Consolidation of Virtual Capacity Building for South African Revenue Service (SARS) on Time Release Study and Air Cargo streamlining

12 April 2022

The WCO conducted a mission from 14-17 and 23 March 2022 under the auspices of the by the United Kingdom’s Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) supported Trade Facilitation Capacity Building Programme to further strengthen capacity within South African Revenue Authority (SARS) The WCO team zoomed in primarily on capacity building to conduct a Time Release Study (TRS) at the seaport in Durban and to implement the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines at the Johannesburg airport cargo area in order to align with the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) Article 7.8 on expedited shipments. The mission built on virtual capacity building provided to SARS in these two areas under the Trade Facilitation for Middle Income Countries (TFMICs) programme – previously supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office.

The WCO delegation met with Mr. Beyers Theron, Director Customs Border Operations, Ports of Entry and Customs Compliance, and the Customs senior executive team. Deliberations focused on progress made in relation to technical assistance and organizational development provided to SARS under the by the UK government sponsored trade facilitation programmes. The SARS leadership formally welcomed the opportunity to continue the partnership with the WCO for technical assistance and capacity building under the next phase of the HMRC Programme ‘Accelerate Trade Facilitation’ (2022-2025). It was noted that trade facilitation initiatives would not only benefit the South African economy but the entire southern region of Africa – also considering that other partner countries of the Programme include Zambia, Eswatini and Lesotho.

In Johannesburg, the WCO mission met with the SARS team that is implementing the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines and visited the DHL gateway at the Johannesburg airport, which has been piloting the re-engineered clearance process for the four categories of shipments listed under the Guidelines. The DHL Gateway management expressed its appreciation to SARS and the WCO for this very important initiative that would greatly benefit the courier industry at a time when eCommerce and digital trade are growing fast. Moreover, while emergency measures had been put in place to accommodate the swift entry of COVID-19 vaccines, the streamlining of the process would ensure a more sustainable approach.

A key focus area of the mission were the technical discussions on the cargo clearance process at the seaport of Durban – the largest port in Africa and a vital gateway for supply chains in the region. Accompanied by members of the TRS working group, the WCO met with private sector stakeholders from the cargo depots, freight stations and other governmental agencies, such as South African Police Service and the Regulatory Agencies. Furthermore, the preliminary findings of the TRS conducted at the Durban port were discussed and next steps determined.

Under the HMRC ‘Accelerate Trade Facilitation’ programme, the WCO looks forward to further work with SARS under its strategic multi-year partnership as part of the Mercator approach. This comprehensive approach brings together technical border management measures as well as fundamental cross-cutting enablers related to SARS’ organizational development, such as competency based human resource management, leadership and integrity.