The introduction of a new fully-digitized platform called Single Window at the Bahamas Customs Department, will provide the government agency with a more efficient way of doing business, according to senior officers.
The new platform, which officials said is expected to launch this September, will revolutionize the business and trade operations of the department, put it well ahead of its regional counterparts.
“Single Window will facilitate all trade coming in and going out of the country. Any process that could take up to one day to process, will now take minutes,” Customs Superintendent Jasmine Hudson said.
“The platform is built so that all entries will be checked automatically which allows the system to check entries around the clock; whether or not human manpower is present.
“At this point we are 70 per cent completed with all of our initiatives with respect to integration with the Public Treasury, Inland Revenue, the National Insurance Board, Agriculture, Road Traffic, Financial Services and the Ministry of Finance.
She further added, “All of those entities which currently receive applications will now be able to process those through the Single Window.”
Hudson said, at present, the Customs Department is struggling to keep accurate records of concessions which the government has granted to a number of entities.
However, she said the introduction of Single Window will alleviate this issue.
“It will permit us and the ministry of finance to track all concessionary grants that would have been given to relative importers. We currently have no way to (effectively) track concessions when they are given. At present we have to manually track down and calculate concessions and most times we find out when it’s too late that importers have exceeded their concessions,” she said.
“The new system will track as they import and when they have reached their quota it will automatically notify the department and the importer as well.”
Single Window will also alleviate the hassle usually associated with paying duties to the Road Traffic Department.
“When you import a vehicle, its information slip has to be submitted to Road Traffic by hand. When you import a vehicle in this new system, you will not have to carry anything to Road Traffic. They will automatically receive information from us, through the platform, that the duty has been paid on the vehicle and is good for licensing,” said Hudson.
The Tourism industry is also poised to benefit as pleasure vessels declaring inbound can now do so prior to arriving. Cruising permits, she said, can be paid prior to arriving and just check-in when they get here.
“At present it takes about three hours to clear inbound, but when this system comes online, pleasure vessels can submit their information one day before arriving, pay online and once they arrive they would have been automatically cleared ahead of time,” she said.
The Single Window platform is a part of a sweeping reformation process currently underway at the Customs Department, which is expected to elevate the organization to global trade standards.