August 17, 2018 12:00

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Implementing automatic customs management system in seaports and airports: The story is recorded of units paving the way

09:31 | 20/02/2018

VCN- In 2017, the successful implementation of automated customs management system at both seaports and airports is the bright spot for the reform and modernization of the Customs sector. In the last days of the year, the Customs Newspaper reporters had a chance to go to 2 pilot units chosen as models to pave the way to inform readers of interesting stories about the implementing process of this important management system.

implementing automatic customs management system in seaports and airports the story is recorded of units paving the way
Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung and other participants performed the official opening ceremony of VASSCM in Hai Phong on December 11, 2017. Photo: T.Bình.

New plan in the goal of reform.

More than a year ago, also near the end of the year, General Director of Customs Nguyen Van Can summoned the leaders of the departments of the General Department of Customs and a number of local Customs departments to discuss about the measures to strengthen the State management on customs. According to the Director General of Customs, customs regulations have clearly defined customs authorities duties, obligations and powers for state management of imported and exported goods, transit, means of transport on exit, entry or in transit of domestic and foreign organizations, and individuals within the customs territory. Customs authorities have also developed adequate information systems for management. However, the management system is not synchronous, which makes it difficult to manage.

According to the above-mentioned reality, and based on the provisions of the Customs Law, Director General of Customs Nguyen Van Can directed the State management of customs in the near future to develop a model for connecting information to serve the management. The communication model for customs management not only facilitates the Customs authorities in managing, inspecting and supervising, but it also facilitates enterprises in customs clearance of goods thanks to quick information feedback.

After that, the units under and attached to the General Department of Customs promptly embarked on turning the leadership’s direction into practice by successfully implementing the first automated customs management system in two areas with different characteristics, which were Hai Phong (sea route) and Hanoi (air route). The efforts of the Customs authorities in the past 365 days have been through cooperation, with warehouses, yards, ports enterprises, as well as import-export enterprises.

implementing automatic customs management system in seaports and airports the story is recorded of units paving the way

Mr. Bui Quang Huy quickly found the container position according to our proposal in the thousands of goods at Tan Vu port. Photo: T.Bình.

Innovative service and management

We were present at Tan Vu Port which is a large and modern port with the largest container traffic in Hai Phong port area. On New Year's Eve, the port is packed with containerized trains to / from the cargo terminal for peak orders.

"Everyday, there are about 2,000 import and export containers through the customs supervision area at Tan Vu port, but at the Lunar New Year, it is about 3.000 containers" - a Customs official said at the port.

In spite of the large number of goods, the traffic goes smoothly without jams. One of the reasons that helps to facilitate the circulation of goods through the monitoring area at the port shared by representatives of many enterprises, is the automated customs management system at the port - VASSCM (pilot from August 15th and the official implementation on December 11, 2017-PV).

Duong Thi Lien - Argimax Joint Stock Company Hai Phong Branch, said that the time suitable to bring goods into/out of port is only reduced by a few minutes/container, but this has brought many benefits for businesses. The number of minutes seems small, but only when estimating the flow of 3,000 containers per day at Tan Vu port, can we realize that the time saved for businesses is hundreds of hours per day. Only by going to ports and witnessing the containers waiting for loading and unloading during peak time can we understand how precious the reduction of that time is.

It is common practice for Customs officials’ mission to increase, but noticeably since the implementation of VASSCM, the burden of Customs administration has been reduced.

To make us understand clearer, Mr. Bui Quang Huy, the Deputy Head of Customs Supervision Team (Customs Sub - Department of Hai Phong port border area I- management unit at Tan Vu port) made a very specific example, which involved identifying the location of each shipment in the port. "Previously, it was impossible for customs officers to find the location of each container in the port. When that was the case, you had to ask the help of port personnel. But with VASSCM, finding exactly each container in the vast commodities stored here is done easily, quickly” - said Bui Quang Huy.

Huy has just operated directly on the system to find any container as our proposal. The container we were looking for is number WHLU5555430. In just a few minutes and through several operations, the exact position of the container was displayed on the computer screen in the area marked BM 02022. To verify, Bui Quang Huy checked information on the system of Hai Phong Port Joint Stock Company (unit of Tan Vu Port Management) and the information also showed the exact container at the BM (Container, Block), Bay (container cargo) 02, Row 02, Tier (class, height of the container). From the above information, Bui Quang Huy led us quickly to the correct location of the container with position number WHLU5555430 stored in Tan Vu port. "Information on the date, time, number of ships, seals, even the history of each shipment when entering Vietnamese territorial waters (or anchoring waiting for procedures for ships entering the port) is updated smoothly between port business and Customs management system automatically at the seaports," Huy added. Therefore, the throughput of goods have increased rapidly, and the time management of Customs procedures has reduced.

implementing automatic customs management system in seaports and airports the story is recorded of units paving the way

Four lessons for success

It’s an effective story, the success of VASSCM is initially confirmed in practice, but getting the results is not easy.

As Head of Customs Department of Hai Phong, Nguyen Tien Loc said, the head of the General Department of Customs was entrusted to lead research and direct the implementation of the system, the responsibilities of related parties have been stipulated in the laws of import and export. The lack of management infrastructure in many warehouses, yards and ports in the area has been mentioned many times by the Customs authorities. However, in order to mobilize the synchronous development of the new VASSCM management system is really difficult.

