About ICA


CED Through the Years

» Pre Independence Days (1950 - 1960s)
» Industralisation of Singapore (1960 - 1970s)
» CED from 1980s - Present


Pre Independence Days (1950 - 1960s)


With the establishment of the Customs Cooperation Council in 1950 and other international bodies such as those concerned with tourism, air travel and cultural materials, the customs organisations became flexibly bound to an international framework to implement or promote standardisation of measures, improved procedures, coordination of activities and so forth. Customs duties constitute a form of indirect taxation on expenditure. In Singapore, they are highly selective with a bias in the sixties towards the protection of certain local industries. Three broad items of customs revenue, namely petroleum, intoxicating liquors and tobacco (including cigarettes) form the mainstay of traditional revenue. There are no export duties. However, Customs does collect excise, entertainment and film hire duties and acts as an agent of the Tourist Promotion Board in the collection of cess on hotel rentals and the sale of food and drinks in gazetted establishments. The department was thus charged with the economic responsibility of protecting local industry by the judicious imposition of customs tariff and collection of protective duties, in addition to the traditional fiscal role of collecting duty on tobacco, liquor and petroleum.


Industrialisation of Singapore (1960s - 1970s)

The impact of industrialisation was felt by the Department to a large degree. For industrialisation to be successful, investment and technical know how had to be made available by pioneer incentives, exemption from customs duty on raw materials and other tax exemptions would be necessary. The challenge was thrown on the Department, then short of expertise and staff, to be able to implement the oriented Government policies and plans effectively. New aspects of work relating to free trade zones, protection measure and export promotion had to be faced. Between 1962 - 1966, the Department's staff strength doubled as it recruited and train staff to implement all the economic measures. By 1971, the department was ready for metrication and looking ahead on modernising its working system.

The first protective duty on soaps was introduced in 1960 and in 1962, the protective duty on paints, distempers and varnishes were introduced. Imported sugar together with about 160 commodities (e.g. plastic articles, sweetened condensed milk, leather, glassware, furniture) were also dutiable in the mid-1960s. At the end of 1968, the number of dutiable items under other import duties (protective duties) stood at 293. The main contributors to customs revenue are motor vehicles, clothing, perfumeries and cosmetics, plastic articles, air conditioners, tyres and tubes. Import duties were gradually lifted on certain commodities from 1973.

In the 1970s, the Department was divided functionally into seven branches, each with its own divisions, units and sections:

  1. Administrative Branch
  2. Revenue Branch
  3. Inspections Branch
  4. Controls Branch
  5. Preventive Branch
  6. Enforcement Branch
  7. Special Branch

CED from 1980s - Present

In 1987, there was a major re-organisation of the Department to provide for better grouping of functions and a clear demarcation of responsibilities. There were 5 divisions, each headed by a Senior Director of Customs & Excise. The new Planning Division was set up to undertake planning and to chart the future directions for the Department. Many of the former 23 divisions were merged to form new branches while the Dog Unit was transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In Apr 1998, there was another restructuring and renaming of some Divisions and Branches. The salient changes are:

  • Enforcement Division was renamed as Air & Sea Division
  • A new Border Control Division will take charge of Tuas and Woodlands
  • Branches
  • Land Branch was renamed as Woodlands Branch
  • Investigations Branch was renamed Suppression Branch
  • Tuas Checkpoint was renamed Tuas Branch
  • Anti-Evasion Branch was renamed Post-Clearance Audit Branch.

ICA uniform1ICA uniform2


Senior officers were issued with uniforms in 1987 to be in line with the junior officers, thus making the Department a complete uniformed service. A newly designed uniform was introduced for all grades of officers. In 1996, changes were made to the design of uniforms and other uniform accessories. Female senior officers will put on smart tunic-style tops and knee length A-line skirts with an overlap slit at the back. Officers attached to the sea-going parties in Harbour Branch would be provided with long sleeved shirts for better protection during ship rummaging.

The next round of re-structuring of CED took place from 2 Jan 02. Changes were made to the organisational set-up, designation and staff postings. Divisional Director would be re-named as Assistant Director-General and Officer Commanding of field branches as Commander whilst staff branches would remain as Head. A new branch Joint Operation Planning was formed and comes under the purview of the Assistant Director-General (Operations).

The Department had since gone through many developments, and organisational and name changes, though its mission has remained relatively unchanged - to collect and protect revenue. Nonetheless, the span of 91 years has seen a significant expansion in the Department's responsibilities brought about mainly by changes in laws, tariffs, travel and commerce trends. Today, in addition to the Customs Act, the Department enforces over 70 pieces of legislation, some of which are on behalf of a number of other government departments and statutory boards. Working closely with these other agencies, Customs plays a key role in promoting trade and tourism and in safeguarding community health and welfare, the environment and business. Procedures have been streamlined and service standards established to reflect the present emphasis on facilitation of trade.

Changes in the trading, commercial and enforcement environment demand unprecedented flexibility on the part of Customs and have progressively transformed the ways in which tasks are being carried out. Increasingly, the reliance is on risk management, technology and consultation with the trade. Customs today employs extensive application of information technology to provide faster and efficient service to our customers. The Department also works in close partnerships with the trading community through consultation, co-operation and training to achieve a greater transparency in procedures and promote voluntary compliance.

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Last updated on 18 Oct 2012