Forwarding, Freight News, IT, Logistics

All hail to the new customs computer chief

[ June 13, 2018   //   ]

HMRC’s 1980s-vintage Chief computer system has served the trade well in the quarter century since it was introduced in 1994, but now is the time to move on, BIFA policy and compliance advisor Pawel Jarza told a seminar on its replacement, CDS (Customs Declaration Service). The Union Customs Code (UCC), introduced in 2016, spelled the end for Chief, he told the event, jointly organised by BIFA, HMRC and software house ASM.

UCC introduced the EU Customs Data Model (EUCDM), itself based on the earlier, internationally agreed World Customs Organisation Data Model, Jarza explained: “EUCDM will be the basis of every customs declaration, and aims to standardise everything we do, and the responses from Customs.”

Moreover, EUCDM also defines specifications for customs IT systems, and would require significant upgrades to trade and customs systems.

But most importantly perhaps, said Jarzu, “it would redefine the relationship between forwarders and customers”.

The WCOCDM, and hence CDS, would introduce the concept of ‘data elements’, he continued. Standardised and harmonised, these would mean the same thing whether in England or Estonia and would help to smooth the exchange of information in international trade. However, there would be a lot more data elements than there are currently boxes on the existing SAD customs form, reflecting the need to obtain more information from traders. CDS would also have greatly increased capacity for extra codes and some, such as the location of goods information, could balloon from eight characters under Chief to 13 with CDS.

The new system would allow more detailed – and complex – information to be entered for pricing in different currencies, delivery terms or the nature of the transaction. CDS would also provide more of an audit trail.

As well as offering more processing power, CDS would be a lot more flexible than the system it replaced. Sharon Mole, from HMRC’s Customs Transformation Directorate said: “Chief is old technology – it’s expensive and difficult to make changes.” CDS’s modular design would allow upgrades to take place without shutting the whole system down, she said. It would be easier to make modifications as time went on, she predicted.

(More in the next printed issue of FBJ – FBJ 5 2018)

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