New moves to make shipping faster, easier

PHOTO: New moves to make shipping faster, easier

SINGAPORE - From going paperless in a bigger way to streamlining its online TradeNet system, the Singapore Customs is looking to make it faster and easier for traders to ship their goods.

The moves, which were announced on Thursday, have been welcomed by the industry.

Singapore Customs hopes to make TradeNet, a single network which links all government agencies and businesses involved in the import, export and trans-shipment of goods, simpler to use, by requiring less information to be submitted, for example.

It also aims to extend "paperless clearance", which currently applies only to container cargo, to conventional cargo - that is, goods that are not packed in containers, and arrive mostly by land or air.

"Making TradeNet more straightforward will help us save time and reduce repetitive work, because a lot of the information asked for is quite similar," said Mr Lok Hwee Chong, regional manager of TNT Express Worldwide, a global express carrier.

But he also suggested that Singapore Customs should look at increasing the value at which goods need to be declared.

"Top of our wish list is to have a higher threshold for what we have to declare. We need manpower and time to submit declarations and it's quite tedious."

Traders have to apply for a permit to import or export goods, regardless of their value. However, for air shipments, a permit is not required for non-dutiable and non-controlled goods if the value does not exceed $400.

Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo was the guest of honour at the Singapore Customs' annual workplan seminar on Thursday at Concorde Hotel, where the initiatives were announced.

She said in her speech: "Trade in Singapore is very close to the $1 trillion mark already... Many businesses depend on trade as a way of life.

"As we continue to grow the business community, this volume can only increase, and not decrease, which means that Singapore Customs and the trading community are going to have to find better ways of dealing with these higher volumes."

The plans are part of the Singapore Customs' review of its strategic blueprint, Customs 2015 Plus.

Mr Fong Yong Kian, Singapore Customs director-general, said that this is to ensure the plans remain "relevant" and to "strengthen trade connectivity to enhance Singapore's economic competitiveness".

In addition, his agency wants to rope in the trading community by forming a watch group by 2015 to tackle illegal trading activities.

Comprising companies, port operators, cargo handlers and others, the watch group will look out for suspicious activities and alert the authorities.

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