Revenue officials processed 1.8 million customs declarations in January 2021 – more than they did in the whole of last year.
But customs IT systems have struggled to cope with the increased volume of declarations, resulting from post-Brexit red-tape, with officials admitting it has caused “major difficulties” for businesses.
Tom Talbot, head of Revenue operations at Dublin Port, said they are interacting with their software providers and businesses to find solutions.
He told a press conference on Monday: “Revenue has processed over 1.8 million customs declarations of different types in January, from the first of January to the first of February.
“These relate to import declarations in relation to freight vehicle movements, postal parcels, export declarations and safety and security declarations.
“So that’s 1.8 million for the month of January. By way of comparison, we processed about 1.6 million declarations in the whole of 2020.
“It gives that sense of scale, one month in, of the numbers that we’re dealing with.”
He added: “However, we very much acknowledge that there have been intermittent performances with our import system.
“We are very conscious of the impact that that has on trade and business moving goods, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
The volume of increased declarations had been anticipated by Revenue.
It is anticipated that 20 million declarations or more will need to be processed this year.
But Talbot said the issues arise when a high number of declarations are uploaded to the system at the one time.
He said: “That’s what the system is built for, that’s what we expect. What we are finding, though, is that at peak processing times, that the system has degradations.
“So there are performance issues at peak processing times. If someone is putting in one, 10, 20, 100 declarations, the system works away.
“It’s the large filers, where large numbers of documents are being uploaded in one go.
“Where the system is taking 20,000 in one go, one press of a button, that’s where we’re finding occasional degradation of the system.
“That’s where we are. We’ve identified the issue, we’ve identified the problem. When you compare 1.8 million with where we were a year ago…
“That’s not to say it’s not an issue for us. We understand that it’s causing major difficulties for some companies, and trade and business. That’s why we’re working with them individually.
“That’s why we’re working very effectively now with our software provider, to find solutions.
“Between our software provider and the individual companies, that’s how we’re tackling this, that’s where we’re looking for solutions. These solutions will come and will come quite quickly.”
He said that one issue identified is the growth in businesses that ship large volumes of small consignments, typical of small, online retailers.
“That business model has increased significantly with the move to online shopping, since the start of the pandemic,” he added.
Meanwhile, a new requirement for hauliers entering France to produce a negative Covid-19 test has not caused any major disruptions, officials said.
Eddie Burke, a Department of Transport official, said four drivers had been turned away from Rosslare on the first weekend after the new rules came into force.
But since then, there have been no drivers turned away.
“From what we’ve seen, it seems to be working very, very well. That’s thanks in a large part to the hauliers themselves, who have had to deal with a lot between Brexit and between Covid.
“They seem to have adapted to the system. The services are there, and the feedback we’re getting is overwhelmingly positive.”