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Weekend customs service introduced
( 2003-10-02 09:26) (China Daily)

Weekend customs and exit-entry clearance services were launched yesterday for the first time in China in Shanghai.

The service was jointly unveiled by Shanghai Customs, Shanghai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, and other related government bodies.

Under the change, staff will work seven days a week -- instead of Monday to Friday only -- at key checkpoints to provide customs declaration and clearance as well as entry and exit inspection services.

The announcement means these services will be available for an extra 100-plus days a year for companies in need, according to Lu Peijun, director of Shanghai Customs.

The same procedural flow and service standards will apply on the weekends as during regular working days. "It's by no means a makeshift plan,'' Lu stressed.

The service is expected to greatly ease the usual logjams in the flow of information, passengers and cargo on Fridays -- jokingly referred to as the "Friday Phenomenon'' -- at local air and sea ports, analysts said.

Lu hoped the new service would boost Shanghai's campaign to become an international shipping centre, which requires a quick and efficient customs clearance process.

The largest port on the Chinese mainland, Shanghai has seen container traffic increase by 30 per cent annually in recent years. The total volume of TEU containers (20-foot equivalent units) shipped through the port is expected to rise from about 8.6 million last year to beyond 10 million this year.

For Pan Longqing, director of the Shanghai Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Commission, the new service is a significant leap forward in the city's endeavours to improve its investment environment and accommodate the transfer of manufacturing operations to China.

"We believe it will bring substantial economic benefits for enterprises in Shanghai and neighbouring areas in the Yangtze Delta region,'' said Pan.

The move will provide for more efficient trade, an improved logistics environment and considerable savings for these firms, especially high-tech ones that need to respond quickly to international market demand, according to Pan.

"Hopefully it will help attract more overseas investments to this area and increase its international trade volume,'' said Pan.

Shanghai customs handled US$70.3 billion worth of exports from East China during the first eight months this year, up 37 per cent year-on-year. The import volume grew 48 per cent on a yearly basis to reach US$55 billion over the January to August period.

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