Customs clearance involves validating and approving the state of cargo passing through a port to both commercial and legislative parties. Interviewing import container terminals, we learned this to be laborious and subsequentially decided to remove some of the manual processes making their workday easier

Collecting available data from digital systems, disclosing them in one platform and thereby removing non-value-added manual steps reduces the administrative burden for our container terminal customers. This is digitalisation at its best.

Tore Skalde, Product Owner, Terminal.

Being the solution provider of a terminal operating system (TOS), Grieg has looked at the processes from a container terminal point of view to find the bottlenecks giving value firstly in their operations then also for their clients wherever possible.

Initially, the container terminal receives a cargo arrival announcement (Excel, PDF or EDI – COPARN) either directly from a shipping line or via an agent on behalf of the shipping line.   Information regarding customs clearance is of relevance for the container terminal receiving the cargo. This information is either exchanged manually in an Excel, a PDF, by e-mail or delivered as an EDI – CUSCAR.

Planning the cargo operations

The container terminal starts the customs clearance planning of the arriving cargo giving it a freight number per port call. This is done manually in a certain form pertaining to the day of arrival and reported back to the shipping company. For goods arriving on different day than expected, the freight number needs to be altered on the go.

Automatic creation of freight numbers reduces manual entries in the custom clearance process. It also eliminates the need for corrections and double work if the cargo is delayed

Upon arrival the shipping company sends an arrival message alongside the cargo as well as the freight number to the goods owner. This communication is to a large extent done by e-mail and is thus prone to errors.

Customs portal interaction

The goods owner will then register the cargo information in a portal provided by the customs authority, who then validates the information. In Norway, for example, TVINN is the designed portal to use. Typically, the goods owner also orders transport hinterland from a haulier company at the same time and reports all this to the container terminal.

APIs to customs portals will be built into Grieg Connect’s Terminal operating system (TOS) during 2022. They ensure that the container terminal stays up to date on any changes, and also removes time-consuming expedition number messaging for the goods owner.

Usually, the customs authority validation is merely a formality and the consignee receives the needed expedition number to prove that the cargo is cleared, but in some cases the authorities may stall this expedition to perform an inspection of the goods within a CCU. This then leads to delays in the cargo handing process.  

A digital trace of the activities executed for the container ensures that the authorities find the needed information when needed. This has potential to reduce the clearance time especially for disputes.

Pickup of the import container

The pickup of the important container is assured after a few more manual steps are handled. The goods owner sends an expedition number either directly to the terminal or via a pre-advice (haulier functionality); either way ensuring that the message arrives to the right destination.  

The transport firm can arrive to a manual gate or a smart gate, depending on the gate maturity at the terminal in question. The firm can also use a variety of ways such as automated kiosk, mobile applications or visiting the gate personnel to get entry to pick up the container.

For tips and ideas on your digital container system, please have a look at our article How to select the best Terminal Operating System (TOS)

Silo communication

We in Grieg believe that the main issue in this process is the missing interaction between the systems making the container customers clearance lengthy and time consuming. We expect these process improvements to free up a considerable amount of time for container terminals; time otherwise used to manually type in data already available in other systems.

Interested in hearing more about the custom module that we have established in our TOS for container terminals, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team

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Terminology

COPARN – Container annoucement message (EDI)

CUSCAR (CUStoms CARgo report message) – Details related to the consignee and the cargo inside CCUs (EDI)