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China Breakthroughs: Xiamen Port gets 'intelligent' on Customs clearance

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

08-23-2017 17:25 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

Beijing welcomes "more inclusive growth" to promote its economy and diplomatic affairs. China's Belt & Road Initiative (B&R) stands as a flagship project for the country to raise its influence in Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East and Oceania.

The B&R aims to boost cross-border trade and investments with participating member states, by working with governments and businesses to build infrastructure that connect regional manufacturing hubs with global logistics networks.

Meanwhile, Beijing has introduced reforms to streamline the processing of imports/exports that flow through the nation's sea ports, airports and land borders.

Historically, importing or exporting goods, whether in small or large packages, required arduous and lengthy procedures to clear through Customs. The paper trails seemed endless and any mistake on applications would delay shipments.

Single-Window clearance

Nonetheless, Customs officials in southeast China's coastal city - Xiamen, Fujian Province - opened a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) to shorten procedural times to export and import goods by integrating a fully-automated Internet of Things (IoT) system starting in April 21, 2015.


"We used to spend one or two days finishing all the necessary Customs procedures," Chen Fangfang, staff member at Xiamen Port Joint Inspection Center of China (Fujian), told Beijing Review.

He added, "Now we only need to fill in one form online, which can be finished in a few minutes."

Xiamen is the first city in China to offer the platform that is operated by 36 departments, including: Customs, commerce, planning, taxation, port and other affairs, as well as offering 65 types of services.

Nationwide pilot project

"The platform covers the entire port of Xiamen and has been introduced to the nearby cities of Quanzhou, Zhongzhou and Longyan," said Chen. "It also exchanges information with Singapore's TradeNet online Customs system."

Fully-automated Customs procedures have proven popular for enterprises. As of Aug. 24, the platform has over 5,600 users that serve 26,000 companies while more than 110,000 documents get processed per day.

In 2016, 10,150 companies had gone through Customs and inspections at Xiamen's port entries.

China Daily reports that for the first half of 2017, Xiamen totaled RMB282bn. (US$42.38bn.) in imports/exports, a 16.4 percent increase from the same period - 2016.

More than 500 new foreign-invested enterprises, mainly in the manufacturing sector, had set up business in the City this year.

The success story of the pilot project will likely inspire other Chinese port cities to implement similar measures.

Self-declaration benchmarks

Xiamen's Yuanhai Terminal is China's first fully-automated shipping terminal, which has robots and Internet-controlled equipment to transfer loads on or off cargo ships.

"The Yuanhai Terminal is an intelligent, safe and environment-friendly facility," said Chen Yipeng, deputy general manager of Xiamen Yuanhai Container Terminal Co.

He added, "Most of the terminal's functions are performed by automated machines controlled by computers in a central control room. Since the terminal was put into operation in March 2016, it has maintained a clean safety record."

He pointed out remarkable improvements in the number of shipping containers handled, work efficiency and economic benefits.

The loading and unloading of cargo are conducted on electric tracks. Intelligent sensors have replaced humans to perform identification and locate the positioning of goods.

All-weather reliability

The Yuanhai Terminal is the fourth of its kind built in the world, but the first in China. Faster and more reliable delivery services have helped Xiamen to rise in rankings to 7th on the listing of China's Top 100 foreign trade cities in 2017, according to China Daily.

The fourth generation Yuanhai Terminal has hi-tech upgrades that surpass other intelligent shipping terminals around the world. Its special features are laser scanners that act as an intelligent eye to replace humans to identify the shape of containers.

Chinese inventors hold patents and intellectual property rights (IPR) of the new technologies.

As reported by Beijing Review, Fujian FTZ has witnessed 61,125 enterprises with total registered capital - RMB1.2 trillion passing through Customs from April 21, 2015 to June 30, 2017.

The Municipal government of Xiamen and local Customs officials hope to create a paper-less office with better e-service in the near future.

Accelerating trade

We can anticipate China's leading ports and Customs offices to adopt the single-window system soon. The cost benefits and work efficiency will serve as primary factors for the move.

Perhaps port cities worldwide will also follow up with more streamlined procedures where traders just have to file documents online to receive approval on cross-border shipments.

To maintain the old traditions of filing paperwork and waiting for signatures from numerous departments appear foolish in hindsight. New technologies and IoT can and should work hand-in-hand to transform Customs.

To embrace "more inclusive" economic growth, sovereign governments should converts Customs into an intelligent fully-automated system that make shipping goods into and out of a country easy and reliable. That just makes common sense.


(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )


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