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Payments to Customs, ports a ‘click’ away
 


At an industry work shop organised by the Shippers’ Academy (SA) Colombo on 13 October 2011 at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, it was revealed that the Sri Lanka Customs Department (SLCD) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority  (SLPA) will soon automate the payment systems to facilitate electronic online payments to their clients.
 

Speaking at the well-attended industry gathering, SLPA Chairman Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama and his team explained the process on how the SLPA would introduce the new scheme. “Already the software is in place and soon we will be doing some trial runs with some clients and hopefully by January we will be up and running and nobody should come to the port any more to make payments,” Dr. Wickrama said.

The system will allow clients of the port to log in through the internet and make payments and this information will be updated at the port system and customs along with the facilitating bank. According to SLPA even credit cards also could be used to pay e-bills among many other options to the clients. The Port Chairman explained that this would benefit all the clients who work with the port to reduce a lot of work and expedite the process when doing business with the port.

Additional Director General of Customs Ajantha Dias also confirmed that they too were ready with e- payments and had already done the test runs and requested the trade to use the facility which is now operational with the long room and CusDec activity and will be extended to all areas soon.

It was also revealed that Sri Lanka Customs will be implementing the latest software ASYCUDA World from 1 November 2011. With the new system the clients should be able to do many documentation processes via the internet, including payments. It was also mentioned that the payments could be made online from any part of the island as the system would be web based.

This trade facilitation comes to a reality with customs, and the Bank of Ceylon (BOC) working together over the last 8 months, and simultaneously SLPA upgrading their financial software. BOC is the first bank to introduce the e- portal with customs. A presentation was made by the officials of the BOC who attended the seminar and they too were confident that the bank could facilitate all importers and exporters through this new system to reduce cost.

It was reported initially that customs facility will be available with BOC only whilst the port confirmed that they will soon extend it to all the banking channels. The institutions also pointed out that at the initial stages they may have teething problems and requested the industry to understand such situations as this a new system.

Speaking at the event, Shippers’ Academy CEO  Rohan Masakorala and other industry participants welcomed the initiative taken by the three institutions and expressed hope that the implementation will be accelerated as this will help local trading community to reduce cost and other related operational aspects in their day to day work.

“This facility will certainly help the local businesses and pointed out that a long overdue process is finally being realised,” said Masakorala and thanked and acknowledged the role played by the Secretary to the Treasury, NCED and the three institutions for working towards this goal and hoped the country could have full automation within the next 12-24 months in all areas of trade facilitation by linking the other relevant departments and ministries.

Concluding the session he said, This would certainly help our international logistics rankings.”

On 14 October, Sri Lanka Customs together with the Bank of Ceylon did the first online payments with clients at a ceremony to launch of the payment gateway between BOC and SLC.
(FT-17102011)

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