Opening/business hours of Customs offices are those times determined by the Customs at which Customs and other relevant border agencies normally accept goods declarations and perform clearance activities, such as physical examinations, collection of duties and taxes and release of goods and conveyances. In an automated environment, opening/business hours also refer to the times when the IT system is operational and accessible for electronic declarations.
Opening/business hours of Customs offices at the border, ports, airports and inland have a critical influence on the management of international supply chains. Even in an e-enabled and increasingly paperless environment, international trade deals with the physical flow of goods in addition to the (electronic) flow of information.
Opening/business hours can have a strong negative impact on international trade if they are not set in consultation with the trading community and, in cases of land border crossings, if they are not coordinated with the corresponding Customs office of the neighbouring country. For example, the Customs office at a major airport operates between 8am and 5pm, but the bulk of cargo planes arrive between 8pm and 10pm. Cargo from these flights will have to wait until the next day before it can be released and delivered to the market
According to Standards 3.1 and 3.3 of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC), Customs shall take into account the requirements of the trade when determining the opening hours and, at common border crossings, correlate them with the neighbouring country. According to Standard 3.2 of the RKC, Customs should also provide the possibility of clearing goods outside designated business hours, however against a fee. In cases of submitting cargo and goods declarations in electronic form, Customs should operate their IT systems 24/7, with only minimal down time for occasional maintenance purposes. As part of regular and formal trade consultations, Customs should regulary review the appropriateness of existing opening/business hours. In cases of juxtaposed Customs offices, Customs at both sides of the border should coordinate their opening/busniess hours through regular bilateral consultations.
It is also of paramount importance that any changes to opening/business hours either short-term or long-term, are duly communicated to the trading community.
Additional information (reference material, examples, etc.)
The Guidelines to Standards 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 of the RKC provide more details on this subject. The ICC Customs Guideline # 21 provide critical background to the business needs of opening/business hours tailored to business needs.