Dubai Customs has played a pivotal role in ensuring the continuity of global and local supply chains amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Customs inspection and clearance operations at sea, air and land entry-points have been running around the clock to ensure smooth flow of cross-border trade as well as make sure goods shipments and medical supplies are delivered on time to respective consignees.
This has been possible thanks to the advanced technology infrastructure, which Dubai Customs has built over the years. Customs transactions are being processed electronically through Mirsal 2, a state-of-the-art clearance system that has helped in more efficiency in Customs work including automatic approval and clearance of about 97% of no-risk consignment transactions in 2 minutes without any human intervention.
In terms of customs inspection and examination of goods, business has went undisrupted despite the lockdown, which helped secure society and economy against illegitimate trade activities and smuggling of prohibited and hazardous items.
The Customs Inspection Division at Dubai Customs is following an integrated strategic plan to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. The plan is carried out in tandem with other government departments through sharing latest updates about Covid-19 via an operations room working around the clock.
All inspection officers at Dubai Customs are committed to follow strict health and safety instructions and they are equipped with advanced protective gear and equipment to be able to do their vital job at the frontlines.
Other procedures included regular check-ups for inspectors and a Safe Inspection Passage which is equipped with a smart thermal scanner that reads temperature aloud, a water source operated by foot rather than hands, and full sterilization, along with safety gear including gloves, masks and full body protective uniform. Airports, Jebel Ali and Hamriya ports were equipped with thermal cameras. Trucks coming through Hatta Border Crossing are disinfected.
Measures also include awareness and warning stickers at the airports that target clients and passengers, and re-seating plans to ensure safety in the waiting areas.
Customs transactions processed by Dubai Customs jumped 36% in the first five months of 2020 to reach 5.9 million compared to 4.4 million transactions in the corresponding period of 2019.
Dubai Customs completed 5.88 million transactions (99.2%) through smart and online channels, with only 0.8% done through the service counters.
Customs declarations rose 42% in the first five months of this year to reach 5 million declarations compared to 3.5 million declarations in the corresponding period in the previous year. Dubai saw exceptional growth in business registrations at 107,000 applications, growing 95% from 55,000 in the first five months in 2019.
Covid-19 stimulus package
As part of a stimulus package designed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and support businesses, Dubai Customs introduced a set of measures which are in place from 15 March 2020 till 30 June 2020. These include a refund of 20% of all Customs duty paid on imported goods at 5% rate which have been sold locally.
The stimulus package announced also involves the revocation of the AED50,000 cash or bank guarantees required to conduct customs broker activities and the refund of existing guarantees held to these brokers and clearing companies.
The package includes exemption from berthing fees as well as direct and indirect loading fees for boats that qualify as traditional wooden commercial boats registered in the UAE at either Dubai Creek or Hamriyah Port.
It also includes cancellation of bank guarantees required to be submitted before resolution of customs-related grievances, and cancellation of 25 percent down payment required for requesting instalment-based payment of customs fees and charges.
Dubai Customs also exempted companies from fines for late Customs Representative Card renewal/cancellation as of 5th May to 30th June 2020 as part of its efforts to facilitate trade and support businesses.
The Intelligence Department of Dubai Customs played a key role in facilitating the clearance of relief shipments of essential goods sent to friendly countries as a response to support their battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Risk mitigation and management were put in place to ensure fast clearance and release of food and critical medical supplies while keeping physical inspections to the minimum.
The intelligence systems also targeted shipments of counterfeit or non-conforming medical goods during the Coronavirus period, and actively coordinated with local and federal law enforcement agencies. Targeting operations were further unified to ensure a smooth flow of goods and consumer commodities.
8.5 million minutes of calls
Latest data released by Dubai Customs showed consistent and smooth remote working. From 15th March to 2nd June, employees completed 8.5 million minutes of audio and video calling using Microsoft TEAMS, shared screen for 2.1 million minutes, and sent 1.1 million instant messages. They conducted 298,000 individual and group calls.
Dubai Customs has made available all necessary tools for its employees during the remote working period. These included the virtual desktop which enables user to host all office applications and work from anywhere, Mizlay which enables employees to safely access their emails and other Dubai Customs applications, and Microsoft TEAMS for online meetings and communication.
Healthy working environment
Dubai Customs launched several intitatives to ensure a healthy and safe environment at work, including provision of 200 mobile phone disinfection devices to all department, sections and customs centers.
Aman (safety) Station was one of the innovations that Dubai Customs incorporated in its back to office plan. The station is equipped with a number of devices including thermal cameras which operate automatically when spotting any rise in temperature. It also features masks, sanitizers and a smart screen to display awareness information around precautions and safety guidelines.
On June 28, Dubai Customs’ offices resumed work at 100% capacity with intensified precautionary measures to ensure safety from covid-19. This includes social distancing between employees and new seating plans. Following the government directives, Dubai Customs started its staff’s gradual return to offices on June 14, putting in place a shift routine where half of the employees worked from home and the rest from the office while maintaining social distancing and other measures.
An online awareness campaign preceded this step in which employees were given full guidance on social distancing and hygiene, and how to use protective gear, in addition to psychological aid to ensure staff stay positive and accept the new working conditions.
The procedure considered certain exceptions for some categories including the elderly, those with chronic diseases, pregnant female employees and mothers who have children at school at grade nine and below.
Dubai Customs put in place a plan to motivate staff and disseminate positivity by recognizing their contributions to ensuring continuity of business and supply chain. The focus was also on fostering a sense of security and appreciation amongst employees by highlighting achievements in terms of increased productivity and performance during the remote working period.
To help with the containment of the coronavirus outbreak, Dubai Customs boosted its customs centers’ readiness to provide all services to businesses and complete transactions online. Companies can enjoy smart services of Dubai Customs to benefit from the excellent facilitations available including inspection bookings, which will be done fast and with minimal contact.
Using Dubai Customs’ smart channels, clients can access all the services and clear their shipments without any need for a physical visit to customs centers. This is part of Dubai Customs precautionary measures against the outbreak of Covid-19 in line with the UAE government regulations and directives.
Waiver of document submission requirements
In line with the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and in a bid to streamline trade and reduce cost and e the Tariff and Origin department relieved businesses and customers from submission of customs declarations and required documents until further notice, while accepting electronically sent documents required for clearance of customs declarations. Further, the department also issued a notice enabling businesses to submit electronic bills of lading and delivery orders without the need for physical stamping.
Dubai Customs’ Innovation Center organized a series of online brainstorming sessions, which involved different departments and customs centers. This came in line with the remote working plan implemented at Dubai Customs as one of the precautionary measures to contain and curb the outbreak of Covid-19.
Over 30 days, the sessions involved all customs divisions and saw the active participation of the Director General, Ahmed Mahboob Musabih and members of the higher management who discussed and actively responded to new ideas and suggestions proposed by 267 employees.
The brainstorming sessions discussed 79 customs and trade challenges that rose as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and came up with 266 new innovative ideas that would help overcome the challenges.
Director General of Dubai Customs Ahmed Mahboob Musabih honored 146 employees who gave viable ideas and suggestions to curb covid-19 pandemic. Addressing the honored employees through Microsoft Teams, Musabih said: “We are facing covid-19 pandemic with all determination and awareness, and we are confident will get through this safe and sound to continue our journey of facilitating global trade and protecting society from all security and health hazards.
“Innovative ideas and suggestions developed by our employees are a catalyst to boost our overall performance during this difficult time and beyond.”