The Customs Declaration System (CDS), a solution developed by the Postal Technology Centre (PTC), is the UPU’s answer to modern communication between Posts and Customs.
The UPU began thinking about digitizing customs declarations more than a decade ago, creating a draft version of the electronic customs declaration message to be exchanged between Posts in 2007 and establishing electronic messages to be exchanged between Posts and Customs in 2011.
Around the same time, Canada Post had decided to establish a new, modern office of exchange in Vancouver and wanted to automate all processes within it, including customs clearance for postal items. The goal was to provide information for 100% of items before Canadian Customs received them.
After some discussion in the Postal Operations Council, Canada Post decided to work with the PTC, providing funding to develop what is now known as CDS.
“CDS exists thanks to Canada, but is a solution that can be used by any country,” says Stéphane Herrmann, Lead Technical Account Manager for Mail Products and Services with the PTC.
CDS speeds up the customs clearance process by sending information about postal items to Customs and partner Posts in advance.
Before CDS, customers had to fill out the standard CN 23 customs declaration form, providing information on the sender, recipient and item contents. The Post then affixed this form to the package and sent it through customs. This manual process meant that each package was queued at customs, awaiting clearance before being transported to the customer.
With CDS, customers complete their CN 23 form online, automatically generating an accompanying barcode. The Post affixes this barcode to the package with the CN 23, scans it, and automatically transmits the information via electronic data interchange (EDI) messages to partners in the supply chain, including Customs in the sending and receiving countries and the partner Post responsible for last-mile delivery.
EDI messages allow Customs to automate many of their decisions regarding selectivity, risk management and any taxes payable on items before they can be sent.
“This advance information helps Customs to ensure the safety and security of the supply chain and speeds up delivery to customers,” Herrmann explains.
Why choose CDS?
CDS has some unique advantages over private solutions.
As a United Nations specialized agency, the UPU is mandated to provide services to its member countries at a very low cost. Therefore, CDS is inexpensive compared to other solutions on the market.
“One of the benefits of CDS is that when one country finances a development on the system, as long as it is not too specific, all users can benefit from it,” explains Herrmann. He refers to this model as a “community of users”. With CDS, even the smallest Post is able to send and receive quality EDI messages.
Moreover, given the UPU’s role in international postal policymaking and coordination with other international supply chain partners such as the World Customs Organization, CDS is regularly updated in line with any changes in international regulations – automatically and at no additional cost.
“This also helps to ensure that all Posts have the necessary level of pre-advice according to new regulations,” Herrmann says.
Customs agencies concerned that CDS might not work with their existing systems can rest easy. According to Herrmann, CDS has been designed to interface with different selectivity settings and tax calculations and all manner of applications used by customs authorities.
How to get started
There is only one prerequisite for using CDS: Posts merely need to have an agreement with their country’s customs authority. “The UPU can help to initiate these discussions,” Herrmann adds.
Once this minimum requirement is met, CDS can be deployed very quickly.
Member countries can currently choose from two options: CDS and CDS.POST. Deploying CDS requires local installation, meaning Posts must have their own infrastructure to host the system. CDS.POST is an online application hosted by the UPU, which is great for smaller Posts with limited access to infrastructure.
Herrmann explains that later this year, the PTC will offer yet another version of the application, known as CDS Cloud. This option will give each country access to its own dedicated CDS cloud environment.