In order to maximize control of containers entering, transiting and exiting Cameroon’s ports, while improving trade facilitation, Cameroon Customs is revamping its ongoing risk based scanning process, transforming it into a nationwide 100% scanning operation. SGS was chosen to manage the project.
Operations commenced in December 2016, with the implementation of a 100% scanning scheme, using high throughput scanning equipment, for all imports, exports and transits at Douala International Terminal (DIT). This has made DIT the first African non-automated port to deploy 100% scanning. The first scan took place on December 6.
The project also includes:
- Redesign of the scanning process in order to properly integrate it with the terminal’s operations
- Integration of image analysis by Customs first line inspectors with documentary verification of the declaration and supporting documents
- Data sharing through a unique platform that provides real time images within the Customs network
Meeting the Challenges
For the project to be successful, many stakeholders had to work together. To create a foundation for collaborative work, steering committees were put in place at various levels and stakeholders took part in project discussions.
The project also involved the incorporation of new technology. The scanner equipment and image analysis solution had never before been deployed, so a clear plan for bringing a new working methodology on board was put in place before civil works were completed.
Initially, the project was met with reluctance. M. Demanou Nestor, Sector Chief of Customs, explained, “The World Bank itself had told us that nowhere in the world does this mode of operation exist. This project has matured for more than 10 years in Customs. Many people said that this was not possible, that the operations were going to be blocked and slowed down at DIT. But after much explanation, the doubts have given way to a kind of euphoria internally, but also among the economic operators who had endured the cumbersomeness of the old system.”
Many cases already recorded confirm the advantages of 100% scanning, such as:
- Less time required for decision making: having images available within the Customs network allows inspectors to make faster decisions
- Increased effectiveness, compared with risk based scanning: with the previous method of scanning, containers were selected from a partial universe of declarations that could not exceed 20% total volume. With a 100% scanning solution, no container can evade inspection. Moreover, risk analysis can be done even before the Customs entry is lodged
- Better and more efficient physical examinations: with the new scheme, first line inspectors see x-ray images of the content of the containers. When a container is sent for physical examination, the Customs officer already knows how far to extend the search and where to look
- Reduced costs for container release to economic operators: risk based scanning took place at the moment the container was released. This increased delays and would often double the costs associated with handling the container within the port. With the 100% scanning operation, scanning is done when the container is discharged from the vessel; if everything conforms with requirements, the container’s release is expedited
- Improved communication: 100% scanning brings more transparency to procedures; the image is available in the same original format for everybody within the Customs organization
- Additional revenue recollection: Customs has recollected an additional FCFA 4 billion (approximately USD 7 million) extra cash during the period under review since the beginning of the project
Mr. Dang Mekok, Customs inspector said, “The availability of images in real time allows us to see the content of the container and to be able to quickly decide whether the declared goods are in conformity. In addition, in the event of suspicion, the inspector will make a targeted physical inspection knowing exactly where to make the trench.”
“It is important to note that scanning is not only a tool against fraud but also and above all a facilitating tool,” said Mr. Andomo Elanga, principal Customs inspector and chief of the principal bureau of Douala Port 1. “Added to this, 100% scanning has a deterrent effect that plays an essential role.”
Once the first testing phase of the image analysis platform was due to take place, SGS trained first line inspectors, who had never before been acquainted with image analysis, to use the new tool. This has enabled them to be involved in all aspects of decision making.
Since then, employees of various grades and profiles have been trained.
Within seven months, about 150 Customs officers were properly trained in conducting image analysis and using the universal platform.
The project was designed to be capable of addressing the known volumes of the Douala port, with a capacity of over a million containers per year, and any future growth.
It is currently ending its second phase with the implementation of the third set of equipment required to address the scanned exports. It has gone beyond its original scope with the construction of an additional entry. A set of weight bridges will automatically interface with the image scanning platform.
Following this, automated tools for enhancing the information provided during the image analysis will be developed and alerts for illicit goods will be created.
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