Attendees of the 3rd Logistics Business Breakfast were given a reality check from Professional Shipping’s Heloise Kruger, who is actively engaged with customs operations on a daily basis.

Speaking at the event, Kruger compared how customs queries were handled in the past versus how they are being handled by the new call centre. She explained that the norm nowadays was to get expert advice much quicker and that information and certificates were received from the right people.

This had resulted in huge cost reductions, as agents can have a single, centralised office, rather than satellite offices that are close to customs offices. She said there was an urgent need to implement the same procedure for “deferments” which should form part of a single national account, rather than at the port of entry.

According to Kruger, customs needs to be made more approachable. She said it would be beneficial if customs were more empathetic towards mistakes – like typos by third parties – which can delay movement of goods and substantially increase costs for importers.

Kruger said that overall, there had been a significant improvement in the South African customs clearing environment, in spite of occasional EDI hiccups. She called on the clearing industry to be more responsible and to play their part. She urged agents to know the rules and timelines and to advise their clients accordingly.