FIATA World Congress: “Digitisation is key to reducing bottlenecks at hubs”

By Rachelle Harry

Image: Shutterstock

Dr Oliver Peltzer, partner and head practice group transport, aviation, logistics at law firm Arnecke Sibeth Dabelstein, has called for the digitisation of customs procedures to help reduce cargo bottlenecks at borders.

“Transport systems involving multiple carriers require a vast number of documents that have to be produced at customs every time goods leave or enter a country,” Peltzer said. “Customs check the documents and inspect the goods – especially if they think there is something wrong with the documentation.”

“While all carriers involved in the logistics chain might be very organised, it happens that customs procedures in lead to delays present a risk to supply chain.”

This system, he said, can be improved when information about required documentation at a specific port (it varies significantly from country to country) can be digitally forwarded and prepared in advance.

“If the documentation can be digitised, the cargo can be cleared immediately.”

However, digital updates to ports will require a huge amount of work. In addition, a common IT infrastructure would be necessary.

“If you have a proper working trade facilitation system in customs, the procedure of passing goods through a port can be reduced considerably that results in a considerable reduction in lead times,” said Dr Peltzer.

The commitment to adopting this level of digitisation lies entirely with the governments of the nations in which the ports are found, and there’s not much that suppliers or forwarders can do to encourage the process.

Dr Peltzer said that logistics companies would be only too delighted to engage in any process that speeds up their passage through ports as it would maximise profitability for both themselves and their customers.

“In less developed nations, these systems are not always available and aside from the required investment in technology, these countries are often very dependent on customs duties,” he said. “So before these countries start replacing a job-producing and income-generating system with wonderful IT infrastructure, they will be very cautious.”

This means that while customs digitisation is desirable for carriers and their customers, it is not necessarily so for the countries in which goods are passing through. Ports are used for their location on trade routes around the globe, so competition isn’t likely to motivate their progress in terms of efficiency.

“Nothing much” can be done to minimise the risk of delays. said Dr Peltzer: “Other than doing their best to be as aware as possible of the required documentation and processed for getting goods approved by customs around the world, and preparing as much as they can in advance.”

Dr Peltzer is speaking on ‘Sustainable freight transport through connectivity in customs and trade’ at the annual FIATA World Congress at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 1-5 October 2019.

The event is organised in conjunction with The South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) and will serve as an international platform for industry leaders to discuss sustainable solutions within the freight forwarding and transport sector in Africa.

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