The purpose of an effective and efficient importation and port-clearance process is to ensure that pharmaceuticals and related health supplies are cleared from a land, sea, or airport with the least possible delay after their arrival. Port delays can have costly consequences, such as -
- Reduced shelf life or, for vaccines and other very temperature-sensitive items, possibly a complete loss of potency
- Deterioration of product
- Damage to product cartons and other packaging or damage to outer identification
- Increased chance of theft
- Storage fees (demurrage), which can result in prohibitively high costs
- Stockouts, resulting in emergency purchases made at higher unit cost and with the potential for unassured quality
- Cash flow problems caused by pharmaceutical products being tied up for indefinite periods in port
The port-clearing process consists of -
- Managing pre-shipment issues, such as documentation, which are often required for the clearance process
- Identifying and anticipating the arrival of shipments
- Locating the shipments and the particular consignments
- Obtaining the documents needed for clearing before the arrival of supplies at a port, and ensuring that the documents are in accordance with the country’s port and customs requirements
- Making timely payments relating to the clearance process
- Ensuring that appropriate storage space is available to receive the shipment and that transport is available immediately
- Delivering goods to the warehouse or other storage facility as appropriate
Expediting port clearing is an important function, requiring either a well-organized, paper-based activity monitoring system or a computerized information system, as well as suitably trained human resources.
Port clearing may be slowed by government customs and import regulations, and inefficiencies within agencies that import goods. Private companies are sometimes able to achieve more rapid port clearance than government agencies. Two private-sector choices are available: either the supplier can be made responsible for the port clearing process and delivering goods to a nominated warehouse, or the task can be contracted out to a clearing and forwarding agent. Retaining the services of experienced and well-trained staff can significantly improve the port-clearing process. A cost/benefit analysis should be carried out to establish the most suitable method for managing port clearance - either in-house or outsourced to the private sector. In addition, any changes to clearance formalities must be monitored continuously to prevent unnecessary delays when new regulations come into force.
Losses and damage in transit can be substantial. In order to recover insured losses, the import unit must lodge insurance claims systematically and expeditiously, because insurance companies usually have specific periods within which claims must be made.