27 September 2023

On 18 September 2023, the Free Trade Zones (Amendment) Bill (“Bill”) was tabled for first reading in Parliament. The Ministry of Finance (“MOF”) also published its responses to key feedback on a draft version of the Bill (“draft Bill”).

Main purposes of the Bill

The Bill seeks to amend the Free Trade Zones Act 1966 (“Act”) for the following main purposes:

  • Provide for the administration, maintenance and operation of free trade zones (“FTZs”) by licensed FTZs operators;
  • Establish a framework for the licensing of FTZ operators;
  • Impose various obligations on FTZ cargo handlers, shipping agents and air cargo agents;
  • Empower the Director-General of Customs (“Director‑General”) to require licensed FTZ operators and FTZ cargo handlers to submit and retain reports;
  • Require shipping agents and air cargo agents to give information relating to goods brought into or intended to be brought into an FTZ;
  • Provide officers of customs with various powers of investigation and enforcement for the purpose of administering or enforcing the Act or determining if the Act is being or has been complied with; and
  • Enhance the administration of the Act.

The administration, maintenance and operation of FTZs is currently being undertaken by authorities appointed by the Minister for Finance. The current authorities will continue administering, maintaining and operating the FTZs for the period for which they have been appointed until FTZ operators are licensed by the Director‑General (“licensed FTZ operators”) in place of the authorities (“transition period”). Once all FTZs are being administered, maintained and operated by licensed FTZ operators, the Act will no longer need to provide for those authorities. The Bill makes various amendments to the Act to remove references to authorities, which amendments will be brought into operation at
the end of the transition period.

MOF response

MOF issued a summary of its response to the feedback received from the public consultation on the draft Bill. MOF had invited the public to provide feedback on the draft Bill from 20 March 2023 to 9 April 2023. The draft Bill proposed legislative amendments to the Act to update and strengthen Singapore’s FTZ regime, by enabling better oversight of goods flowing through the FTZs while still ensuring efficient movement of goods. Among other things, MOF received feedback on the following proposed legislative amendments:

  • Introduction of licensing regimes for FTZ operators and FTZ cargo handlers
  • Requirements for FTZ operators, cargo handlers, and shipping agents to collect and transmit relevant information to improve cargo visibility within
    the FTZ.

MOF’s responses to key feedback on the proposed legislative amendments can be found in Annex A. The proposed legislative changes have been incorporated into the Bill.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the Singapore Statutes Online website sso.agc.gov.sg and MOF website www.mof.gov.sg: