Interview with H.E. Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa bin Ali Al-Khalifa President of Customs Affairs
What are the key online services provided by the Customs Affairs?
Bahrain Customs currently offer a number of online services to assist registered customs clearing agents and agencies, traders and businesses so as to perform their own customs’ clearance. At present, these eServices are available through various delivery channels which include the Electronic Customs Clearing System (eCAS), Bahrain Customs website (customs.gov.bh) and the national eGovernment portal (Bahrain.bh).
The customs’ website provides access to valuable resources and facility procedures of customs clearing service designed for traders, customs clearing agencies and all citizens. For instance, it provides detailed information about prohibited goods, restricted and controlled items, as well as requirements of importing private vehicles. Moreover, users can search in Clearing Agencies Directory to locate the nearest registered agency or enquire about the Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes).
The national eGovernment portal is another valuable channel for every customs clearing agent and agencies; they can obtain a variety of services such as application for a request to renew, substitute or transfer customs clearing license; registration of clearing agents; appointments for clearing license exam; status enquiry/payment to follow-up request/exam status and pay the required fees through credit/debit cards; provide information of customs regulations which allow citizens and businesses to view information regarding Unified Customs Regulations, and Customs Clearing Agency Directory to search for the contact details of qualified and registered clearing agencies.
Additionally, the eCAS web-based system is purposefully designed to accelerate the clearance of cargo. Users can utilize eCAS at all sea and air terminals or at the King Fahad Causeway to electronically submit or process customs declarations.
Within the recent increase of Internet users in the Kingdom, how do you evaluate the interaction of users with the customs’ eServices?
Significantly, relevant statistics show a rising trend in the number of users and, as a result, the number of eTransactions, especially with the expansion of customs clearance eServices. Actually, these online services save dealers a lot of time, effort and cost with no need of physical presence to process much of the paperwork.
Furthermore, the online services ease the exchange and use of information. From our part, we are keen to improve our services to facilitate the work of shipping and clearing agents, importers and all dealers by providing an integrated environment that is characterized by speed and efficiency.
Could you elaborate on the development of eCAS clearing system? Is there a plan to electronically link GCC’s Customs Affairs?
In line with our IT projects strategy, we are striving to facilitate the delivery of government services - not only customs, to attract investors and traders through beneficial, accessible and convenient government services. Hence, the idea of launching the eCAS came about in order to link Customs Affairs with almost every government ministry and entity. The system will be progressively launched at dedicated customs’ points starting with Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Port, Airport terminal and finally King Fahad Causeway.
Regarding joining GCC countries’ Customs Affairs, indeed there is a plan to start linking them via the Custom Information Center, and later trade statistics to maintain a complete link in order to offer online common clearance service. In particularly, the work is in progress to connect the Customs Directorate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the gate of King Fahad Causeway. This is to accelerate shipment clearance and prevent delays. Such effective link will significantly serve risk management process due to immediate flow of information.
What vital online services will Customs Affairs have in the future?
Within the next-level plan to expand online services, we are working on the eCAS project which will improve customs clearing service system and accelerate procedures. Furthermore, among other support projects, we are planning to implement SharePoint Microsoft system to create a shared platform for better engagement and effective content management, as well as support all back-office operations, internal and online systems to achieve the required quality services.