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The hidden Covid hand that cut cargo clearance period

BUSINESS
By Philip Mwakio | April 22nd 2021

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) was left with a huge dilemma: how to reduce paper work needed for cargo clearance, and while at it, shorten the clearance period.

Such a move was imperative because of pandemic transmission control measures that discouraged physical interactions.

After days of pondering on a solution, KRA came up with the Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) that is set for a full roll out on June 30.

The system has reduced cargo clearance period from 24 hours to just under 10 minutes, according to players in the logistics sector.

Silvester Kututa, the Chairman of Express Shipping Line (ESL), one of the firms that has been piloting bulk cargo sea release module, said in an interview that the fast-tracking of automation of customs clearance processes is timely.

The system also allows clearance of goods before vessels come ashore, enabling importers and clearing agents to deliver cargo immediately they are discharged at the points of entry.

“So far, we have lodged about 112 manifests (vessels) through KRA iCMS portal successfully,” Kututa said.

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Former acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Control Pamela Ahago said in an earlier interview the need to enhance efficiency in cargo clearance processes prompted KRA to develop an integrated system with friendly interactive capabilities to eliminate redundancy and automate both the manual and semi-annual processes.

She explained that vessel documentation time has come down from 48 hours to 24 hours. The new KRA system replaces the over a decade-old Simba system, which had some serious technological shortcomings.

Ms Ahago also said the new system has filled the security gaps that had been experienced in Simba system.

iCMS was first launched in March 2019 at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). It has since been adopted at Moi and Eldoret international airports.

Of importance was its implementation at the Port of Mombasa in November last year where bulk cargo especially motor vehicles are now being cleared.

So far, KRA figures show some 21 government agencies have been integrated into the iCMS.

Kenya TradeNet System, operated by KenTrade, the online cargo clearance platform, is also now fully integrated to the iCMS and has now registered over 12,500 system users and 35 Partner Government Agencies (PGA).

The new system, according to Kututa has increased transparency since importers and exporters can now track the flow of their goods and identify bottlenecks as one can track and see the choke points.

“It has also been helpful regarding one time approval for exemptions on Import Declaration Forms and Railway Development Levy fees for Kenyan manufacturers which required physical approval,” Kututa said.So far, KRA figures show some 21 government agencies have been integrated into the iCMS.

Kenya TradeNet System, operated by KenTrade, the online cargo clearance platform, is also now fully integrated to the iCMS and has now registered over 12,500 system users and 35 Partner Government Agencies (PGA).

The new system, according to Kututa has increased transparency since importers and exporters can now track the flow of their goods and identify bottlenecks.  as one can track and see the choke points.

“It has also been helpful regarding one time approval for exemptions on Import Declaration Forms (IDF) and Railway Development Levy (RDF) fees for manufacturers who required physical approval,” Kututa said.

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