Oman eases customs, regulatory restrictions to speed up trade flows

Public and private sector participants came together to share information and experiences on new instruments on trade facilitation that have been brought available recently to make international trade and logistics faster and cheaper for practitioners.
These include enhancements that allow legitimate trade to flow with minimal regulatory interference but also new services for greater visibility and management of trade flows. The event was organised by Oman Logistics Centre as part of the implementation of the National Logistics Strategy SOLS 2040.
The Directorate General of Customs announced relaxation of the requirement of presenting original trade documents at submission of customs declaration. This decision was made to support traders in expediting their goods flows through borders and especially to encourage early reporting to Customs.
Pre-arrival clearance of shipments saves time and cost when import shipments are already released for free circulation at arrival.
While Directorate of Customs and other Government Control Agencies are already applying risk management in their controls, the recent success was announced by Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Department of Chemicals. The number of product codes requiring automatic physical inspection have been reduced from 650 to only 30. Risks are managed through well targeted profiles which ensure the vital requirement of safety, but which also allow low-risk trade to flow without interference.
Another regulatory improvement will take effect in January 2020 when the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Department of Standards and Metrology will start to apply a more streamlined testing standard for cosmetic and personal care products.
Traders will benefit from combining individual product test requirements into a single one, which is harmonised with the GCC practice. The change will increase Oman’s competitiveness as a destination for this type of trade and it is likely to attract new container volumes to be routed via Omani ports.
Logistics service providers have an equally important and active role in making trade flows more efficient. Sohar Port and Free Zone recently launched Sohar Navigate, a unique online route planner, which provides information on available connections to hinterland destinations.
The web-based service helps traders to find optimal routing option to reach global markets. The platform is the first of its kind in the region and will comprise of sea schedules connecting to 550 ports worldwide.
Further improvements are expected later this year at implementation of electronic booking systems for inspections and the Delivery Order by Hutchison Ports Sohar. These enhancements have the potential of cutting administrative dwell time, making Sohar more attractive gateway to access the region.
For air freight, Oman Air Sats have added new features to the Cargo Mobile App, which now provides also payment services. The app caters to consignees and freight forwarders offering real time shipment tracking and many cutting-edge tools for managing imports into Muscat Airport.
On a national level, ASYAD Group launch of a dedicated call centre to further improve customer-service for the growing number of national, regional and global clients across their ports in Duqm, Salalah and Sohar as well as four other smaller ports. The new service is provided 24/7. Another national level service was introduced by National Centre for Statistics & Information bringing easy-access statistical trade data available for traders.
Al Khattab bin Salim al Maani, Executive Director of Oman Logistics Centre at Asyad, praised the multi-stakeholder efforts and achievements – The logistics sector and related Government services cater to the primary sector, trade. It is a supply chain of services, and like any business supply chain, it must function efficiently. Small and big improvements are equally important in putting trade first and in achieving the realistic aim of Oman transforming into a global hub for business, he said.