24×7 customs clearances to deal with supply issues

The government on Thursday ordered all customs authorities at ports, airports and inland container depots (ICDs) to operate 24×7 to ensure that cargo is cleared expeditiously and there are no supply constraints due to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, customs labs will also operate through the day to help clear consignments.

“Due to the ongoing shutdown in China on account of coronavirus outbreak, there is an apprehension of disruption in supply of raw materials/ inputs to our industrial units, which were dependent on these raw materials. There could also be a dip in off take in exports to China. On the contrary, there is a strong likelihood of an immediate surge in the imports from and exports to China once the spread of the virus is brought fully under control,” Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs said in a late evening circular on Thursday.

The decision comes two days after finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman met industry representatives who had demanded that customs clearances should be available 24×7.

“To handle such emergent situation, necessary steps need to be taken in advance. CBIC has, therefore, decided to introduce 24×7 clearance at all the customs formations so as to address any congestion, or delay or surge on account of the prevailing conditions or cessation thereof,” the order said.

This facility will be in operation till the end of May 2020 “by which time, disruptions in the supply chain is expected to have settled”, the CBIC said.

All chief commissioners have been asked to deploy sufficient number of officers on 24×7 basis at seaports, air cargo stations,
ICDs and container freight stations.