Regional importers and exporters have asked the Kenya Revenue Authority to suspend implementation of the new Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) until they address application challenges.
The traders say the launch of the system this week was premature and that KRA did not train them in its use.
The iCMS was launched in line with the World Trade Organisation’s requirement for simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures.
The iCMS involves submitting export or import documents into a single-window system and is expected to reduce clearing time by at least 60 per cent.
It replaces the Simba System, which runs on multiple platforms and requires multiple points of authentication for users, thereby taking more time.
KRA says the new system has interactive capabilities that will eliminate redundant processes and automate all manual processes in the Simba System.
In the iCMS, traders are required to submit sea manifests for both imports and exports 48 hours before a vessel arrives or departs.
The manifest must include the Courier/Consolidator PIN to enable the cargo deconsolidation process and cargo handlers are required to ensure their systems are ready to receive system-to-system Customs Release Messages as manual releases will be discontinued.
Once successfully implemented, all importers and exporters using it will be able to track their cargo.
But traders, shipping line agents, clearing and forwarding agents claim it was hurriedly implemented, leaving many struggling to learn how it works. Some say they do not have passwords to access the system, and have to travel to Nairobi to acquire these.
Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman Roy Mwanthi is urging KRA to suspend its implementation for at least two months to give the users time to familiarise themselves with it.
“Can KRA open more customer care desks in Mombasa and at different transshipment points to decongest the Nairobi office?” said Kenya Car Importers Association chairman Peter Otieno.
KRA has resisted a push to run both the iCMS and Simba System concurrently.
KRA enforcement manager Collins Bosire admitted there were challenges but asked the users to visit various centres that have been set up to assist them to gain access to the system.
“Most people have suspended importing cargo as Kenya Bureau of Standards agents abroad are not yet integrated into the system.
“We will not penalise any importer for failing to submit documents on time during their first interactions with the system. We have created three customer care desks: two at the Long House (KRA headquarters) and one at the port of Mombasa to assist anyone who has any problem,” said Mr Bosire.