The new ACI system facilitates trading
The launch of Egypt’s electronic cargo pre-registration system known as the Advanced Cargo Information (ACI) System at seaports in October last year has had its pros and cons.
Under ACI rules, an importing company must register the cargo data, including the name of the company, the original documents, the name of the owner, a detailed bill, the price and label of the products, and the quantities imported, on the Finance Ministry’s digital customs system Nafeza, the National Single Window for Foreign Trade Facilitation.
The ACI allows the authorities to access real-time information on incoming shipments, said one company director that imports materials for factories. However, he said it would also be better if the banks were also connected to the ACI to facilitate import procedures for importing companies and enable them to access credits more easily.
At the moment, importers are required to register their data electronically as well as to present them in the form of documents to the banks, which means they are not benefiting from the introduction of the electronic pre-registration system, he said.
Connecting the banks with the ACI system would end paperwork procedures between the bank, the importer, the seaport, and the exporter, translating into less time spent accessing credits and preventing the storage of commodities at seaports and decreasing costs, he added.
Finishing paperwork quickly means less clearing time and the cargo being shipped from the port on its arrival, preventing it from being held for three or four days and increasing prices that will be shouldered by the consumer, he said.
The chair of a company that imports spare parts for factories concurred on the importance of connecting the ACI with the banks but added that the ACI could mean additional costs for importers.
An importer of pet food noted that one of the problems of the ACI system is that wrongly registered data cannot be fixed until the importer pays LE30,000, with customers ending up shouldering the additional costs.
Another downside of the ACI system was that prolonged Internet outages could derail import and shipping procedures, the company chair said.
Some of the data required should be filed by customs officers, not importers, he said, and this had led some importing companies to give their ACID (unique ID or password) to the officers to ease procedures.
But this ran the risk of additional cargo being added to company bills without its knowledge, resulting in a mix-up between customs clearance and importers, a confusion that was avoided before the introduction of the ACI.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.