The National Board of Revenue has made mandatory the use of electronic seal and lock, an e-tracking technology, while transporting containers stuffed with export and import goods to the Chittagong Port from private inland container depots and to the ICDs from the port.
The revenue board on January 19 amended the Electronic Seal and Lock Services Rules-2016 just after two and a half months of framing the rules and made the services mandatory for exporters and importers.
Earlier on November 3 last year, the NBR issued the rules introducing electronic seal and lock services for the first time in the country for security purposes.
Under the system, private service providers will ensure security of containers, covered vans and trucks laden with export and import goods during their transportation from the Chittagong Port to ICDs, known as off-docks situated in the port city, and vice versa.
According to the amendment, the NBR will directly enlist Alif Corporation, a US-based private firm owned by a Bangladeshi expatriate, for providing the services without reapplication from the company as it earlier got permission from the board to run the services, officials said.
The NBR at the end of January issued a fresh permission to the firm in this connection.
Officials said that the tax authorities brought in the change to the rules following a plea made by Alif Corporation to enlist it directly.
Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith approved the proposal.
In the previous rules, it was not mandatory for exporters and importers to use the services.
‘The use of the services was optional in the previous rules,’ a senior NBR official told New Age recently.
The use of the services has been mandatory in the amended rules, he said.
The NBR through the amendment has also included an application format for interested service providers that would apparently make the enlistment process for other applicants difficult.
It seems that the change was brought in just to entertain a particular firm, they said.
In the application to be enlisted for providing the services, an applicant requires to provide some information such as whether the services are innovated by the firm and if the answer is yes, whether those are patented, and the applicant has any previous experiences to provide the services.
Officials said that Alif Corporation has already patented the services in the country.
Another official, however, said that it did not mean that the NBR would not enlist a firm having no patent certificate of the services.
The information has been sought just for official record, he said.
He said that the export and import goods could be loaded and unloaded, with prior approval of the customs authorities, if an enlisted firm could not provide the services to exporters and importers within their desired deadline.
The NBR will provide licences initially for one year to firms and it will not be extended if they fail to provide the services, he added.
According to the rules, exporters and importers will have to pay Tk 600 a container for the service from the Chittagong Port to off-docks and vice versa for the first 48 hours and Tk 50 for each hour after the end of the first 48 hours.
Off-docks are places where all export goods are stuffed in containers for shipment and 37 imported goods including essential commodities are released after customs clearance. There are now 15 off-docks in the country.
The NBR initially took move to introduce the e-tracking system following an application from Alif Corporation despite oppositions from the country’s major trade bodies as it would increase the cost of doing business.
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