Pre-arrival processing allows speedy release of goods upon arrival

Trucks carrying goods wait to be cleared at the verification area by KRA after going through a mobile scanner installed at the Namanga one-stop border post in Kajiado county on Saturday, October 17, 2020. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The integration of national economies into a global system has resulted in remarkable growth in international trade. Global trade relies heavily on efficient movement of goods and services across borders. Customs is, therefore, required to provide extensive facilitation of legitimate trade while maintaining control over the international movement of goods, persons and conveyances. As we strive to provide an appropriate level of facilitation to legitimate trade, we must maintain regulatory controls in a way that reduces the impact of interventionist strategies as much as possible.

In seeking to achieve a balance between these goals, Customs has been moving away from traditional control methods. Traditionally, submission of documents for the clearance of imported goods are done after the arrival of vessels. Processing of documents by Customs and other relevant partner government agencies begins when the goods are already at the port, thereby considerably delaying the release process, as Customs and the relevant partner government agencies do not make use of the time afforded by the duration of voyage for risk assessment and declaration processing purposes. Delays experienced during the clearance process translate into increased trade costs and loss of competitiveness.

Kenya ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement on December 10, 2015 and made trade facilitation a government priority. The agreement provides for various reform measures to cut delays at the points of entry and exit, one of which is the pre arrival processing (PAP) programme. PAP is the process of electronic submission of import documentation and other required information to Customs and relevant government agencies, including manifests, in order to begin document processing prior to the arrival of goods with a view to expediting release upon arrival. This will help reduce delays and congestion at the points of entry, consequently, reducing clearance time spent after goods arrive.

Article 7.1.2, of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement requires that "each member shall, as appropriate, provide for advance lodging of documents in electronic format for pre-arrival processing of such documents.” Furthermore, Standard 3.25 of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) 3.25 requires that “National legislation shall make provision for the lodging and registering or checking of the Goods declaration and supporting documents prior to the arrival of the goods”.

On the home front, Section 34 (3) East African Community Customs Management Act (2004) states that “Entries for goods to be unloaded may be delivered to the proper officer for checking before the arrival at the port of discharge of the aircraft or vessel in which such goods are imported; and in such case the Commissioner may in his or her discretion permit any goods to be entered before the arrival of such aircraft or vessel or vehicle”.

PAP targets all consignments imported by sea and air. The importer or the clearing agent should lodge the declaration and make payments at least 48 hours before expected arrival of vessel. Upon arrival of vessel and discharge, consignments are subjected to minimal interventions and the release process is expedited. PAP brings a higher level of predictability and transparency to Customs procedures hence improving the business environment by supporting just-in-time delivery, reduction of storage, insurance and transaction costs.