Australian customs plans "e-cargo" system

Australian customs plans "e-cargo" system

The Federal Government's Justice and Customs Department aims to increase the flow of international trade with Australia through a first-time integrated electronic cargo management system expected to go live early next year.

The data management system will replace the department's current stand-alone computer systems used to process Australia's air, land and sea import and export activities, said a representative for the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Christopher Ellison.

"The new streamlined cargo system will create a flexible business environment to enhance the efficiency of Customs services to importers and exporters, by replacing all business processes for lodging and processing [trade] declarations and cargo reports," the representative said.

"Millions of clients including major food retailers like Coles Myer and produce companies, car manufacturers and suppliers of household goods will save time and money through the system."

However, the representative said the system is still in its infancy. The representative could not project the expected cost savings on processing for the department.

By automating all forms of cargo movement, the system will compile reports of all national import and export activity for department staff and clients, and consolidate a number of other internal Customs reporting systems, the representative said.

By integrating its systems, the department would achieve efficiencies in cargo reporting and querying, and in reference, glossary and metadata filing - all of which are key to government research, analysis and decision-making, she said.

IT outsourcer Electronic Data Systems has been contracted to develop the system over a two-year period. The representative declined to disclose the value of the agreement, claiming commercial sensitivity.

The integrated system is a core part of the department's Cargo Re-engineering (CMR) Project. The department said it would also employ sophisticated tools to identify high-risk goods and tailor business arrangements for low-risk importers and exporters under an accredited client program.

The representative said the system will be phased in by early 2002, subject to Customs reforms being developed by Senator Ellison under the Customs Legislation Amendment and Repeal (International Trade Modernisation) Bill 2001. The bill is expected to be passed by the Lower House next week.

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