Trade facilitation: Pilot version of AEO Programme attracts strong interest from importers, exporters and customs agencies
Conrad Prabhu –
Dec 20: A groundbreaking initiative by Oman’s customs authorities to accredit qualified businesses as ‘Authorised Economic Operators’ (AEO) has generated strong interest across the Sultanate’s trading and logistics fraternity.
Administered by the Directorate General of Customs — Royal Oman Police, the AEO Programme seeks to designate well-established businesses that meet a set of criteria as Authorised Economic Operators — a much-coveted label that entitles them to speedy clearance of their import and export goods through customs.
The initiative is an integral part of a broader effort spearheaded by the wholly government owned Oman Global Logistics Group to spur the development of a logistics-centric economy — a vision enshrined in the ‘Sultanate of Oman Logistics Strategy 2040’.
Since the unveiling of a pilot version of the programme earlier this month, scores of firms have signalled a desire to be accredited as Authorised Economic Operators. It is primarily targeted at individuals and companies that, in the course of their business dealings, are involved in activities covered by Customs legislation. Those that fit the bill include manufacturers, importers and exporters, freight forwarders, warehouse operators, customs agents, transport carriers, and port operators.
The benefits of AEO membership are manifold, according to the Directorate General of Customs. In addition to enjoying speedy cargo clearances at border posts, goods handled by accredited Authorised Economic Operators will also be subject to a reduced number of customs inspections, as well as accorded priority inspection and clearance at border crossings.
A dedicated unit within the Customs Department will provide continuous support for AEO members to help address any delays or related problems. Members will also be entitled to pre-clearance privileges, as well as the release of cargo without the completion of customs formalities. In fact, a single bank guarantee is all that will be necessary for the release and clearance of pending goods.
Besides, the AEO label also helps establish the company’s reputation as a safe and low-risk operator locally and internationally, it is pointed out. Modelled on the recommendations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Customs Organisation (WCO), the AEO Programme has been replicated around the world in an effort to facilitate global trade. Since it was launched in 2005 as part of the WCO’s SAFE initiative (Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade), more than 80 countries around the world have embraced the programme.
Importantly, the resulting benefits to Oman’s national economy promise to be substantial. For one, the AEO Programme will bolster the Sultanate’s profile as a secure trading hub. Secondly, it will help local companies gain a competitive advantage in having their imports speedily cleared through customs. Besides, the initiative has the potential to enhance security of global supply chains and prevent disruptions to the flow of goods, say authorities.
“Companies with AEO membership will get several privileges related to Customs clearance in Oman and the Gulf countries, as well as get the benefit of the mutual privileges of all countries that have implemented the programme around the world,” said the Directorate General of Customs in an overview of the initiative.
To obtain AEO membership, interested businesses must undergo a self-appraisal to determine if they meet a set of criteria for accreditation. Once enrolled in the programme, businesses will be assisted in their efforts to achieve this prestigious certification.
A key objective of the programme is to improve the performance of businesses engaged in trade facilitation. Any such improvements will have positive implications for economic growth and increased foreign trade which, in turn, have the potential to attract foreign investments and support the growth of strategic economic sectors.