For most exporters, importers, Customs house and shipping line agents, and even Customs officers, there is no difference between Container Freight Stations (CFS) and Inland Container Depots (ICD). In both the places, the imported goods or export goods are ordinarily kept before clearance by the Customs and where filing of Customs manifests, bills of entry, shipping bills and other declarations, assessment and all the activities related to clearance of goods for home consumption, warehousing, temporary admissions, re-export, temporary storage for onward transit and outright export, transshipment, etc, take place. So, CFS and ICD mean the same thing for many. However, they do not mean the same facility, says the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC).
A recent CBEC circular clarifies that CFS is merely an appendage to a parent Customs station at a port, airport, land Customs station (LCS) or ICD whereas an ICD is a Customs station in its own right having independent existence on a par with any Customs station at a port, airport or LCS. A CFS is an extension of a port/airport/LCS/ICD customs station, set up with the main objective of decongesting the ports, where only a part of the customs process mainly the examination of goods is normally carried out by Customs.
At CFS, goods are stuffed into containers or de-stuffed therefrom and aggregation/segregation also takes place at such places. Custom’s function relating to processing of manifest, import/export declarations that are filed by the carrier/importer or exporter and assessment of bill of entry/shipping bill are performed in the Custom House/Custom Office that exercises jurisdiction over the parent port/airport/ICD/LCS to which the said CFS is attached. In the case of customs stations where automated processing of documents has been introduced, terminals have been provided at such CFSs for recording the result of examination, etc. In some CFSs, extension of service centers have also been made available for filing documents, amendments etc. However, the assessment of the documents is carried out centrally.
On the other hand, an ICD would have an automated system of its own with a separate station code [such as INTKD 6, INSNF6, etc] allotted by the Directorate General of Systems and with the inbuilt capacity to not only enter examination reports but also to enable assessment of documents, processing of manifest, amendments, etc, says the CBEC. So, a Commissioner can approve a standalone ICD but not approve a standalone CFS.
So, for an importer, exporter, CHA or shipping line, how does it matter whether a place is designated as a CFS or ICD?
Essentially, movement of goods from a port, airport or LCS to an ICD shall be in the nature of movement from one custom station to another custom station and will be covered by Goods Imported (Condition of Transshipment) Regulations, 1995. In contrast, movement of goods from a customs station at port/airport/ LCS/ICD to a CFS would be akin to local movement from a custom area of a customs station to another custom area of the same station and such movement is covered by local procedure evolved by the Commissioner of Customs and covered by bonds, bank guarantee, etc.
With this clarification, there ought to be no confusion in compliance with procedures prescribed for import/export of goods or compliance with the provisions of the Customs Act, Rules or Regulations, hopes the CBEC.