Paperless customs for a seamless corridor? Kazakhstan shows the way
A paperless Middle Corridor, where trains no longer need to stop for customs procedures. How far is this from reality? In Kazakhstan, the first steps have been taken, says IT developer Networks Energy. From the start of next year, a new software system will be tested on the crucial borders of the country.
Networks Energy is the leading IT company in Kazakhstan in the field of railway logistics. The company has been developing its core product – the ASU DKR online freight forwarding platform, which now covers 95 per cent of all railway transportation in the country.
All the freight forwarding process is already provided in a paperless format. “By the end of 2022, we completed the full integration with RZD. With China, we also completed a significant part with the electronic exchange of bill of lading (SMGS). Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan were also involved in the process”, says Bakhyt Yerzhanov, CEO of the company.
“There is a number of reasons for moving forward with digitalisation”, Yerzhanov continues. Rail freight in Kazakhstan, like in many other countries, can be done much more efficiently, he believes. “There are often long waiting times at the border; there is a lot of congestion. “An intelligent system is needed to optimise rail cargo distribution and traffic planning.”
“Rail freight plays a very large role in the transport of goods through Kazakhstan. It accounts for a large part of the economy. The country has a huge territory; it is economically much more attractive to use rail than road. But we have certain infrastructure challenges. With ASU DKR capabilities and offering from AI and ML new technologies, we aim to meet these challenges.”
Replacing people at the border
Our partner ASA Technologies has developed a customs declaration software – TEZ Customs that will replace physical customs procedures. All the information will be provided digitally, processed digitally by using recognition technologies and eventually shared with the partners involved”, underlines Yerzhanov.
The first point of focus for a paperless Middle Corridor is on Kazakhstan, where the national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy has asked ASA Technologies to develop the software. The customs authorities have supported the project, now all that awaits is the approval of the government. “We expect this to take two to three months, then testing of the software will start”, says Yerzhanov.
The system will replace the physical work that is being done on the borders of Kazakhstan, and that is much needed, if you ask Yerzhanov. “If you look at the border between Kazakhstan and China, where the customs declarations need to be filled, this is not a nice place to be, especially in winter. It is cold, and there is always a strong wind which makes it unsafe. The wind is so strong that containers can fall when they are stacked. This is not a comfortable place to live, it is a place where people come to carry out the works that are needed to facilitate train transportation.”
By digitalising the customs procedures, staff can carry out the work remotely. “This does not mean that these people will disappear completely. Customs brokers will always be needed. But they can do the work from another city, from an office.”
Paperless Middle Corridor
Does that mean that a paperless Middle Corridor is nearby? In order to accomplish this, all countries on the corridor need to be equally committed, Yerzhanov explains. “Kazakhstan can almost provide paperless transport on the entire network, and China is also reaching this goal. But in other countries, the priorities are different, and rail plays a less important role.”
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