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Monday, 23 August 2021

A rain check on the new customs system, please?

The business community is once more calling for the postponement of the ACI: Importers and exporters are lobbying for a multi-month extension of the 1 October deadline for registering on the Advanced Cargo Information (ACI) pre-registration system — also known as Nafeza — saying they need more time to get ready for the new customers system, members of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce’s exporters and importers divisions told Hapi Journal.

The delay would allow importers and their agents to go through with the “complex” registration procedures before the ACI system becomes compulsory at all seaports on 1 October — a deadline by which anyone who has not registered on the digital platform won’t be allowed to release imported goods out of customs at seaports, Hamada Agawany, member of the importers division, said. Another member of the division, Osama Gaafar, shared a similar sentiment, stressing that the new ACI system’s registration formalities need to be reworked, especially that a number of businesses importing goods are struggling to register.

The sticking point: The registration process is lengthy. A large number of importers are not tech-savvy, so the idea of businesses importing goods at ports having to file shipping documents and cargo data digitally ahead of arrival via the ACI — a World Customs Organization protocol that runs on blockchain technology — is already arduous, Gaafar said. Not to mention the fact that importers must go through three different steps to complete the pre-registration customs procedures for a shipment, he added.

To register with Nafeza, one must first create an account on the digital platform and issue an e-signature either through Misr for Central Clearing, Depository and Registry (MCDR) or Egypt Trust. Importers will then have to file for a request online to obtain a shipment identification number — valid for three months — within 48 hours, according to head of the Customs Authority El Shahat Ghatoury.

Where implementation stands: The final draft of the exec regs of the Customs Act, which detail how the ACI system works, is now in the hands of the State Council (Maglis El Dawla) for review and approval after they were redrafted to incorporate proposed amendments and requests from the last round of public consultations in April.

Over 4.6k importers and customs agents have so far been trained to use the system, Ghatoury previously said.

BACKGROUND- Nafeza is being rolled out by the Finance Ministry to speed up customs procedures and improve border security. Authorities have been piloting the new system since April and had originally set a 1 July deadline for registration, which was then postponed in response to calls from the business community, who said they needed more time to prepare.

FinMin has rolled out a series of financial incentives to get companies to register during the ACI’s pilot phase, the latest of which is a 50% discount on registration fees for those who register on the digital platform in August, in addition to 30% off for anyone registering during the first half, and 20% off during the second half of September. Those that have registered during the pilot phase, which ends on 1 October, will see their import and export operations fast tracked at every logistical hub, allowing for faster clearing and checking of cargo. Importers will also be able to defer paying 70% of taxes and fees to clear cargo at shipping ports till after the cargo arrives at Egyptian ports, and will be entitled to a refund in the event that their shipment is banned from entry or disposed of, under new rules approved earlier this month by the ministry.

Want a breakdown of all you need to know on how to prepare for the new ACI system? We have this in-depth explainer here.

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