Papua New Guinea is a southwestern Pacific hub of trade. We take a look at PNG Customs Services, and the organisation’s efforts towards regulating cargo for the betterment and development of the nation
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a unique country.
On top of its diverse flora and fauna, such as the Raggiana bird-of-paradise whose flamboyant silhouette is captured on the national flag, PNG’s geographic position places it as one of the many island nations that bridge Australia and New Zealand to Southeast Asia.
Port Moresby, PNG’s capital, lies on the underbelly of the country, in a strategic position to bolster international trade and export resources such as gold, copper, rough wood, oil and natural gas to a multitude of countries, including Australia, China, Japan and South Korea.
Within the realm of trade and export, PNG Customs Services (PNG Customs) has the exceptionally important duty of regulating the imports, exports and supply chain across PNG, led by the words ‘protecting our border, securing our future’ that are embodied across the organisation.
PNG Customs is spirited and committed to being a regional leader in securing PNG’s national border to enhance the security and socio-economic development of the country.
Since its humble beginnings in 1888, PNG Customs has contributed immensely to national development as it has grown from strength to strength, even in spite of increasing responsibilities and challenges. These challenges are not only geographical, with much of PNG being made up of rough terrain that requires substantial investment to develop infrastructure, but also national crime rates.
Coinciding with the country’s substantial level of serious and gang-related crime, the import of illegal firearms, drugs trafficking and other major offences are a serious issue within PNG. As a result of such crime, a large proportion of people and businesses in the country are impacted negatively, suffer losses, and pay higher levels for security costs. From a commercial perspective, this in turn slows business expansion and hampers PNG’s economic development as a whole.
PNG Customs stands as one of the key players maintaining regulation in the country, helping businesses, and indeed the nation as a whole, to grow.
130 years on, PNG Customs is a vibrant, independent and modernised organisation widely regarded as one of the leading government organisations in the country, with over 500 officers employed in over 20 different locations in 14 provinces.
Under the leadership of Chief Commissioner Ray Paul and Commissioners James Bire (Trade & Corporate Service) and Benjamin Sine (Border Security), PNG Customs continues to uphold its mandated duties of border and community protection, trade facilitation, and revenue collection.
PNG Customs draws its powers from the Customs Act 1951 to control, supervise and authorise all forms of conveyances, persons and cargo that move in and out of PNG. The organisation has jurisdiction under the Customs and Excise Tariff Acts to charge and collect duties and taxes, and also has responsibility for protecting the country’s border and community as well as preventing transnational crimes and ensuring there is effective supply chain security across the nation.
PNG Customs has an important responsibility to work collaboratively with a number of key partner agencies both with other government agencies as well as industry. The Chief Commissioner of Customs is the principal officer in the organisation and is responsible to the Minister for Treasury.
In this current post-pandemic environment, digitalisation and online software have become ever more present and necessary across every industry.
Alongside this, PNG Customs has evolved to establish regulations for digital documents and information pertaining to customs and cargo to best serve the people and the country.
Under PNG Customs’ new organisational structure, Customs Information Communications & Technology (ICT) is now responsible for the maintenance and expansion of the customs information technology infrastructure.
Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), a sub-branch of Customs ICT, is responsible for the development and implementation of the ASYCUDA system. ASYCUDA is the electronic reporting and data processing system for all import, exports and excise entries lodged with customs. It has been upgraded over the years from ASYCUDA 2.7 to ASYCUDA++, and now ASYCUDA World, which was recently implemented in Port Moresby in 2017 and in its training stage in Lae. ASYCUDA World will eventually be implemented in all declared ports in the near future.
There have been a number of benefits realised over the past years with the use of ASYCUDA, that include simplified documentation, adoption of international standards, codes, harmonised tariff systems, valuations, and exposure of customs staff and traders to a computer environment, and the management of trade statistics.
Along with ASYCUDA, new payment processes have been developed and implemented to ease the traffic of duty payment, clearance of cargo and maintaining a cash free office.
This includes payments via electronic funds transfer at point of sale (EFTPOS) - the use of cards and card machines, electronic funds transfer, and prepayment accounts. The responsibilities and functions of Customs ICT also extend to the maintenance and upgrading of the customs network and equipment, the updating of ASYCUDA itself, and its database, references and control tables. On top of this, the functions of Customs ICT are to also provide help desk support to PNG Customs and external ASYCUDA users such as brokers, to provide statistics to customs management, government departments such as NSO/DTI, BPNG, and the treasury, and other interested parties or organisations, and finally to conduct training for all ASYCUDA users.
It is a requirement for all importers and exporters to register with PNG Customs as a measure to integrate with the taxation division of the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC), to facilitate trade and cargo clearance.
In order to register, importers and exporters must acquire a tax identification number (TIN) from IRC, complete a G26 Form, attach required documents, and log with Customs ICT.
The incorporation and use of digital tools and software enable PNG Customs to maximise its efficiency, and allows information to increase stakeholder awareness when it comes to accurate and timely reporting, lodging, and paying of cargo to the organisation.
PNG Customs relies on accurate information to effectively facilitate trade in PNG. This means that the organisation facilitates legitimate trade and protects communities and businesses by ensuring the timely submission of cargo reports and manifests, within 48 hours for vessels and three hours for aircraft.
On top of this, PNG Customs ensures that the correct information and data are provided in reports, approved forms and documents are used for such reports, the timely lodgement of customs entry, and the timely payment of customs taxes (import duties, import GST, local excise and penalties).
Accurate and timely submission of cargo reports and SAD lodgement are critical in enabling PNG Customs to complete risk assessment and intervention activities before cargo moves into the PNG community.