Under a recently issued Trade Ministry Regulation, all importers have to possess an importer identification number (API) and those who buy restricted goods must secure import permits from related authorities before they enter Indonesian territory.
Previous rules had yet to set such prerequisites, and therefore many importers delivered their goods into the country without permits and only processed the necessary documentation after the items arrived at seaports.
Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel said Friday that the new arrangement would enforce administrative compliance from importers and shorten the time of goods dwelling at import gates.
“We have tolerated [importers] too much so far. […] Now we want to be serious about this. With the new regulation, importers cannot unload goods from shipping containers before they obtain the license,” he said during a meeting with an importer group on Friday.
The rule, set to become effective on Jan. 1 next year, also stipulates that importers will see their APIs frozen and must re-export their goods to the country of origin if they fail to meet the prerequisites.
The new rule is the latest measure taken by the government to address lengthy dwelling times at ports, which has contributed considerably to the high cost of doing business in Southeast Asia’s largest economy and triggered the recent ire of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
During an inspection last month of Tanjung Priok Port, Indonesia’s primary import gate, the President complained about clearances for imported goods, which took longer than in nearest neighbors Singapore (1.5 days) and Malaysia (three days), and vowed to sanction responsible authorities.
Dwelling time, an indicator of efficiency in shipment processes and lower logistics costs, at the port remains at 5.5 days, of which 3.6 days are spent on pre-customs clearances that demand verification from related institutions, such as the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) and the Agriculture Ministry.
To help enforcement of the new rule, the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister’s deputy for natural resources and services, Agung Kuswandono, vowed that his office would closely monitor the unloading of incoming container ships at Indonesia’s gateways.
“If imported goods are not licensed, we will prevent them from being taken off the ships,” he told reporters during a press conference.
Agung added that the government would also apply stricter sanctions against importers stockpiling imported goods at seaports, which resulted in lengthy clearance processes.
The Indonesian Importers Association’s trade division head, Erwin Taufan, welcomed the issuance of the new rule, saying it would also benefit importers. However, if the government was really serious about cutting dwelling time, it also had to uncover inefficient practices involving officials.
“It should investigate players within government institutions that are involved in foul play,” Erwin said. (saf)