Implementing a Flagship e-Clearance Platform
by Salem Saeed Al Romaithi, Executive Director, Technical Affairs Sector, Abu Dhabi General Administration of Customs
Abu Dhabi Customs has a vital role to play in achieving the government’s objective to deliver world-class smart services and move forward on the journey towards smart transformation. To fulfil this aim, Abu Dhabi Customs embarked on a project to replace the legacy manual customs clearance process with an entirely electronic e-Clearance process based on the concept of a single window. This was a huge undertaking: in 2013 alone, Abu Dhabi Customs processed USD 36bn of non-oil based international trade, with 1.2 million customs declarations and customs revenue of USD 681m.
Abu Dhabi Customs
Abu Dhabi General Administration of Customs was established in 1966 and plays an important and pivotal role in stimulating the national economy. It is also the cornerstone of the commercial traffic in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Customs is also known as the country’s frontline of security and safety based on its vision of “homeland security and a prosperous economy “.
The General Administration of Customs has been able to achieve significant success at all levels, including developing internal procedures and programs, improving the relationship with clients and providing excellent services to them, in addition to the essential role it plays in various social responsibility areas.
Project background and objectives
Prior to implementing the innovative e-Clearance process, clearing agents manually input shipment data and submitted documentation manually at the customs office counter. They made the relevant customs payment in cash or cheque, and received a customs slip which would then allow goods to be released. This created a huge administrative overhead to input and store data, process customs payments and clear international imports and exports, with high costs and long delays in processing goods, which was not conducive to encouraging to the level of growth Abu Dhabi anticipates to develop its profile as a world-class location for international trade.
To overcome these challenges, Abu Dhabi Customs developed an innovative and ambitious project blueprint to achieve the following:
- Implement electronic collection operations for Abu Dhabi Customs claims through facility accounts to all dealers, to replace payments made through customs centres.
- Automate internal accounting entries with the Department of Finance.
- Automate the reconciliation of collections through Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB).
- Migrate to electronic issuance of documents, shorten the documentary & collection cycle, reduce errors and minimise customs processing time as far as possible.
- Protect documents and instruments from loss and damage, and archive customs documents electronically to permit easy access at any time.
- Provide an audit trial of all financial and operational transactions.
A project of this scale and complexity is a major exercise in change management, and involves a number of internal and external stakeholders. We brought our strategic partners together to define new processes from end to end, with a view to leveraging innovative technology and secure, seamless integration between participants in the clearing process, such as between clearing agents and Abu Dhabi Customs, and between Abu Dhabi Customs and ADCB, to achieve a ‘Single Window’ for customs clearance. We designed and developed a new system for clearance agents and Customs personnel, and worked with ADCB to create a host-to-host connection between Abu Dhabi Customs and the bank (Box 1).