In order to ensure that drugs imported at ports are tracked in a proper manner, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has streamlined ICEGATE system to overcome procedural flaws which had of late led to its poor implementation impacting the trade and industry badly.
ICEGATE, that stands for the Indian Customs Electronic Commerce Interchange Gateway, is a portal providing e-filing services to the trade and cargo carriers and other clients of customs department (collectively called trading partner).
Recently, Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) had written to the Commissioner Information Technology (IT) Customs to look in the matter and make the system consistent so that the monitoring of drugs being imported is uniform throughout the country.
As per official sources, drugs released without ADC NOC may be risky and ICEGATE system was introduced for drug imports on insistence of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) only to mitigate that risk.
Informed Dr G N Singh, DCGI, “The ICEGATE portal has been streamlined to have a closer scrutiny of the products coming into the Indian market. Regulators can have an effective oversight on the pharmaceutical products at the airports and ports in coordination with custom officials so that there is no compromise on the quality of the products coming in the country.”
ICEGATE is an online system that fulfills the department’s electronic commerce or electronic data interchange (EC/EDI) and data communication requirements. Through this facility the department offers a host of services, including electronic filing of the bill of entry (import goods declaration), shipping bills (export goods declaration) and related electronic messages between customs and the trading partners using communication facilities (E-mail, Web-upload & FTP) using the communication protocols commonly used on the internet.
The ICEGATE also provides 24X7 helpdesk facility for its trading partners. To ensure secure filing, it is proposed to use digital signatures on the bill of entry and other documents/ messages to be handled on the gateway.
At present, about 24,000 users are registered with ICEGATE who are serving about 6.72 lac importers/exporters. ICEGATE links about 15 broad types partners with customs electronic data interchange (EDI) through message exchanges enabling faster Customs clearance and in turn facilitating Export – Import (EXIM) trade.
There were concerns raised recently that after two years of its introduction, the system is not completely online and the bill of entries are being accepted off line too leading to delays, inconsistent decisions and poor tracking of data related to drugs. This change in procedure has led to non-uniformity in procedure and hence delays in release of products and added cost to the importer as demurrages which has impacted the trade.
Demurrages refers to the charges that the shipowner pays to the charterer for its delayed operations of loading/unloading. Officially, demurrage is a form of liquidated damages for breaching the laytime as it is stated in the governing contract (the charter party).
The custom house agents (CHAs) are supposed to file bill of entries online and get clearances online as per the ICEGATE system. If the consignment is drug it requires on line clearance from assistant drug controller (ADC) before getting clearance from the customs department as per the online system.