A. General Information
SGS eCert Platform
B. Lessons Learned
To modernise, automate, reduce the bureaucracy, administrative burden and cost for exporting organisations where the importing country requires certification of origin.
Chambers of Commerce have for decades acted as an independent authority in determining the origin of goods, on behalf of traders, to facilitate international trade. Before the concept of eCert, in the late 1990's. the application process was completely manual and time-consuming for both the trader and Chamber of Commerce. eCert was created to provide automation to the application and issue of non-preference Certificates of Origin. The benefits were quickly realised, and the service was further extended to include preference certificates, ATA Carnet's, International Import Certificates and certified invoices.
Application by trader and issue by Chamber of Commerce of Certificates of Origin (preference and non-preference), ATA Carnet, International Import Certificates and certified invoices. Automation through advanced user interface, stored data records, integration with trader business system to pre-populate document data, electronic stamping of documents by Chamber of Commerce, QR barcode security feature and link to International Chamber of Commerce verification system.
Web application (browser) for both trader and Certificate of Origin with SQL server database and API/web service integration for document data upload and link to Chamber of Commerce accounting systems to manage invoicing of service charges to Chamber clients.
Documents: Non-preference Certificates of Origin, Preference Certificates of Origin, ATA Carnet, International Import Certificate, Certified Invoice.
Data exchange (main fields): Consignor, Consignee, Applicant, Origin Countries, Goods Description, Weight of goods, Value of Goods, Manufacturer of Goods.
Due to the volume of users, applications and historic data held within SGS eCert, the best solution for the main activity of processing applications remains SQL Server Database, which is optimised for speed of data retrieval. To this point our approach to trust and acceptance at the point of importation has been QR barcode to allow the customs authority to independently verify that the certificate has not been altered since issue, either via the SGS eCert website or International Chamber of Commerce website.
When the SGS eCert service was launched in year 2000, it was the first eCO platform and so the main challenge was transition of traders who were required to change their long-standing manual processes. Additional, Customs authorities in the country of importation needed to build a level of trust for the new process.
A challenge for SGS and for all Chambers of Commerce is the inconsistency of Certified documents globally. The rules and documents are mainly standardised but not completely.
Technology and requirements are always changing. Since the launch of SGS eCert, continuous development has been required to maintain the service.
The time required by traders to apply for certified documents has significantly reduced as a result of the automation of the application process. The cost of applying for certified documents has reduced now that the transaction is electronic between the trader and Chamber of Commerce (no postal or courier charge). The SGS eCert service guides the user and prevents basic errors through validation of data before submission.
Commercial service, delivered with no cost to the trader and a small transaction charge for the Chamber of Commerce to cover future development and helpdesk service.
Expansion to other Chambers of Commerce, automation with OCR and machine learning.
C. Relevant Standards
Certification Manual (British Chambers of Commerce)
ATA and Istanbul Conventions
HMRC Notice 828 (Preferential Trade)