Dubai Customs launches an app to help with goods classification

26 October 2021
By Dubai Customs

Trade operators required to classify their goods in the Unified Customs Tariff of countries belonging to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) now have a helpful application (app) at their disposal. The app, called Al Munasiq (The Harmonizer), enables them to look up a tariff code by either entering an item’s description, capturing a photo of the item using their smartphone camera, or uploading an existing photo/picture to the app.

The app will provide users with one or more results, ranking from a higher to lower probability, as well as with commodity information such as the description of the item, applicable Customs duty rate and any related prohibitions and restrictions. As every country in the GCC applies the same tariff nomenclature, the app should prove useful to all exporters and importers operating in the Gulf.

How the app works
  1. The user captures a photo of the item or enters a description of it.
  2. The app identifies the item through image recognition techniques or by searching the keywords entered in the description.
  3. The app selects a possible heading (or headings) and displays the accuracy rate for each heading.
  4. The user selects the HS heading he/she considers to be the most accurate.
  5. The app provides a description of the heading, the applicable duty rate and information on existing prohibitions and restrictions.

Based on machine learning, which is the development of algorithms that learn from experience, the app compares the photo/picture received with those in its library. The Google Cloud Vision API was used to integrate vision detection features within the application, including image labelling. The object description/tariff code correlations were then used to teach the machine how to classify objects. Results were reviewed by tariff experts to train the model. The latter will continuously be improved, with new expert-verified data sets being integrated into the model for retraining on a periodic basis until the classification accuracy is almost perfect.

Dubai Customs also provides assistance on classification matters for a fee via an online form. If users have any doubts about the results provided by the app, they can still fill in the form to request a tariff expert’s opinion. It is worth pointing out here that, despite being somewhat similar to an advance ruling system for classification, the classification decisions issued by Dubai Customs are not binding.

The app has considerably reduced the time required to answer operators’ classification requests. It previously took an average of 20 hours for an officer to process such a request, whereas it now takes the app under a minute to do so. Even though operators may still contact Dubai Customs via the online form, they have expressed their satisfaction with the app.

The Al Munasiq app is available on the Google Play Store.

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