Industry praises WCOÆs paperless push
The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) called the World Customs Organization's recent decision to work toward reducing the abundant paperwork for air cargo shipments a 'significant step forward.'
The WCO's key Permanent Technical Committee has not only accepted the facilitation case for reform but will also bring its own extensive skills to a phased long-term task of comprehensive revision and reform, TIACA said.
The WCO committee noted in its meeting records that it will:
' Undertake a survey among its member administrations and partner organizations to list the top priority documents to be automated.
' Discuss measures to promote digital signatures as a means to maintain authenticity and integrity of documents.
' Initiate discussions on the end-to-end management of electronic documents with other international organizations.
' Work on a WCO recommendations based on the proposed guidelines on supporting documents.
'We work in a world where international air consignments, managed by global traders through fine-tuned automated business technologies and moving on modern aircraft controlled and tracked by state-of-the-art communications systems are still subject to completely anachronistic paper-based checks on millions of import transactions annually,' said TIACA Secretary General Daniel Fernandez, in response to the WCO decision.
TIACA has highlighted this costly anomaly for many years and has made its abolition a major facilitation objective. The organization has called on governments and relevant international institutions to eliminate all but the most essential documents and turn the remainder into internationally standard electronic messages.
'Clearly this process will take some time, but the WCO's acceptance of the need for reform is extremely welcome and can be supported by the increased paperless trading and automation solutions being implemented by the air cargo industry through initiatives such as IATA e-freight and Cargo 2000,' Fernandez said.
'The WCO cannot, of course, take up and rationalize the paper-based procedures of other such agencies as food, veterinary or environmental authorities, but they can launch a powerful initiative to deal with their own surviving documentary requirements and can exercise invaluable influence with other controllers at and through regular cooperative border management conferences and with the ready-made advantage that the WCO Data Model already provides world standard data descriptions for the information items in all current 'supporting documents,' ' he added.
In June, TIACA and WCO signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at helping identify how the air cargo industry can assist in priority customs objectives without disrupting commercial operations.
The WCO has agreed to attend relevant TIACA meetings to discuss its objectives and will provide technical committee responses to submissions from TIACA on specific customs/air cargo issues. It will also support practices and procedures by member customs administrations that present minimum disruption to time-sensitive commercial operations and ensure similar future cooperation. In return, TIACA representatives will attend WCO meetings as observers and to express members' views. It will also participate in specialist WCO working groups and ad hoc groups relevant to TIACA's interests.