By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BROKERS yesterday described Customs’ shift to the electronic submission of documents as a “giant step forward”, telling Tribune Business the new system would increase their efficiency and eliminate “freelancers”.
Wendall Lewis, head of Alliance Customs Brokers, said he had enjoyed great success to-date using the on-line submission system.
“I’m using it in my business and I’m seeing great success,” he said.
“It is good and I welcome this, because we upgraded our software to be able to submit on-line directly to Customs. This is benefiting us greatly. We’re able to submit our entries, see from our side when it’s ready for payment, take our documents over where they do just a check to make sure everything is in order, and we go to the cashier.
“That’s done in 10-15 minutes. There are some cases where we are able to pay for their goods and the boat is not in as yet. I’m very pleased with the system. It will enhance my business and businesses like mine.”
Mr Lewis added: “It will exclude those persons who are freelancing and aren’t licensed Customs brokers. You have to have a password to access the system, so this is going to bring more control.
“I appreciate that because it is not fair that a company that is set up, bonded, meets all the requirements, has overhead and staff, and there is someone who can do things without that kind of commitment. It really hurts the business people.”
Customs is aiming to phase out the manual submission of documents by importers and brokers on New Providence by end-May, in an effort to modernise its overall operations.
Forrester Carroll, managing director of Expert Customs Brokers in Freeport, said the electronic submission of documents to Customs was a move in the right direction.
“We’re certainly behind the times in having to prepare entries while other countries are completely paperless,” he added.
“We are moving there.This is a step in the right direction. The essence of what will happen is that Customs brokers will have to upgrade their computer systems in order to access this system.
“The ordinary importers would probably find it less difficult if they go through brokers in the future. Brokers would be given a password to access the Customs system, and instead of making up entries, producing the required copies and taking them to Customs, we would take the prepared entry directly to Customs. They would access it, download it and check it.
“You can also correct it on-line. It’s giant step forward in improving the system, but there are more stages we have to go through. I think the password will only be given to responsible brokers. It will enhance the business for the licensed brokers and it would be proper.”
Alric Armbrister, manager at T&A Enterprises, said: “I haven’t used it as yet but I think it’s a good idea because it will cut down on the wait time.
“The only issue is with those persons who are not licensed brokers. Each licensed broker will be given a code to access the system in order to submit the entry, and if you’re not licensed you would not have the code. The person out there freelancing would find it difficult to get into the system unless they hook up with a licensed broker.”
Customs has been offering free training sessions on the electronic submissions process. Customs Comptroller Charles Turner recently told Tribune Business that the department hoped to move towards electronic payments before year’s end.