New Customs Law in Egypt: the Advance Cargo Information System
In implementation of the Customs Law no. 207 of 2020 and its executive regulations issued by Decree no. 430 of 2021, the Egyptian Customs Authority started the implementation of a new system for customs clearance and pre-registration of shipments called the Advance Cargo Information system (“ACI”).
The main objectives of the ACI system is to:
- expedite and facilitate the customs clearance of shipments upon their arrival and reduce their storage period at the Egyptian ports;
- digitalise the customs clearance process in Egypt and promote the use of electronic documents;
- facilitate the movement of international trade; and
- prevent the importation of illegal products and goods and those with unknown origin or low quality.
What is the ACI System?
The ACI system is an electronic custom clearance system which takes place during the pre-shipment stage. According to the ACI system; the information of the goods and the relevant documents will be sent to the Customs Authority “electronically” and ‘in advance’ before its shipment to Egypt.
Application of the ACI System
The ACI system will be implemented through the national single window for foreign trade facilitation “Nafeza Platform”.
During 2021, the ACI system has been subject to gradual application; moving from an initial application to mandatory application (taking place on 1st October 2021):
- Initial Application Phase: The ACI system has been subject to a preliminary application phase for a period of 6 months started on 1st April 2021 until end of September 2021. During this phase, the application of the system was optional and covers only ocean shipments.
- Mandatory Application Phase: The ACI system will enter into fully mandatory application starting from 1st October 2021; as per the Minister of Finance Decree no. 328/2021. The mandatory application of the ACI system will firstly be applied on sea-shipments and then will be extended to air-shipments.
ACI Process and Requirements
The ACI process involves certain procedures to be fulfilled by the importer, exporter and the carrier in addition to the Customs Authority as summarised briefly below:
A. Steps required from the Importer
- Registration with Nafeza: The Egyptian importer shall create an account for itself on Nafeza Platform in order to obtain a valid username and password. This step will only require the basic information of the importer.
- Obtaining an E-Token: In order for the importer to use the ACI system and sign electronically on the required documents, the importer shall have a digital signature (an E-Token). Digital signatures can be issued by two licensed entities in Egypt; namely MCDR and Egypt Trust.
- Inserting the Cargo Information: The importer or its customs clearance agent shall submit the shipment information which mainly includes the following:
- The shipment’s essential information: such as the basic data of the commercial invoice, the shipment description and quantity, the HS code … etc.
- The exporter’s information:such as exporter’s registration number, registered country, nationality, trade name, trademarks (if any) and contact details…etc.
- Applying for an ACID Number: After submitting the required information through Nafeza Platform, the importer will apply for an ACID number to be displayed on the shipping documents.
- Verifying the Shipment Information and Documents Uploaded by the Exporter: The Egyptian importer shall verify and approve the shipping documents and information uploaded by the Exporter on Nafeza Platform and sign them electronically.
B. Steps required from the Customs Authority
- Verifying the Shipment Information: All inserted information will go through a risk management check – within no later than (48) hours from the date of application – to highlight any potential risks associated with the imported shipments.
- Issuing an ACID Number for Approved Shipment: If the risk management check went successful, the Customs Authority will issue an ACID number for the shipments.
The Customs Authority may reject to issue the ACID number for different reasons (i.e. existence of a restriction on the importation of the cargo or existence of suspension or banning on the part of the importer or the exporter).
- Notifying the Importer and Exporter about the ACID Number: The Customs Authority shall notify the Importer and Exporter – by an email – about the issued ACID Number.
C. Steps required from the Exporter
- Registration with CargoX Portal: The Exporter shall register itself (i.e. create account) on a portal called “CargoX”.
- Inserting the ACID number on the Shipment Documents: The Exporter shall mention the ACID number, Exporter ID and Egyptian Importer ID on all the shipment documents.
- Uploading and Sending the Shipment Documents to Nafeza: The Exporter shall upload the shipment data and documents (including the commercial invoice, the packing list and the bill of lading…etc.) on Nafeza Platform through the block-chain portal ‘CargoX’, before the departure of the cargo from the exporting country. These documents will be then sent to the importer via Nafeza Platform (for approval/signing).
D. Steps required by the Carrier:
- Mentioning the ACID number on all Shipment Documents: The carrier shall mention the ACID number on all the shipping documents related to the cargo/shipments.
- Sending Electronic List of Shipments: The carrier shall, no later than (24) hours from the departure of the vessel from the port of export, send a list of all the shipments to Nafeza Platform to verify the data and send a reply/confirmation message to the carrier.
Validity Period of the ACID Number
The ACID number will be valid for a period of 6 months (which can be renewed for similar period for justified reasons and upon the Minister’s approval).
It is allowed to change any information relating to the shipments, even after issuing an ACID number; provided that (i) such amendment is made before shipping the cargo from the exporting country; and (ii) the parties of the commercial transaction (i.e. importer & exporter) remain unchanged.
Failure to Abide by the ACI System
Upon the mandatory application of the new ACI system in October 2021, any shipment will arrive to Egypt without having a valid ACID number, will be subject to re-export on the expense of the carrier or its representative, without even un-loading it inside the Egyptian ports.