How Quickly Imports and Exports are Cleared by Customs in New Zealand – Time Release Study

3-minute read

Customs clearance of cargo is a significant activity in facilitating and holding up trade at the border.

The New Zealand Customs Service has published its latest Time Release Study (TRS), which looks at how quickly imports and exports are cleared in New Zealand.

A time release study (TRS) is a method endorsed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) to measure customs administration performance in clearing cargo via a standardised process.

Performance is measured based on the time it takes Customs to release cargo at the time of the arrival of the means of transport conveying that cargo.

A TRS measures Customs’ contribution and commitment to trade facilitation – which benefits and grows the economy.

It has been over 10 years since the last TRS, so this study provides updated baseline measures.

The first two studies were carried out in 2009 with one TRS involving a joint study with the Australian Customs Service. The third TRS was carried out in 2010.

This study targeted all international cargo vessels and flights for the week of Thursday 22 September to Wednesday 28 September 2022 (7 days).

The scope of the study looked at air and sea cargo that required a declaration to Customs in the form of a standard import or export entry type, and that was discharged or loaded at New Zealand sea ports and international airports.

Air cargo data on all international flights that arrived or departed during the week and carried cargo was collected and used in this study. The data was sourced from air cargo operators.

Sea cargo data on containerised cargo (FCL and LCL) was sourced from port companies where a container vessel called at that port during the week to unload or load containers. Other cargo types – breakbulk, and bulk – were excluded from the study.

  • During this week, a total of 12,112 import entries and 5,267 export entries were reported for all air and sea cargo.
  • A high percentage, 91.5% of import entries for full containers (FCLs) were lodged and released by Customs before arrival for sea cargo.
  • A lower percentage at 67% of import entries for air cargo were released before arrival, and on average, 8.5 hours after the arrival of the aircraft, reflecting the much shorter flight times from overseas departure to the aircraft landing.
  • 91.3% of export entries for FCLs were lodged 48 hours before loading.
  • 99.1% of export entries for air cargo were cleared before departure.

NZ Customs Group Manager Revenue and Assurance, Craig Chitty, says the key finding shows Customs has efficient processes and systems to support getting goods through our border. This includes electronic reporting of shipment details, a risk management and alerts system to flag high-risk shipments, post-clearance auditing and ongoing engagement with the industry.

“The time taken for getting imports and exports released at major ports is crucial for our businesses and New Zealand’s economy. If goods are reported to Customs correctly, they are cleared within seconds – most imports cleared for release before they even arrive into New Zealand and most exports cleared before departure.

“Our airports and seaports also have automated facilities utilising top technologies to get their goods to market as quickly as possible, while still allowing vital security and risk checks.

“Customs is mindful that any delays at the border increase costs for businesses, so this study is important in pinpointing any bottlenecks to improve performance in the supply chain. We are committed to creating an enabling environment for businesses, ensuring that trade is quicker and security compliance is easier to do.”

“We also provide exporters the ability to fast-track their goods by partnering in our Secure Exports Scheme. By meeting our safety, security and integrity measures they receive priority at the border, with less inspections and even quicker goods clearance,” Mr Chitty says.

In summary, based on the study’s findings NZ Customs show that they have good processes in place to facilitate the clearance of cargo and do not unnecessarily impede the delivery of cargo that is reported correctly.

Source: New Zealand Customs Service. The full study can be found on the NZ Customs website.

P.S. Easy Freight Ltd helps New Zealand importers & exporters to save money on international freight and reduce mistakes by guiding how to comply with Customs and biosecurity rules. 

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