In Bermuda, everything is imported – and nothing comes into the island without some type of import fee/cost. BIECO brings in two containers of produce (not including seafood and alcohol) weekly. The containers usually arrive on Sunday night and Monday morning, and produce must be pre-cleared through H.M. Customs – Bermuda (Customs) in time for delivery to restaurants, shops, and hotels early on Monday morning. This requires a deposit to be paid in advance on all pre-cleared items of 1½ times their normal duty rate.
The old system of managing tracking and invoicing of shipments through Customs was time and labor-intensive. It involved a complicated spreadsheet, with manual entry of the details of each individual item. These details included (but were not limited to) vessel information, voyage number, bill of lading, container information, date of arrival, Customs Procedural Codes, tariff numbers, country of origin, purchase order number, wharfage charges (assessed against cargo, vessel’s stores, fuel and supplies for passage on, over, under or through any wharf) and vessel details.
David Potts, the company’s financial controller, says that the process took at least four hours (“if the person knew what he was doing,” he adds, wryly), and was fraught with potential errors. For example, a misplaced decimal point could potentially incur thousands of dollars in extra duty costs prior to being recalculated. Because items have various duty percentages (ranging from five to 22 ¼ percentage), calculations were often rounded up or averaged. If the work was not completed on time, it would delay delivery of containers and cause possible damage to goods.
Finally, getting the Customs deposit (averaging $750) returned could take up to a month – after all the double-checking of calculations and adjustments for manual entry errors.