ASYCUDA is a computerised customs management system which covers most foreign trade procedures. (Stock photo)

With the initial teething problems behind it, the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) World has been getting the thumbs up from users, with them reporting “great satisfaction”.

Comptroller of Customs, Owen Holder, said the system has been functioning at a “high level” and the management team at the Customs and Excise Department has been receiving “really good reviews” about it during meetings with stakeholders.

The Comptroller told the Barbados Government Information Service: “We, at Customs, are happy with the system and I can say that is the consensus of the trading community.  Across the supply chain, there has been extremely good feedback, with the brokers, consolidators, government agencies, couriers, etcetera, all reporting great satisfaction with the operation of the system, and the new processes that we are implementing.  ASYCUDA World has made it easier to do business in Barbados.

“We have worked closely with Barbados Port Inc. and all of the other stakeholders to ensure that the goods are cleared quickly.  An example of the efficiency of the system was seen when we started back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.  We had a major build-up of cargo in the port, because no work was being done, and through ASYCUDA World and the risk management process, we were able to clear those goods within a short period of time.”

He said that since its implementation one year ago, several government agencies and ministries had been brought into the system to clear goods, thus ensuring there was a seamless clearance process.

“In addition, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the Barbados Revenue Authority use the system daily to access data that are relevant to their daily operations.

“We are constantly receiving requests from other departments and ministries to clear goods in the system.  So, what this is showing us and the country as a whole is that the system is versatile, and it is also accepted in the trade environment as a means to augment the trade process,” the Comptroller confidently stated.

This acceptance is also evident by the fact that the private sector has publicly communicated appreciation for the improved Customs operations in the local media, as well as in a recent technical assistance report.  In both instances, the private sector reported that Customs’ clearances have been smooth; there have been tremendous improvements and containers are being processed at a faster rate.

Comptroller of Customs, Owen Holder

ASYCUDA is a computerised customs management system which covers most foreign trade procedures.  It handles manifests and customs declarations, as well as transit and suspense procedures.  It also generates trade data that may be used for statistical economic analysis.

The ASYCUDA software was developed in Geneva by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  It takes into account the international codes and standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), World Customs Organization and the United Nations.  ASYCUDA provides for Electronic Data Interchange between traders and Customs.

Mr. Holder explained that under the Revised Kyoto Convention and the Trade Facilitation Agreement, customs organisations were required to use information technology for the clearance of goods.

“What happens is that importers lodge goods imported either through Terminal 2 or at the Bridgetown Port in the system using a manifest.  This would indicate to Customs all of the goods being imported, and they are then cleared according to entries submitted in the system.

 “The system, among other things, tabulates the duties to be collected on imported goods; identifies items that require import licences; and targets items that require other government agency interventions.  So, it is a complete system that enhances the clearance of cargo, by incorporating the other agencies that deal with the clearance of cargo in the island,” he said.

Emphasising its importance to Barbados, Mr. Holder said the system had created predictability, transparency and efficiency in the Customs operations.  He added that those at the management level had access to the system and could peruse it to see what was happening with regard to the clearance of goods.

“So, senior management can review activities conducted during the day and they can also know the amount of revenue collected for a particular day.  All of this is important information for the organisation,” he stated.

The Comptroller said every country he knew that had implemented ASYCUDA World had increased its revenue intake. 

Even though ASYCUDA World is working well, the Customs Department will not rest on its laurels.  Mr. Holder has given the assurance that the department will continue to listen to stakeholders and make the necessary adjustments where applicable to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the system.

This will certainly ensure the smooth functioning of the system and an improvement in doing business in Barbados.

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