File: A shipment of containers at Damietta port on the Mediterranean, one of the country's largest gateways.
A tracking unit has been established under the supervision of the Egyptian Customs Authority to check abandoned goods and hazardous material containers at ports and customs warehouses countrywide, Egypt's Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in a statement on Monday
According to the minister, the unit is tasked with upgrading the current disposal system in a way that eases the disposal procedures of these containers with the aim of preventing port congestion.
On 9 August, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry announced it had ordered a review of materials at airports and the transfer of any hazardous goods to safe storage. The Egyptian steps come on the back of the Aug. 4 massive blast in Beirut, reportedly caused by the accidental detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse in the city’s port.
Meanwhile, Maait stressed that "the ministry is racing against time to finalise the national automation project to modernise and digitise the working system at all ports of entry by land, sea, and air nationwide."
He said the project aims to move from a paper-based work environment to paper-free workplaces with the aim of simplifying customs procedures, shrinking the time required for the release of shipments, and reducing the cost of goods in the local market.
The plan also aims to help the country move up a notch in the ranking of important international business performance indicators, he added.
Maait said logistic centres in Cairo, West and East Port Said, and Ain El-Sokhna have begun operations, while other centres are planned to come into play within the few coming months; noting over 90 percent of Egyptian imports and exports, as a result, will be managed electronically by the end of January 2020.
He noted that goods at customs are set to be cleared within three days or less at West and East Port Said and Ain El-Sokhna ports by the end of this year and at the rest of the country's ports by 2021.
Mona Nasser, the finance minister's assistant, said that under the new customs draft law, approved recently by the House of Representatives and pending the President's approval, an electronic system will be established to track goods until the final release.
Egypt is currently paying special attention to digital transformation. It has allocated EGP 12.7 billion ($797 million) for gradual digital transformation in the fiscal year 2020/21's budget, according to Maait.
The ambitious plan targets the digitisation of all government services countrywide.