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Customs to push new systems to dwindling audience

Australian Customs officials face promoting their controversial cargo management re-engineering (CMR) project to a conference audience depleted by ongoing problems with the system. CMR was to be a major point of discussion at the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia's (CBFCA) conference in Adelaide this weekend.

Australian Customs officials face promoting their controversial cargo management re-engineering (CMR) project to a conference audience depleted by ongoing problems with the system.

CMR was to be a major point of discussion at the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia's (CBFCA) conference in Adelaide this weekend. The October 12 deadline for cut-over to Customs' new Integrated Cargo System (ICS) -- part of CMR -- passed this week.

Importers are required to use the Web-based ICS to clear imports. The new system improves Customs' risk assessment of cargo and follows the implementation of legal measures to boost border security.

Several high-ranking Customs officials are scheduled to address the conference of the peak industry body, which has continually lobbied for deadline extensions.

However, Customs' refusal meant many importers, brokers and freight forwarders who had been expected to attend would instead be stuck in their offices, according to the CBFCA.

"We're looking at having less than 50 delegates at our conference due to the Customs CMR deadline," CBFCA freight and business operations director Darryl Sharp said.

This was despite Customs' concession earlier this week of a 12 day extension to the existing COMPILE system, used to declare imports to Customs.

The same conference in Coolum last year had attracted around 250 delegates, he said.

The problem was due to be discussed at a CBFCA board meeting in Adelaide this afternoon.

Difficulty in implementing Customs' ICS was the reason behind many delegates' late withdrawal, according to Sharp.

"We [Sharp's company Austin International] only got ours deployed on October 7. That's five days before the deadline.

"And then there's no manuals, and the software's got bugs in it," he said.

Sharp said his company was currently unable to move cargo in Adelaide due to problems with the ICS system.

"This company is being impacted around the clock, and we're being impacted still.

"The freight importing community have been marginalised. Customs have pushed ahead for their own purposes and haven't listen to us a lot."

Sharp criticised Customs officials for being aware of the state of the industry but refusing to acknowledge it.

"I had senior Customs officials ringing me on my mobile on Friday afternoon to see whether our members were ready for October 12.

"They were aware of the situation. But at the end of the day they didn't care about us, they just went ahead regardless."

Owen Davies, chief operating officer of network services provider MaxeTrade, said many importers had left CMR compliance late.

"We knew there was going to be a late rush of people who left it to the last minute.

"I'd expect that for the next few weeks, and months," he said.

He believed Customs had been faced with a no-win situation.

"Customs have had a real problem in that the peak season for imports comes before Christmas," he said.

Government legislation requires that the new system be implemented by 7 November.

"If they hadn't gone now, it'd be difficult to implement CMR before the new year," Davies said.

"They were faced with the dilemma that if they didn't go now, they wouldn't for another five or six months."