The Single Window is a new concept for processing of Customs documentation in particular and the facilitation of trade in general.
UN Recommendation 33 states among other things that, “it is a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardizes information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. If information is electronic, then individual data elements should be submitted once.”
The World Customs Council also defines the Single Window Environment as “a cross border, “Intelligent”, facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardizes information, mainly electronic, with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements”
The Single Window concept therefore provides that traders will start the clearing process from only one end (not multiple ends) to the end of a process through one and only one “Window” The process will follow this pattern – Registration/Regulatory Authorization>Application/Issue of Licences, Permits, Certificates, etc.>Advance Information>Cargo Declaration>Temporary Storage>Goods Declaration>Duty and Fees Collection>Physical Inspection>Goods Release>Post Clearance Review
One other feature of the Single Window concept is the tolerance of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report.
The PAAR system allows the trader to submit his documents to the Customs even before the loading of the goods from the port of exportation to enable Customs assess the duties in advance for the importer to pay the duties before the arrival of the goods. With this system importers would not have to wait for the arrival of the goods before preparing and presenting their customs declarations for the payment of duties to clear their goods from the ports. This PAAR system in our local phraseology is called the “Pre-entry System” and it is the modern Customs system of clearing goods from the ports to facilitate trade. Canada and other developed countries have adopted this system which is known as Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS).
Immediately upon the arrival of the goods, importers could go to the port to scan or physically examine their goods and take delivery, thus avoiding demurrage and other port charges. It is estimated that initially, between 60% and 75% of goods that would pass through our ports would be cleared under this system and this would ease congestion at the ports.
The ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) formally came into force in Member States on 1st January 2015 as part of the process of establishing a customs union in West Africa in accordance with the provisions of the ECOWAS revised Treaty. To ensure the harmonization of customs operations in the region and enhance trade facilitation in line with the requirements for the smooth functioning of a customs union, ECOWAS Commission is developing a Community Common Customs Code for use in Member States. The introduction of the CET will ensure that rates of duties applicable in the Community are the same and that Customs procedures for the collection of such duties are uniformly applied. All modern customs procedures and practices are to be incorporated into the code and the “Single Window concept and the PAAR are among the systems to be entrenched in the code for the maximum mobilization of revenue and the facilitation of trade. The Common Customs Code is therefore to ensure that there is uniformity in customs procedures and operations in all Member States.
Author: Kofi Danquah