Although the Japanese government has been widely criticized for its reluctance to relax non-tariff barriers to imports, Japan Customs seems well ahead of its Western counterparts when it comes to enabling foreign trade and logistics providers to play a key role in their country’s customs modernizations efforts.
As early as 2007-08, Japan Customs established the Nippon Automated Cargo Clearance System, a private-public partnership that plays a key role that elsewhere is reserved for governmental agencies. These days, NACCS is engaged in implementing Japan’s Ocean Advanced Filing Rules, an enhancement of existing law that will require all carriers and non-vessel-operating common carriers to electronically submit advanced manifest information for ocean shipments destined for Japan.
Private logistics providers will play a major role in that process, which will become fully operational next March. The regulation, known as JP24, is regarded as analogous to the Automated Manifest System in the U.S.
Japan Customs decided “smaller government is preferable” after evaluating the impact of its privatizations of Nippon Telephone and Telegraph in 1985 and Japan Railways in 1987, said Hidetoshi Aramaki, manager of NACCS’s planning and research division III. “Many transportation- and logistics-related agencies have privatized in past years,” he added.
NACCS is working with about 40 private service providers to implement the Japanese Advanced Filing Rules system, Aramaki said. Under the system, NACCS won’t be able to take information directly from its overseas customers, but the numerous service providers will collect the information from foreign companies shipping to Japan, and transmit that information electronically into the NACCS system.
Chris Jones, executive vice president, marketing and services at Descartes Systems Group, the first authorized service provider in the new system, said the service providers will validate the information about each filing in advance, on behalf of NACCS. Relying on private sector providers makes sense, he said, because “the private service providers know their customers, and they know how to disseminate the relevant information” about the new system to those customers.
“The goal is to get the filings right, the first time,” Jones said. The process won’t be any easy one. The Japanese “want a lot more information” than just the usual Harmonized System codes, he explained.
At least three key changes are being enacted under the AFR regulations: the number of data elements, the timing of the submissions and the quality of the data submitted. “This is a very complicated system, with high-end computerized systems,” Aramaki said.
Added Jones: “What’s different is the timing, the data content and the filings.” Importers filing to bring in goods from China and South Korea, for example, won’t be required to meet the 24-hour rule because those countries’ ports are so close to those of Japan.
To prepare non-Japanese shippers for meeting the demands of the new system, Descartes is working with NACCS and its customers worldwide, providing seminars in such locations as Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hong Kong. “Interest has been high,” Jones said.
More than half of Japanese maritime imports originate in East Asian nations, and NACCS has intensified its training sessions in China. “We don’t have a lot of time” to get everyone ready for the system, Jones said. But the good news is that “many customers are used to similar rules established by the United States and the European Union.”
Contact Alan M. Field at email@example.com.