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Committee to investigate Customs fiasco

A technical committee has been established to review problems with the Australian Customs Service's new application. 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.

A technical committee has been established to review problems with the Australian Customs Service's new application.

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.

In a five hour meeting yesterday between Customs Minister Senator Chris Ellison and representatives from the shipping and freight industries, the parties eventually agreed to set up the -Joint industry and customs business and technical working group", to try and identify a fast and easy process for fixing the problems.

Brian Lovell, CEO of the Australian Federation of International Forwarders (AFIF), said he was happy with the progress that was made at the meeting and hopes the issues will be resolved by 2006.

"Hopefully by the new year, after several high level fixes, everyone will be able to use the system in a much calmer environment," Lovell told ZDNet Australia.

Lovell, who attended Wednesday's discussion, said the problems stem from ICS having difficulties handling certain alphanumeric characters.

"There should be some fuzzy logic that says, 'I have got five items to match here, four of them do match and one doesn't -- this must be the same shipment.' But [ICS] is not clever enough," said Lovell.

The delays are likely to have an impact on the holiday season. "We believe that the backlog will continue for some time -- probably up to Christmas. It will be a struggle to get goods into the shops on time," he added.

The technical working group's first meeting is scheduled for October 28.