"The most difficult thing is to make a change in the awareness of the warehouse, yard, port enterprises, and shipping line, for coordinating with the Customs implementing the system," said Nguyen Tien Loc.

In order to "communicate ideas" for partner companies, the Customs Department of Hai Phong has taken the initiative in researching many relevant legal documents, especially the 4 laws (Customs, Maritime Affairs, Trade and Violation administrative), by surveying and researching the plan to connect the IT system of the Customs office to enterprises dealing in warehouses, yards, and ports. Especially, leaders of Customs Department of Hai Phong had to directly come to work with leaders of each enterprise to get specific commitments and plans.

Getting the consensus of enterprises is a great advantage, but there are also many difficulties, especially the lack and weaknesses of many enterprises IT systems. This difficult task is put directly onto the shoulders of the Customs officers, especially IT staff of both the Customs and enterprises. Staying up late, eating together, working at the port, becomes a daily routine of IT staff, especially during the rush period. Even in the first port (Tan Vu port), the treadmill was still full of urgency. It is worth considering that both Customs and business forces were constantly shuttling to and from the Tan Vu Port headquarter branches. After checking the operation of the system on the first floor, everyone had to run to the meeting roon on the 4th floor to discuss about the situation arise... Everyone was busy as a bee and just had a few minutes to have lunch at... a container at the port, when the clock was 13:30

To summarize the success of VASSCM, Mr. Nguyen Tien Loc said that there are four most important reasons: The concern of leadership, guidance and support of leaders of the Ministry of Finance, leaders of the General Department of Customs; the political will of the leaders and staffs in the whole unit; creating the common awareness and consensus, cooperation of all partners, especially port, warehouses, yards enterprises and the collaboration of the import-export enterprises; the effective coordination of functional departments and agencies under the General Department of Customs.

Contributing to help Noi Bai "take off"

When it comes to the story of deploying the system at airports, we had the opportunity to meet the leaders of Noi Bai Commodity Service Joint Stock Company (NCTS) - the first airline warehouse jointly deploying the Automatic Management System with Hanoi Customs Department at airports. In the chaos of the year end for company leaders with the production and business plan for 2018, and their other concerns for employees’ salaries and bonuses... the company leaders still tried to arrange an interview with Customs reporters. The interview was interspersed with a meeting by the specialized departments of the Hanoi Customs Department and NCTS to continue discussing the issues of the system in the first deployment.

When I wondered that were businesses afraid of being the first unit together with the Customs Department in Hanoi in particular, the Customs sector in general in deploying a new plan which needs to be well prepared in terms of infrastructure as well as synchronous handling between the Customs and enterprises, NCTS Deputy General Director Nguyen Quoc Hung cheerfully said, this was not a problem that enterprises were afraid.(not understandable) Because enterprises clearly see the Customs' objectives when implementing the automatic Customs management system at airports because the benefits will be given to enterprises by the electronic management of goods. The close coordination between Customs and warehouses in goods management also reduces the time for goods clearance for export enterprises. This also ensures that NCTS provides good cargo services to 23 of the 46 domestic and international airlines operating at Noi Bai International Airport, with an export cargo volume of 300,000 tons/ year.

"Realizing those benefits as soon as 2016, when the Hanoi Customs Department began to plan the survey, evaluate the situation and develop an implementation plan, the Customs authorities focused firmly on the spirit of benefit to enterprises”, Mr. Hung said.

After more than a year of preparation, on October 16, 2017, the automatic customs management system at an airport was piloted at Noi Bai airport. Despite the technical issues, with the efforts of the Customs and the majority of enterprises, the Customs target of an intelligent system with transparent operation, publicity and facilitation for business operation was successful. Director of Hanoi Customs Nguyen Van Truong commented, that at present, all of Noi Bai airport warehouses have successfully deployed the system. Imported and exported goods have been implemented through the automatic customs supervision system at Noi Bai International Airport. Imported and exported goods that have been implemented through the automatic customs supervision system at Noi Bai International Airport since its implementation to date are 72,356 declarations. To take initiative in coordinating the handling of arising problems, the Customs Sub -Departments of Noi Bai International Airport and other airports, have signed the Regulation on coordinated settlement of problems. The aviation department has also applied the process of exploiting goods in line with the provisions of the Decision No. 2061/QD-BTC dated October 16, 2017 from the Ministry of Finance on the pilot implementation of automatic goods management at Noi Bai International Airport. In addition, the Customs Department of Hanoi also set up a permanent team to assist and guide the implementation of warehouse inspections.

Leaving the bustling year end atmosphere at the busiest trade ports in the North (Hai Phong port, Noi Bai airport), when Lunar New Year 2018 is coming, looking at flights and cargo ships are bustling away, every one of us is more confident in the new exploits of import-export activities. It is all the more joyful that in the overall achievement of the country, when considering the important contributions of the Customs for their ceaseless efforts in the modernization process. The automatic customs management system at seaports and airports is a bright spot being continued expanding.

By Nguyễn Quốc – Châu Anh/ Kiều Oanh