The government has allowed import and export of COVID-19 vaccines without any value limitation, in order to ensure speedy clearance and distribution.
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has amended the regulations to facilitate the import/export of COVID-19 vaccines through courier, at locations where the Express Cargo Clearance System (ECCS) is operational.
"Imports and exports of vaccines in relation to COVID-19 has been allowed without any value limitation," said the amended Courier Imports and Exports (Electronic Declaration and Processing) Amendment Regulations, 2020.
The CBIC said that COVID-19 has posed unprecedented challenges to Customs and other administrations the world over and efficient clearance and distribution of vaccines would be a critical requirement in the collective fight against the pandemic.
"The challenges in doing so is heightened by the fact that the vaccines need to be stored and transported under controlled temperatures and there are multiple stakeholders involved in this process.
“This necessitates putting in place efficient cross-border procedures for speedy evacuation of the vaccines," the CBIC said.
The regulation further states that since the vaccines will be imported in durable containers equipped with the requisite temperature monitoring and tracking devices, the export of the durable container including accessories thereof, imported in relation to COVID-19 vaccines has also been permitted.
"Importers may be advised to indicate the unique identifier of the container and the accessories during import in the Courier Bill of Entry (CBE-V) and also at the time of re-export in the Courier Shipping Bill (CSB IV) for facilitating clearance," it added.
The CBIC, in a letter to field offices, said since multiple stakeholders will be involved in the process of clearance of the vaccines, effective coordination among the stakeholders would be necessary.
It also asked for setting up of a task force, headed by a Joint/ Additional Commissioner of Customs rank officer and comprising relevant stakeholders, for a coordinated approach for efficient clearance of vaccines relating to COVID-19.
AMRG & Associates Senior Partner Rajat Mohan said global pharmaceutical companies are in advanced stages of bulk deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.
"Eyeing global logistics and custom clearance challenges, the government has made some changes in Courier Imports and Exports Regulations, which includes permission to import and export of COVID-19 vaccines without any value limitation," Mohan added.
Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters