"The Australian Customs Service pushed the button on a $250million computer project that caused chaos on the wharves, even though it knew the system did not have the power to run the new software. An internal Customs report seen by The Australian warned that the agency's mainframe computer had only half the processing power needed to run the Integrated Cargo System, which was budgeted at $35 million. Other internal documents show that Customs was struggling to fine-tune the software in the weeks leading up to the system's October 12 launch, with the system losing messages and running slow.
The launch of the ICS - a computer package that processes Customs declarations for imports - sparked a month of chaos on the wharves across the eastern seaboard, with importers struggling to clear goods through the system. Customs was forced to put on additional staff to speed up the processing of imports for an as yet unrevealed cost. Cargo began to pile up on wharves in NSW and Victoria, with retailers running short of goods in the lead-up to Christmas.
While Customs has blamed importers for not submitting the correct details to process cargo, internal documents show the agency was aware of serious problems well before it switched on the system. "The projected capacity requirements to September/October 2006 suggest that there is a major capacity problem imminent," an August Mainframe Capacity Review report reads. "Further mainframe performance savings ... must be found and implemented ASAP." ....
The problems on the wharves continue to reverberate through the business community, with customs brokers and freight forwarders estimating the crisis has cost their industry $78million. Some importers have already retained lawyers, with several firms understood to be exploring the possibility of a class action".
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