The introduction of longer lead times for export documentation from the beginning of this month does not seem to have created huge problems, says a representative of employers and manufacturers.
Even more stringent requirements to come, requiring digital anti-tampering seals on containers of goods, will probably be in place on the mid-year schedule, says EMA (Northern) representative Garth Wyllie. That will require new peripheral hardware and probably software to track the goods from the point of packing by reading the label at each stop.
There were fears that the extended deadline for documentation on export goods to be delivered to Customs —- 48 hours before shipping for sea traffic and nine hours before for air -— would be too onerous for exporters to meet immediately. But this appears not to have been so.
One advance survey suggested that only 14% of exporters had appropriate procedures in place, and this caused some worries. If the documentation was not ready, exporters feared, Customs officers might have insisted on physically inspecting the consignments. But for the first couple of days at least the industry seems to have surmounted the hurdle, Wyllie says.
The requirements stem from increased US security fears over terrorism.
Regarding the container seal aspect, trials of “an inexpensive version” have been going on for some months, Wyllie says. This uses radio-frequency identifier (RFID) chips, which can be read at a small distance with a scanner. But the information in the chip is not changed to reflect progress, as it is with more advanced RFID implementations; instead, that information is stored in a database.
This purely passive design means it will be possible to use barcodes where economics do not justify RFID. The RFID chips which allow their information to be updated are currently much too expensive to be economic, he says.
The information infrastructure will be chiefly web-based for ease of use and familiarity, Wyllie says. But it will push deadlines for generation of the information back even further, to the point where the container is packed.
Customs is imposing a levy on exporters to pay for its own equipment, such as X-ray cameras, to check cargo, and this is creating some resentment among exporters, who are having to pay that charge and the expense of their own equipment and tracking software.
Travel and Trade Industry Coalition spokesman Stewart Milne emphasises that his organisation, representing about 30 exporters and travel companies, has no quarrel with the perceived need for extra precautions, whether to meet US strictures or to satisfy government as to New Zealand’s own security. But border security is a public good; it should be paid for by general taxation, “not lumped on to the [trade and tourism] industry”.
A Customs spokeswoman says the requirements at present have been predominantly driven by US concerns, but APEC and the European community have also said they see a need for tightened precautions. Allthough no definite requirements have been put in place yet on these fronts “this is an international move and we want to [respond to it] only once.”