SAGT leads introduction of electronic container clearance in support of Ministry initiative

Monday, 4 May 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

SAGT cranes salute all those tirelessly carrying out services on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 during these unprecedented times



South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT), one of three terminal operators in the port of Colombo, recently introduced a paperless electronic clearance process for import containers. The new process is in support of the Minister of Roads and Highways, Ports and Shipping Johnston Fernando’s initiative to mandate all stakeholders in the supply-chain to advance global best practices in Sri Lanka. 

The initiative is in response to the need for innovating current work practices in view of social distancing directives issued by the Government. The easy-to-use, email-enabled process ensures the complete digitisation of the clearance process, significantly improving efficiency and accuracy. 

SAGT’s e-clearance process integrates the paperless ‘CUSDEC’ (Customs Declaration) process already implemented by Sri Lanka Customs. It further enables shipping lines, customs clearing and handling agents to submit relevant clearance documents digitally, and in turn receive the delivery advice (DA) from SAGT also in electronic form. 

SAGT’s e-clearance process significantly reduced health and safety risks by eradicating physical interactions during the container release process, by eliminating the need for clearing agents to visit the Terminal Documentation Centre. Furthermore, the initiative offers increased scope for achieving even greater efficiencies in the upstream and downstream processes towards a totally contactless import clearance process.

SAGT has continued to provide full terminal services throughout the period of supply chain disruptions since the arrival of COVID-19. This commitment to providing uninterrupted service has significantly increased operating cost. 

“It is in times of unexpected difficulties that the real value of a service provider as a partner comes into acute focus,” said SAGT Chief Commercial Officer Ted Muttiah, adding: “As an essential service provider, we are committed to serving the diverse stakeholders of the international trade supply chain community. Our collective effort aims to serve our nation in its hour of need.”

In support of the community during these unprecedented times, SAGT offered an additional 31 days of terminal storage free-time for general cargo and 38 days storage free-time for unaccompanied personal baggage (UPB) containers. Additionally, it extended the lowest charge of storage tier for the duration from 14 April to 7 May. 

Commenting on this paradigm shift, SAGT Chief Executive Officer Romesh David said: “The Minister must be commended for his fortitude and decisive action to bring this long overdue global best practice initiative to reality.

“Whilst the health and safety of all our stakeholders is of utmost importance and is a key driver at this time, the Government and the stakeholder community must ensure that these long overdue gains, which will contribute immensely to our overall national productivity, competitiveness and improvement in the global Ease of Doing Business rankings, are fully implemented and entrenched in a post-COVID-19 environment too, rather than permitting a return to the ‘traditional’ way of doing things.

“As a trusted partner to our customers and a responsible contributor to the country’s economy, SAGT will continue to play our role and more, by continuing to contribute meaningfully and proactively pursuing process improvements for enhanced efficiency in the supply chain,” he added.

He further said: “We have been working closely with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and other authorities to ensure full compliance with all additional safety measures for our staff and other stakeholders engaged with the terminal at this time.

“SAGT has continued to deliver unhindered full terminal services to the trade throughout the period of lockdown. In this context, I greatly appreciate and value the efforts of team SAGT, especially during these tough times; and we collectively extend our gratitude and appreciation to all healthcare workers, Police and security personnel, and others on the frontlines battling this pandemic,” he concluded.