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S'ville port to go online, official says

090227_14.jpg
090227_14.jpg

Integrated Asean agreement expected to expedite customs clearance around region.

CAMBODIA is set to implement a major Asean agreement that would drastically cut customs clearance times and allow importers to access the entire region through Sihanoukville Port, a port official.

Starting in May, authorities will apply the Asean Single Window (ASW), which synchronises customs information systems and allows traders to forward goods to any Asean country after clearing one regional port of entry, said Ma Sunhout, deputy director general at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

The agreement went into effect in 2008 in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are set to implement the plan by 2012, which would see the region linked by a unified customs system.

Ma Sunhout said that computer systems and customs procedures are being revamped for the ASW.

"We will officially implement the Asean Single Window in May ... at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port," he said.

He expected that an inaugural event will be presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 1.

Businesses have long complained that inefficiency and corruption in Cambodia's customs systems harms Cambodia's competitiveness.

Ma Sunhout said the system would reduce clearance times and cut business costs, especially for importers or companies relying on foreign feedstocks.

Under the plan, clearance times would be cut to 30 minutes, from a regional average of four hours, he said.

Single checkpoint

The Sihanoukville Port plans to build a single customs clearance point to quicken the approval process.

Sin Chanthy, secretary general of the Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, said he was pleased that the plan will soon be realised.

"I am very happy to hear the news that the government will officially implement the Asean Single Window in May," Chanthy said.

"I hope that through the Asean Single Window clearance will be cheaper and less expensive."

Chanthy said customs procedures have improved in the leadup to the ASW with the creation of an electronic document processing system, but that processing still takes between three and five hours per container.  

He noted that the cost of clearance has fallen in the past year from US$50 to $25 for a small container, and from $80 to $40 for a large container.

Tias Tary, a customs officer at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta said ASW had been successful in her country. "This system has really reduced time and cost," she told a group of journalists touring Southeast Asia last week on a program sponsored by the East-West Centre of Hawaii.

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