Under the SWIFT system, the shipping bills will be filed online and will be sent to the necessary partner government agency (PGA) if a no-objection certificate (NOC) is needed. The online filing of the bills will be carried through Indian Customs’ Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data Interchange (EC/EDI) Gateway (ICEGATE), a portal for the e-filing of the consignments for import or export. This will be helpful in establishing an organised way for exports and would speed up the procedure.

The circular issued by the customs department stated, “Once a Shipping Bill is filed, the system will determine whether the consignment contains items requiring an NOC from the agency. The system will then automatically reroute the Shipping Bill to the concerned PGA office for the granting of the NOC.”

An enforcement officer with the customs department said, “In cases where samples need to be drawn, the concerned agency will arrange with the exporter to collect them prior to the issuance of the NOC. The rest of the procedure for registration of goods, examination (whenever required) and let export order will remain unchanged. Since, the agency’s officer has records of the NOC online, customs will not insist on the hard copy of the NOC.”

The procedure for the granting of the NOC is as follows:
(i) Release: The no-objection certificate is issued
(ii) Out of scope: The item does not require the agency’s NOC
(iii) Reject: The item is not permitted for clearance for let export. The agency's office may make a suitable recommendation in respect of the item such as no-export or destruction. The agency will record this remark online. Customs shall take further necessary action on the Shipping Bill.
(iv) Withhold NOC: The NOC has been temporarily withheld for want of further documentation and/or testing after entering suitable remarks in the system by the agency. These Shipping Bills can be retrieved by the agency's office for a further decision (release/provisional NOC/out of scope/reject) after the information is received.
(v) Provisional NOC: Currently, some of the PGAs do not grant NOCs on a provisional basis. This option can be easily disabled by the customs. The issuance of the provisional NOCs will be based on the requirement of the said PGA and this will be informed through a circular whenever there is such a requirement.

Meanwhile, throwing light on the rejection of the shipping bill the circular stated, “If the concerned officer of the PGA prefers to reject the NOC [by choosing option (iii) above], the officer will also need to enter remarks online, which will include a brief note on the basis for rejection so that the concerned assistant/deputy commissioner of Customs can take further action. In cases where the samples fail to meet the qualifying criteria upon testing, the PGA officer will also record the same on the system while rejecting the NOC.”

Industry take
Some of the custom brokers and food exporters usually complain about the slow clearance by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). “The speed of the whole system is slowed down, especially when the samples are sent for testing to the laboratories. The laboratories may take between three weeks and three months to come up with an NOC,” said Hameed Ansari, proprietor, Raaza Meat Exports, Lucknow. The customs official said, “Meat, being in a high-risk category, is bound to be checked, as the standards of the importing country are different from those of FSSAI. The PGAs, like FSSAI, usually have to undergo several testing methodologies to ensure that the product is compliant with the standards of the importing country.”

The customs department has asked its officers to notify the department on the difficulties faced during the procedure at the earliest, so that the necessary changes or actions can be initiated quickly.
 
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