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One of the major constraints for international trade has been the non-availability of customs clearance and other facilities at airports and seaports round the clock, seven days a week. This means that import and export cargo, delivered at a time when clearance facilities are unavailable, have to wait till clearance facilities are open to move on to their destination. At airports and ports, which in any case normally operate round the clock, cargo piles up awaiting clearances.
In order to remove this bottleneck, it has now been agreed that customs clearances will now be available at identified sea-ports and airports 24x7 in order to facilitate trade services.
The four airports where this 24x7 facility would be available are Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. The four ports where this facility would be available are Chennai, Kolkata, Kandla and JNPT, Mumbai.
The 24x7 operations would begin on a pilot basis with customs operations along with all other complementary services. Along with customs clearances, other government agencies such as the concerned port/airport authority, drug controller, FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), quarantine, etc., and private players such as custodians, CHAs (Customs House Agents), banks, transporters, etc., shall also have to work 24x7 to synchronize with the extended work hours. This would be initially for four months after which efforts would be made to expand similar operations at other locations.
The 24x7 operations would be available for certain categories of imports and exports. For imports, the category “No Assessment No Examination” will be covered. This would account for 70% of imports. For exports, the 24x7 facility could be extended to those exports not claiming benefits.
For smooth operationalisation of 24x7, the Commissioner of Customs concerned at these locations shall hold meetings with all stakeholders. Such additional staff that is required to start these operations shall be redeployed from existing resources. Secretary, Commerce and the Director General, Foreign Trade shall also hold meetings with other support agencies to facilitate and ensure 24x7 operations. A notice in this regard shall issue by 10.8.2012, with 24x7 operations to commence after two weeks from that date, on 25.8.2012.
The Department of Revenue shall assess the pilot and propose expansion of coverage if it is required.