11/06/2008 - 22:00

ICS now ship shape

11/06/2008 - 22:00

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The Integrated Cargo System, which brought Customs' operations to a standstill when it was installed in October 2005, is now on track and running smoothly, key industry groups say.

The Integrated Cargo System, which brought Customs' operations to a standstill when it was installed in October 2005, is now on track and running smoothly, key industry groups say.

ICS was developed by Customs to meet emerging industry and government needs for more effective and efficient management of Australia's imports and exports.

The system allows importers and exporters to send and receive declaration data via the internet or email, providing cargo status and other diagnostic information to authorised users.

Declaration of exports or imports requiring approval from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service can also be made through ICS.

Since the introduction of the integrated system, electronic users of ICS are required to undergo an 'evidence of identity' check when applying for a digital certificate, as Customs no longer accepts faxed or mailed import and export documentary transactions.

Immediately following its launch in 2005, the system struggled to move cargo at ports across Australia, including Fremantle, with problems and software implementation delays creating a backlog of freight.

According to Fremantle-based MSC Australia Pty Ltd operations supervisor, Marco Di Luca, ICS has streamlined the company's operations.

"Using ICS is no longer a nightmare, there's been a massive improvement and it's quite reliable now with no major issues," Mr Di Luca told WA Business News.

Mr Di Luca said under Customs' old compile system, companies could only detect cargo issues or delays by phoning the Customs helpdesk.

According to Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia WA regional manager, John Park, the ICS saga of 2005 was a critical issue for Fremantle, with some companies almost forced to close down.

"When the change was made the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council approached senior government ministers informing them that the system and software were not ready, but it fell on deaf ears," Mr Park said.

"At the time, some companies were getting software a day before the change was set to be made, which wasn't enough time to install it and learn the program, so the whole process fell into overload."

Fremantle Ports' 2007 annual report shows that the port handles $24 billion in trade annually.

Trade with East, South-East and Southern Asia amounted to 48 per cent of total port trade in 2006-07, compared with 50 per cent in the previous year.

Trade with other parts of Australia made up nearly one quarter of total volume.

The total port trade in 2006-07 was 25 million mass tonnes, about 100,000t (0.4 per cent) lower than the previous year and 53 per cent higher than 1990-91.

Total exports in 2006-07 fell by 900,000t (6.7 per cent) from 2005-06 and imports increased by 800,000t (7.4 per cent) during the same period.

Inner harbour exports to increase included malt, waste paper, mineral sands and chemicals, while outer harbour exports decreased by 11 per cent, reflecting significant decreases in wheat and barley due to poor harvest in 2006-07.

Fremantle Ports CEO Kerry Sanderson said the success of implementing ICS and increasing the vehicle booking system were paramount in the face of strong economic and trade growth in WA.

"Well integrated and innovative supply chains help customers to gain a competitive edge as well as helping to minimise transport impact on the community," she said in a statement.

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