The department of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has presented a set of Time Release Studies (TRS), an essential performance measurement tool for assessing the cargo clearance process of the international trade, as recommended by the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).
It adopts average cargo release time, i.e. the time taken at the customs station from the arrival of the cargo to its eventual release for import or export, as the case may be.
The National Time Release Study (NTRS) 2022 covered 15 major Customs formations, including four-port categories – seaports, air cargo complexes (ACCs), inland container depots (ICDs), and integrated check posts (ICPs), which handle about 80 percent of the bills of entry (imports documents) and 70 percent of the shipping bills (export documents) and is based on the sample period between 1st – 7th January 2022.
The NTRS 2022 has reported further improvement in the average cargo release time for all the four-port categories in 2022 over the corresponding period of the previous year: from 2 percent for ICPs to a significantly higher 16 percent for ACCs. For the sea cargo cleared through the seaport or inland container depots’ average release, the time has improved by 12 percent. With this improvement, the ICPs have achieved the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) target release time to be achieved by 2023, whereas the other three-port categories have reached 75 percent of the NTFAP target.
NTRS 2022 and the Custom House level Time Release Studies, which have been conducted using the same data set, obtained from the customs automated system and following the same methodology, have found strong affirmation for the four-fold ‘path to promptness’, namely:
- advance filing of import documents enabling pre-arrival processing,
- risk-based facilitation of cargo,
- benefits of trusted client program – Authorized Economic Operators, and
- Direct Port Delivery (DPD) facility.
As per the study, the documentary clearance of export consignments, measured by the time taken from the arrival of goods at the customs station to grant of Let Export Order has minimized significantly, ranging from 4:04 hours in the case of ACCs to 47:41 hours in the case of ICDs. This time is within the differential NTFAP target for the four-port categories.
However, studies found that on account of various logistics processes, the time taken in the eventual export after the regulatory clearance, takes a long time – accounting for 60 percent of the total time in the case of integrated check post to 92 percent in the case of air cargo.
In 2017, JNCH was the first major Custom House to initiate annual TRS and NTRS 2022 shows that the average import cargo release time has been halved since then.
NTRS 2022 and local TRSs have also made certain recommendations to further reduce the average release time targets to meet the targets set out in the NTFAP and improve the trade facilitative eco-system in the country.