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on Burma cyclone

Good news: a fast-track customs process is available for relief deliveries arriving in Myanmar.

The catch? Only if the cargo is consigned to the Government's Disaster Management Committee.

Aid agencies, donors or well-wishers planning anything else can review the full range of customs and other importation paperwork on a new interagency web resource dedicated to relief logistics for Myanmar.

The short version of how to fly aid to Yangon goes something like this: If planning air cargo not destined for the government, the sender has to get prior approval before landing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and be ready to present an Import Declaration Form (CUSDEC-1), import license, invoice, bill of lading, packing list and, depending on the goods, "other certificates and permits." The Ministry of Health should issue a health certificate after inspecting any food imports, for example. To avoid paying tax on the cargo, a Tax Exemption Certificate is needed. Oh, and that is before clearing customs.

Every country has customs procedures. And the logistics departments of relief agencies earn their living getting urgent cargo through the byzantine bureacracies and fearsome terrain.

Nonetheless, UN officials and diplomats have called on the Government of Myanmar to streamline customs and clearance procedures for the massive crisis response needed and to release cargo that has been held so far.

There's been no major breakthough in that process, judging from the latest reports on the "logistics cluster" website:

Online, humanitarian workers, governments and the private sector can coordinate transport, fuel, supply chain and warehousing in a crisis. Users are checking in for daily updates on the latest issues, whether it be a concept of floating warehouses or the availability of free cargo space donated by airlines.

If the airport procedures sound daunting, road access from neighboring Thailand has is own drawbacks. A report on the site says that the road from Thailand to Myanmar is so narrow that it operates one way in each direction on alternate days.

© IRIN 2008

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Albion Monitor   May 13, 2008   (

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