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Boarding functions- Improving transparency using boarding Jacket fitted with Body Worn Camera (BWC) having video/audio recording facility by Boarding Officer- (Ministry of Finance ) (07 Mar 2023)

MANU/CUCR/0007/2023

Excise

Kind attention of field formations is drawn to relevant instructions in the Customs Preventive Manual 1987, Circular No. 36/95-Cus dated 10.04.1995 and 25/2016-Customs dated 23.06.2016 whereby Board had issued guidelines relating to boarding of vessels by Customs Officers.

2.1 It is well known that all vessels arriving into the country report their arrival to the Customs and Port authorities. The Boarding Officer/s are usually the first to set foot on any vessel entering the Indian frontiers and they are the cutting-edge functionaries of the Customs Service whose visibility extends to the shipping lines, terminal operators, logistic partners, custom brokers, businessmen, crew members/passengers, etc. The Boarding Officer acts as an ambassador of our country and is expected to seamlessly initiate and conduct customs formalities and procedures.

2.2 Keeping the above as an objective, and continuing with various reforms undertaken by Customs through leveraging technology so as to improve transparency & ease of doing business, to present more professionally the role of the Boarding Officer, keeping scope for upfront evidence in case of an offence or likely offence, and enhancing the protection of interest of the Customs Officer against frivolous complaints, the Nhava Sheva and Ahmedabad Customs Zones, had implemented, since August 2022, the sporting of boarding jacket fitted with Body Worn Camera (BWC) with video/audio recording facility by Boarding Officers while carrying out duties on board the vessels. Copies of the JNCH Standing Order No. 10/2022 dated 11.08.2022 and Ahmedabad Customs Zone Standing Order No. 03/2022 dated 12.08.2022, are enclosed for reference.

2.3 Based on the feedback received from these Zones, the Board has now decided to extend the use of boarding jackets fitted with Body Worn Camera (BWC) with video/audio recording facility by Boarding Officers while carrying out duties on board vessels from 15.04.2023 with respect to the sea customs functions.

Key duties of Boarding Officer:

3.1 The main purpose of boarding a Vessel, inter-alia, is to undertake verification, collect the Arrival Report (along with the supporting documents prescribed under Circular 36/95-Cus. Dated 10.04.95) and putting the bond stores of the Vessels under Customs Seals. The responsibilities of the Boarding Officer stipulated in the Customs Preventive Manual 1987 are re-iterated for ease of reference as under:

a. keeping an updated record of arrival/departure programmes of all the Vessels in the Port and maintain a register for all the Vessels which have arrived, anchored in the stream or taken berth in the docks, indicating all the details therein.

b. boarding all the Vessels immediately on their first arrival in the Port in a voyage and collecting the Arrival Report thereof in the manner described above and endorsement of the same.

c. verifying the consumable stores of the Vessel with declarations and putting the items like Liquor, Cigarettes, Tobacco, Arms & Ammunition and other sensitive items belonging to the Vessel as well to the Crew, under Customs' Seal, as prescribed in the Regulations.

d. carrying out a percentage check (minimum 5%) of the property in possession of the Crew vis-a-vis their declaration, and keeping Liquor and Cigarettes in excess of permissible quantity under seal.

e. forwarding, without delay, the Arrival Report and other documents collected by him to the Import Department/Manifest Clearance Department of the Custom House and keeping a record of dispatch of the same.

f. after obtaining the documents, physical checking the "Deck and load line" of the Vessel to the effect that they are clearly marked and well preserved and making an endorsement accordingly on the Arrival Report.

g. verifying if any gift/favour parcels have been declared on board and checking the nature of contents, port of delivery, consignee/consignor's particulars, etc., and directing the master of the Vessel to get them cleared through Customs at the Divisional Office.

h. checking the shops or the 'slopchest' as the case may be in accordance with the list provided by the master in selective manner and placing them under paper seal.

i. also ascertaining that undeclared and prohibited goods have not been placed or secreted on board the Vessel by taking casual strolls around the deck, crew cabins etc.

j. any discrepancies in quality or quantity in the stores of the vessel or the property of the crew are to be reported to the Asstt./Dy. Commissioner (Preventive) through Superintendent as these anomalies attract penal provisions of the Customs Act, 1962.

k. to regularly intimate the Rummaging Section of the Custom House about the arrival/departure of the vessels into/from the port/harbour.

3.2 The Boarding officer shall continue to follow instructions issued vide para 5 of Circular 25/2016- Customs dated 23.08.2016 including the collection of feedback in the enclosed format. The Arrival Report would continue to be submitted as per prevalent practice till the full operationalization of the Sea Cargo Manifest and Transhipment Regulations, 2018, after which the arrival report would be submitted electronically.

4. In addition to the above, the Boarding Officer shall ensure the following in relation to the BWC:

a. shall activate BWC on approaching the gangway, and shall make the stakeholder/people around him/her aware that they are being recorded. The recording shall be continued uninterrupted, until the officer de-boards the Vessel, and reaches back at the end of the gangway.

b. The BWC shall be placed on the right side at a space specifically designed in boarding jacket to hold the body camera. The BWC shall be placed upright to capture the image of interaction with vessel's crew and verification process clearly. The BWC would be positioned in such a manner so that those watching the footage see the situation from the officer's perspective.

c. to ease out any inconvenience to stakeholders, the Boarding Officer in advance shall inform the Shipping Agent/Line that the recording of boarding functions is mandatory. The Shipping Agent/Line, in turn, will inform the Master of Vessel for smooth completion of Boarding functions.

d. The BWC used by Boarding Officer is a stand-alone device without Wi-Fi or SIM functionality. If the Safety Officer of the Vessel carrying hazardous cargo opines that the usage of the BWC is not safe in certain areas inside the Vessel or entire Vessel, then the endorsement to that effect shall be taken from Safety Officer, and the Boarding Officer will not use BWC while in identified areas, if required. The Boarding Officer shall inform the Assistant/Deputy Commissioner (Boarding) who in turn will bring this to the notice of Joint/Additional Commissioner (Boarding) for independent cross-verification.

5. The number of Boarding Officers, normally, will be limited to one. However, depending upon requirement for Boarding functions, more than one Boarding Officer can be deputed for Boarding functions and all Boarding Officers shall wear a jacket fitted with BWC.

6. Board directs all the Pr. Chief/Chief Commissioners of Customs in charge of Sea ports to maintain regular feedback from members of the trade/vessel crew in the feedback form prescribed in Circular 25/2016-Customs dated 23.08.2016. The feedback received from the trade shall be regularly scrutinized by the jurisdictional Pr. Commissioner/Commissioner and any discrepancies in the boarding practice and suggestions for improvement shall be considered and acted upon, and also sent to the Board.

7. The respective jurisdictions/Zones are directed to coordinate with the Mumbai II and Ahmedabad Customs Zone, respectively, for smooth and uniform implementation on 15.04.2023.

8. Necessary Standing Orders and Public Notices should be issued sufficiently in advance of 15.04.2023 by respective jurisdictions. Any difficulty faced, including by stakeholders, may also be brought to the notice of the Director Customs.

Tags : BOARDING FUNCTIONS   TRANSPARENCY   BWC  

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