Source: WCO/Sri Lanka Customs (SLC)
SLC has implemented interim mechanism to ensure uninterrupted operations
during the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic
1. Measures aiming to Facilitate the Cross-border Movement of Relief and
1.1. Routine cargo selectivity criteria were tailored, especially to release medium and low
risk cargo, thus focusing only on the high-risk cargo. As a result, around 70% of the
essential items were released under Green Channel.
1.2. With the concurrence of other government agencies, a procedure was introduced to
receive and coordinate regulatory approvals such as standards and permits via
electronic means to ensure expedited clearance and release.
1.3. Provisional online procedures were introduced to verify certificates of origin and grant
preferential tariff treatments for transactions under Preferential Free Trade Agreements
(PTA) under South Asian Association Regional Corporation (SAARC). For consistent
implementation of the same a special webinar was also organized by the SAARC
Secretariat with the participation of members; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India,
Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
1.4. Provisional goods clearance procedure was extended, with priority, for consignments of
relief goods and consignments needing expedited clearance.
1.5. Existing 24x7 services were limited to approximately 8 hours per day in view of the low
volume of exports as most of the factories were closed for operations due to
government policy on minimizing human gathering. However, facilities were made
available on call as required during Customs non-operating hours.
1.6. In addition to the regular Customs Enquiry Point, a special 24x7 help desk is in
operation to attend public and stakeholder inquiries.
1.7. COVID-19 Contingency Plans detailing working hours and arrangements and
emergency official contact numbers were published and regularly updated on the Sri
Lanka Customs website http://www.customs.gov.lk
2. Measures aiming at Supporting the Economy and Sustaining Supply Chain Continuity
Sri Lanka Customs, as the Frontline Border Agency, provided active contribution to the
Presidential Task Force that was established to monitor and prevent spreading COVID-19, as
well as to provide essential services to sustain overall community life in the country.
Following policy decisions were put into action in respect of Customs accordingly.
2.1. Hold meetings on a regular basis with key governmental agencies that are engaged in the
essential services thus carrying forward real political will.
2.2. Take immediate steps to maintain the social distancing and to minimize human Gathering
in Customs operational work areas.
2.3. Implement concessionary tariff rates introduced to ensure constant supply of essential
medicines and medical devices.
2.4. Relax regulatory requirements such as standards approvals and licenses subject to post
2.5. Introduce a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for processing of applications for Inward
Processing and attending incidental operational requests and inquiries over electronic mail
with templates ensuring undisrupted execution of industry and related import and export
activities during difficult periods such as epidemics and terrorism.
2.6. Facilitate Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to evacuate the spaces near the cargo
unloading bays in order to maintain the continuity of unloading goods from the vessels
keeping supply chain undisrupted, by providing clearance for even nonessential goods
from time to time.
3. Measures aiming at Protecting Customs administrations’ Staff
Following Steps were taken to maintain social distancing of the staff while minimizing
intervention of Customs staff.
3.1. Number of staff deployed was kept to a minimum on a roster divided into several groups
where one such group consists around 20% of the normal number of staff.
3.2. The staff continued their duties by connecting virtually from their homes.
3.3. Sanitizing facilities and protective gears were provided to the staff where required.
3.4. An approved disinfecting chamber was established at the entrance to the Customs
3.5. An interim paperless procedure was introduced for electronic submission and
processing of CusDecs (Goods declarations) taking advantage of existing e-payment
platform for implementing social distancing requirements introduced by the government
for countering contagion.
4. Measures aiming at Protecting Society
4.1. Expedited Customs clearance processes were provided for the clearance of inward and
outward passengers in terms of the prompt measures taken by the government (given
below) to prevent COVID 19.
Facilitated processing of departing foreign nationals, mostly tourists, on special
flights that were arranged.
Facilitated processing of Sri Lankan nationals who were brought down by special
flights arranged by the government.
Steps were taken to refer the passengers arrived from abroad directly to the
specially established quarantine centres managed by the government.
Actions were taken to temporarily shut-down the unaccompanied passenger
baggage clearance depots until the situation stabilizes in view of the fact that the
majority of these passengers are from every corner of the island.
4.2. As the frontline border Agency in Sri Lanka, active contribution was provided to the
Presidential Task Force that was established to monitor and prevent spreading COVID19, as well as to provide essential services to sustain overall community life in the country.
5. Other Measures.
5.1. Continuous dialog was established with related other governmental agencies and
private sector for co-ordination and to address concerns. Meetings with other
governmental agencies and private sector were held continuously maintaining social
5.2. Necessary arrangements were made with Sri Lanka Police to coordinate and facilitate
travel of Customs staff, transporters, and Customs House Agents who are engaged in
clearance of goods.
5.3. Request to waive demurrage charges were efficiently coordinated with Sri Lanka
5.4. Ports Authority, two private terminal handlers and Air Cargo Authorities by the traders
on port demurrage charges, as and when required.
5.5. Fullest cooperation was established with Private stakeholders of Inland Clearance
Depots (cargo examination points) in order to facilitate the clearance while adhering
government policies to protect staff and the Customs House Agents.
5.6. Prompt actions were taken to facilitate requests send by foreign missions, especially to
expedite some essential exports.
Further information: http://www.wcoomd.org/........../natural-disaster/covid_19/sri-lanka_en.pdf?la=en
Sri Lanka Customs has decided to start the operations for the clearance of all import and export cargo while adhering to the government policy to maintain social distancing during the COVID19 epidemic.