Role of custodians

In regard to all imported goods unloaded in a Customs area, the Commissioner of Customs is required to appoint a custodian under whose custody the imported goods shall remain till these are cleared for home consumption, or are warehoused or transshipped as provided in the law. With the growth of containerized traffic the facility of Customs clearances in the interiors of the country has also been provided by opening various ICDs, which are actually dry ports and here too the goods remain with the appointed custodian till these are cleared by the Customs. In addition to custodians appointed by the Commissioner of Customs, the Customs Act, 1962 recognizes other custodians as provided under any other law. For instance, the Mumbai Port Trust is a legal custodian under the Major Ports Trust Act, 1963. The custodian is essentially required to take charge of the imported goods from the carrier, arrange its proper storage and safety and allow clearance to the importers only after they fulfill all the Customs formalities, pay requisite duties and other charges/fees and discharge various other obligations. No goods can be cleared from a Customs area without the express permission of the Customs. Moreover, since the Customs Act, 1962 obliges the custodians to ensure safe custody of the goods till delivery in case any imported goods are pilfered while in custody, the custodian is required to pay duty on such goods

Various port trusts and other authorities in the public and private sectors handle the import and export cargo when kept in their custody at various ports, international airports/ ICDs. The cargo handling and custody at the international airports is generally entrusted to International Airport Authority of India (IAAI), but there is an increasing trend of the IAAI leasing such facility to private sector or even direct entry of private sector. Also, new ICDs are being opened at various industrial centres as a facilitation measure with the result that Customs clearances of both imported and export cargo, from these places has expanded substantially in recent years.

Maximum import and export cargo is handled at different sea ports and there is a trend towards containerized cargo movement; increasing part of import cargo landed at some ports like Nhava Sheva is also transshipped to interior ICDs for final clearance by importers at their door steps. Security arrangements ensure there is no pilferage/ theft of the cargo and arrangements of loading and unloading of cargo at different berths in various docks, their movement to different places including container yards/ storage godowns etc., are arranged by the port authorities.

The Customs authorities are given appropriate office place and requisite facilities in the dock area as well as in international cargo complexes/ICDs etc., to discharge their functions in relation to imports and exports such as supervision of loading/unloading of goods from vessels/crafts etc., supervision of stuffing or de-stuffing of containers, inspection and examination of goods which are imported/presented for exportation before Customs clearance formalities etc. For this purpose and in order to provide comprehensive guidelines for custodians / Cargo Service Providers (CCSP) for handling, receipt, storage and transportation of cargo in a Customs area, the Board has framed the Handling of Cargo in Customs Areas Regulations, 2009