SARS Customs has been working on its modernisation programme for some years and is planning to implement it at the Kopfontein (Tlokweng) border post with Botswana, starting 15th January 2012.

The modernisation programme includes the registration of road transporters (cargo reporters) and the submission of documentation to SARS in electronic format only.

The focus of registration in on the road transporter; as being the responsible person carrying the cargo across the borders.  Much of responsibility is being placed on the transporter.

For now, the electronic documentation only applies to the South African borders.  Other countries’ borders will continue to operate under their own systems.

The submission of documentation must be done before the truck arrives at the border post and no paperwork will be accepted.  There is no set timing before the truck arrives, though several hours should be given.

If a truck breaks down before it reaches the border and another truck takes the cargo, then an amendments must be made to the manifest and the manifest re-submitted electronically with a new number.

Going forward, the objective is not to require the vehicle registration numbers on the SAD500, but further negotiations need to be held with all customs authorities in the region.

Those who are not registered with the system and do not submit electronically, will go through a much more lengthy manual system.

Road hauliers foreign to South Africa will not register directly with SARS.

This is in line with regional practices, in that a road transporter will register only with their own customs authorities.

Some countries, eg Tanzania, require foreign transporters to register with TRA.

Foreign transporters will be represented by agents (clearing agents, freight forwarders, etc) in South Africa, who will in turn register with SARS on form DA 8C.  The agents will be the responsible persons, as detailed by SARS.

An SA road transporter can register both as a cargo reporter and an agent, if he carries out such business.

SA road transporters will also have to complete form DA 8C 01.

The transporter must compile a manifest for the cargo on its trucks.  If he is a foreign transporter, then either he can compile the manifest and send it to his agent, or his agent can complete it.  The agent is ultimately the responsible person.

It is essential therefore, that all road transporters operating into South Africa, must set up a working relationship with a South African agent.  The process must be completed by 15thJanuary 2012.  This agent can be a South African road transporter.

The agent can be at a border that the foreign transporter uses, or at a SARS national centre.

Part of the system requires transporters/agents to be able to communicate with SARS through the EDI system. They will have to apply and complete the DA185 and DA185.4A6 forms, and provide various certified documents.

One of the documents is the User Agreement between SARS and the road transporter/agent.

This is a detailed process and will have to be carried out with due diligence.

The applications should be delivered directly to Rita Burger at SARS in Pretoria

If, when registered, the system does not work, communication should be between the transporter/agent’s service provider and SARS.

If the transporter/agent is already EDI-compliant, then form DA185.4A6 must be completed, together with a covering letter to the effect that the transporter/agent is already EDI-compliant.  The full compliment of documents will then not be required.

All of the above information is available on the SARS website,

It should be noted that there is a very pro-active ongoing COMESA/EAC/SADC Tripartite process to harmonize customs documentation and border procedures.

Outcomes from this process are communicated to national customs and other border authorities, and recommendations are made for their implementation.

Barney Curtis.

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