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February 4, 2021

Pakistan Customs launches project for pre-arrival clearance of goods

The Pakistan Customs has introduced a system of advance filing of manifest and clearance of goods before the landing of aircraft.

Irfan Ali, a spokesman for the customs, said on Wednesday that the FBR under the performance agreements signed with the Prime Minister’s Office was consistently reforming procedures and workflow in compliance with international commitments on trade facilitation.

Under the reforms initiatives undertaken by the FBR chairman, the Pakistan Customs is making great strides in improving the ease of doing business in the country. Dr Saifuddin Junejo, the chief collector of the Customs Enforcement South Karachi, stated that on the special directives of Member Customs Operations) Syed Muhammad Tariq Huda, the Model Customs Collectorate of Jinnah International Airport, the customs reforms and automation team had expedited the launch of its flagship pilot project on pre-arrival clearance titled ‘Clearance in the Sky’ to allow pre-release of coronavirus vaccine shipments which, he said, had started coming into the country.

The expedited but risk aware clearance of goods by Customs has a direct bearing on the dwell time; hence pre-arrival clearance is going to be one of the major contributors in the country’s ease of doing business ranking.

Irfan-ur-Rehman Khan, collector at the customs, said that pre-arrival customs processing is a requirement under the Revised Kyoto Convention and it is obligatory on the Pakistan Customs to follow international best practices on trade facilitation. He further added that pre-arrival clearance is mostly given to documents, de-minimis or low-value goods being of low-risk.

The clearance in the sky is expected to be a game-changer for the leading sectors of the economy, particularly for the manufacturers and exporters “where industrial raw materials of de-minimis values shall be cleared by Customs prior to arrival”.

It will bring down their inventory maintenance costs while improving their supply chain management. Clearance in the sky will also bring down the dwell time of air cargo from hours to minutes, which will make a critical difference especially for lifesaving medicines, perishable commodities and urgently required documents.

Farah Farooq, additional collector of customs who is heading the pilot project, said that during the pilot run, manifest filing module had been tested smoothly for over one month on Qatar Airways flights by their ground handling agent namely M/s Royal Airport Services for traders namely M/s Roche Pakistan and M/s Artistic Denim Mills in the first phase.

She added that the customs reforms and automation team was in the process of reviewing the readiness of trade to adapt to the pre-arrival clearance module before its roll-out across the board. There are more than 16 international airlines and four ground handlers operating at the Karachi airport. However, the volume of air cargo trade is too small compared to regional and international average.

It is anticipated that the clearance time of perishable goods, lifesaving medicines and duty-free imports and parcels will be further reduced from 10 hours to one hour at the airport, while industrial raw material and intermediary products could be cleared in less than one day.

Pre-arrival clearance will have its impact by increasing air trade volumes, and will help Pakistan’s seamless integration with international supply chains.