Customs blames users in IT debacle

Customs blames users in IT debacle

Summary: The federal government has opted to keep using a controversial new cargo reporting system, and has attacked users for contributing to delays at some ports.The Integrated Cargo System (ICS) replaced one that had been operating for more than 20 years but since October 12, problems in the system have caused massive delays to container clearances, resulting in a backlog of cargo at some ports.

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The federal government has opted to keep using a controversial new cargo reporting system, and has attacked users for contributing to delays at some ports.

The Integrated Cargo System (ICS) replaced one that had been operating for more than 20 years but since October 12, problems in the system have caused massive delays to container clearances, resulting in a backlog of cargo at some ports. Common users of the application include freight forwarders and customs brokers.

Australian Federation of International Forwarders chief executive officer Brian Lovell issued an update this afternoon saying the Australian Customs Service had told him that the ICS for sea and air cargo would be left intact until at least midweek.

Customs Minister Senator Chris Ellison's decision came amid bitter criticism of the final cutover to the new system and reports electronic messages had been trapped for up to several hours, slowing clearance of imports and prompting claims from one state minister key NSW ports were within a couple of days of being forced to turn cargo-bearing ships away.

Senator Ellison is expected to chair another meeting with Customs and industry representatives on Wednesday, Lovell said.

Late Friday afternoon, Customs confirmed the move, with a spokesperson lashing out at media reports that said the new system had "failed".

"Nor is its performance solely responsible for the problems that have occurred.

"The problems experienced in part, flow from inaccurate and incomplete information being submitted by some users, which the new system is designed not to accept for security reasons," the spokesperson said.

Earlier, Lovell said Customs chief executive Lionel Woodward had told him during the call that Senator Ellison had been "led to this decision primarily by [Customs] and the stevedores who have convinced him that the 'workarounds' and contingencies [Customs] have put in place will alleviate the potential blockage at the ports".

These measures included dedicated Customs teams clearing goods at the premises of terminal operators, deployment of additional staff to support the 24-hour industry help desk and usability changes within the Customs interactive system.

Senator Ellison's move comes after he said this morning the AU$250 million ICS system would be switched off unless proposals to alleviate the situation were unsuccessful. "It was designed to make it faster not slower and that's why I've said that if by midday today it isn't working, we'll revert to the old system," he told a radio station.

Lovell said Customs had told the Minister problems which had seen some users able to view supposedly secure documentation from other users had been "fixed".

"We will be most interested to find out from our members if this is in fact the case," he said.

In a videoconference with Senator Ellison yesterday, AFIF and other industry bodies recommended the sea cargo component of ICS be turned off, and industry revert to the previous system.

"Speaking on behalf of the whole forwarding industry and, being mindful that some sectors are working well, we must say that we are disappointed with this decision and the Minister's reliance that Customs will fix the problems despite increasing contingencies to move cargo whilst the main ICS import system remains seriously flawed," Lovell said.

Topics: Big Data, Government AU

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3 comments
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  • The truth is still out there ...

    ...which I suspect will go like ...

    It was a stressed project where the delays meant the external players didn't get specs/test systems on time and have now had the baby mit bathwater tossed all over them. A $250M flick pass!
    anonymous
  • not the right software

    many people blame developers and testing. but the reality is the ICS project is target for java which is Object Oriented, yet they are using Gen which is Structural method for cobol (functional). You can't mix water and oil. what a waste.
    anonymous
  • mine

    1, General
    In addition to security and the overall complexity of the CMR, another factor that needs to pay highest attention to is that the old system being replaced had been almost 20 years old. It is not just patches to a pant, but like digging the root of an old tree. This means that there is a great gap between the old system and the new one. And the gap was filled by procedures created by customs, agents, importers and exporters - any one with the interest in trade processes. Even the procedures created in the mind of the terminal operators count. That involved people, processes, tools, equipments, information and training, etc., which might act as business secret.
    What's more, this grey area was not well organized but in the interest of individual persons and/or companies. For example, there might be a lot of systems, big or small, with databases which needed to be transfered. So the re-engineering exists inside customs, and outside as well.
    The security aspect of the CMR was used as an excuse when the first area was not handled properly. Technically to say, by the date of this project there were already quite a lot techniques and products that could provide sufficient authorization and authentication required by the system.
    While the complexity was given a lot eyeballs, the test of the system wasn't, including both planning, monitoring and controlling. Take a look at this: "The Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA) expressed grave concerns, with many unable to effectively test their processes because of software, hardware or other resourcing constraints." Though it didn't state when the test was, it tells you to react quickly and properly.
    More, other things related or not related came after. Here lists some but not limited.

    1,1, Initiation
    Some radical changes of direction during the first years of its definition and planning;
    The old system had been operating for more than 20 years;
    Risk identification;
    1,2, Planninng
    CIO Murray Harrison, who joined Customs from Veterans' Affairs in 2002 when the project was began;
    Estimation error;
    1,3, Monitoring and Controlling
    The Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA) expressed grave concerns, with many unable to effectively test their processes because of software, hardware or other resourcing constraints.
    1,4, Closing
    No comments.

    2, All in all
    In my opinion, the business architects and business analysts possess the most responsibility of the project, and the top management group as well who were to deal with such situation. The cost of the project is not quite discused due to limited information or not enough. The discussion herein is limited upon information listed at the end this document.



    [IPF] http://it-project-failures.blogspot.com/
    [ACS] http://www.acs.org.au
    [users] www.zdnet.com.au

    @MaxTech.VicP.cc
    anonymous