Customs Department Launches ‘SWIFT Clearances’

IAS Prelims 2023

In order to make the process easy for millions of importers, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has launched a significant initiative ‘SWIFT’ to help reduce dwell time and improve ease of doing business.

Providing a single point interface for clearance of imported consignments, SWIFT (Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade) is expected to reduce documentation and cost of clearance.

More than 97 per cent of India’s imports are expected to get covered and benefit from the SWIFT initiative.

With this single window system, there won’t be any need for importers to run around to other government agencies seeking approval or deal with multiplicity of forms for clearance of imported consignments.

Importer can electronically file a common integrated declaration with the customs department. It replaces nine separate forms required by 6 different government agencies and customs.

In the single window, over 50 offices of six government agencies are connected with Indian customs.

The six agencies are food safety standards authority of India (FSSAI); Department of Plant Protection, quarantine and storage; Drug Controller; Animal quarantine; Wild Life Crime Control Bureau and Textile Committee.

Once a common integrated declaration is filed by an importer, the CBEC’s ICEGATE portal — and not the officers — will now decide on the level of examination and testing based on the principle of risk management.

This will be possible as the CBEC has also introduced an integrated risk management facility covering the six government agencies. The discretion of officers’ have been distilled into the CBEC’s computer system.

The launch of SWIFT is big because there are very few administrations in the world who had managed to put this in place. Some of the countries that have already launched single window interface include Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand and Malaysia

The consequence of this SWIFT initiative would be reduction in time for importers.

Najib Shah is the Chairman of Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC).