Customs seeking to address brokers' concerns over ASYCUDA
Major Richard Reese, commissioner and chief executive officer of Jamaica Customs Agency, is giving an assurance that the agency's automated system for customs data (ASYCUDA) is functional and reliable.
Reese told The Gleaner yesterday that issues with the system have been identified and there is work in progress to improve it over time.
He was responding to frustrations expressed by the Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica (CBFFAJ) about the system.
According to the brokers, their businesses have been hurting because of technical issues with ASYCUDA over recent weeks.
They have also complained of periodic slowing and shutting down of the system in the middle of transactions, which they say results in them losing information.
"We need Jamaica Customs to say what is the cause of the frequent down times in the ASYCUDA server, and if the server cannot handle the high volumes of workload, when will there be a resolution? We need urgent action now!" said CBFFAJ President Marcia Bent.
"Notwithstanding our other concerns with the ASYCUDA system, we feel that if Jamaica Customs focuses on resolving the major issues we have highlighted, we can release the bottlenecks and stave off any further fallout in business and commerce on the ports."
In responding, Reese said that, previously, statistics gathering was performed by Customs at times when the system was in use.
According to the Customs boss, that practice sometimes caused a slowing down of the system.
Reese also stated that the agency has implemented measures to help users of the ASYCUDA system be more productive.
He further pointed out that, in addition to being able to work offline, users are able to use a local access at Customs to do transactions.
Reese explained that in recent times, the system has experienced technical difficulties because of the massive infrastructure work that has been ongoing along the Marcus Garvey Boulevard near the customs headquarters.
"Our fibre line was disturbed and we had issues with our connection because of the road work that has been taking place on the Boulevard. It has happened five times since the work has started," Reese told The Gleaner.
He said the government agency is committed to improving service delivery and is prepared to respond to challenges users of the ASYCUDA system encounter while doing business with customs.
In the meantime, Reese has said that the agency's aim is to go completely paperless.
He stated that Customs has been actively seeking to implement new technologies to make it easier to do business with the agency.
The CBFFAJ has itemised some of its members main challenges with the ASYCUDA system:
- Periodic shutdowns of the system in the middle of transactions, resulting in loss of information, time and duplication of efforts to re-enter data when the system eventually reboots.
- Inability to log-in on occasions to pay the required duty on goods, a major technical glitch which is compounded when brokers have to wait far in excess of the standard four hours for system processing, or to spend hours on the phone trying to reach the Entry Processing Unit at Jamaica Customs.
- The downtime of the system affects not only transactions by customs brokers, but the release of containers at the ports, including trucks, which were not able to exit the gates because of the backlog of trucks at Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited, where there is no manual backup system in place for the ASYCUDA system.