Issue 5 2018 - Freight Business Journal


All hail to the new customs computer chief >> 3

d e fin e s specifications for

customs IT systems, and would require significant upgrades


trade and customs systems. But most importantly perhaps,

said Jarza, “it would redefine the relationship between forwarders and customers”. The WCOCDM, and hence CDS,

would introduce the concept of ‘data

elements’, he continued.

Standardised and harmonised, these would mean the same thing whether in England or Estonia and would help to smooth the exchange of information in international trade. However, there would be a lot more data elements than there are currently boxes on the existing SAD customs form, reflecting the need to obtain more information from traders. CDS would also have greatly increased capacity for extra codes and some, such as the location of goods information, could balloon from eight characters under Chief to 13 with CDS. The new system would allow

more detailed – and complex – information to be entered for pricing in different currencies, delivery terms or the nature of

the transaction. CDS would also provide more of an audit trail. As well as offering more

processing power, CDS would be a lot more flexible than the system it replaced. Sharon Mole, from HMRC’s Customs Transformation Directorate said: “Chief is old technology – it’s expensive and difficult to make changes.” CDS’s modular

design would allow

upgrades to take place without shutting the whole system down, she said. It would be easier to make modifications as time went on, she predicted. Jarza continued that while the

CDS project had been started long before the

‘Brexit’ referendum

had been mooted, CDS’s extra processing power could be useful should the number of customs clearances surge. Mole added: “We are building resilience into the delivery of CDS, and if we need additional

capacity to process

more declarations, we will be able to do so.” However,

if there are to be

thousands of ‘new’ importers and exporters aſter Brexit, they will be required to get to grips with what promises in some respects to be a rather more complex – if also more

comprehensive – system than the one it is replacing. Under the UCC, all

communication with customs authorities is supposed to be electronic, although it remains to be seen whether paper can be eliminated entirely from the process. However, there will be a facility to upload paper documents directly into CDS rather than print them and send them to customs. Altogether, CDS will be a more advanced

flexible, more and

efficient system, with vastly more capacity with a more modern look and feel, said Jarza. While it will, like Chief, process customs declarations, it will also “create a comprehensive trade facilitation environment” allowing all players – traders, importers, exporters and forwarders – do everything they need to in one place. It will also allow immediate access to the Customs tariff, allow traders to apply for new authorisations or to check deferment accounts, for example. As BIFA director Robin Windsor later told the gathering, “we are moving from a transactional system to a linked customs management system”. The price that will have to be

paid in the shorter term is one of the most unprecedented changes in the customs IT landscape for a quarter of a century. It is important for forwarders to keep themselves abreast of developments and in turn pass on the information to their own customers. Forwarders also need to stress to their customers that additional information will be required. It’s also important for forwarders

to engage with their soſtware suppliers and to carry out a review of what changes may be needed. Last, but by no means least, they need to consider what training their staff will need in order to be able to use the new system successfully. As for the timescale for CDS, Mole said that some aspects of the new system would go live with a small, selected group of users in August this year, starting initially with Supplementary Declarations. More users would be moved over in tranches. Release 2 in November would

allow all import functionality and would be followed by Release 3, on a date yet to be confirmed though possible “not too long aſter November” which would add export functions. Mole added that HMRC would

be able to “flex” the rate of transition to CDS and that Chief could also run

in tandem with its successor. So far at least, there was nothing

to suggest that the CDS programme was behind schedule, argued ASM’s Peter MacSwiney. Mole added that HMRC also

needed to talk to the many other government agencies involved with

international trade, such

as Defra, to ensure that their systems could link with CDS. At the same time, HMRC would ramp up its communications with stakeholders. Meanwhile, a draſt copy of the

new CDS tariff is being circulated to the trade. The box numbers of the old tariff will have become engrained for many users, so the new format may take some getting used to, although comparison tables are available and HMRC also aims to make a comprehensive training package available. Some delegates to the seminar

asked whether CDS would trigger an even more radical change in the customs landscape. For example,

would entries in future necessarily have to be made via the port and airport community systems that currently act as the interface between customs and the trade. Would it be possible to log on to the Government Gateway and make an entry? Peter MacSwiney, from ASM,

said however that he thought this would be unlikely. An entry lodged direct with Customs might be hard to trace, and also community systems had privileged access to HMRC systems. Another questioner suggested

that, given the flexibility of modern day IT systems, it might be possible for a freight forwarder based at, say, Manchester Airport to customs clear a shipment coming into London Heathrow. The panel’s consensus was while this was perhaps possible from a legal point of view, the authorities would frown on such practice and any such consignments would be selected for physical examination.

CDS – more seminars planned

The remaining seminars on the new CDS computer system organised by HMRC, soſtware firm ASM and BIFA are oversubscribed but more are planned in Heathrow, Southampton and Felixstowe.

Hundreds of logistics businesses have been attending the roadshow. Full details for the seminars can be found at: www-asm-org-uk-en-news

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