Nurturing Green Technologies in Singapore

Singapore Customs proactively partners the business community in developing environmentally-friendly solutions for a sustainable future. This is done through a consultative approach and seeing the big picture when evaluating the impact of
research and development (R&D) projects and other green initiatives.

As dealing with climate change becomes a global imperative, the movement to develop environmentally-friendly solutions is gaining momentum. Around the world, industries, companies and governments are betting on innovative technologies to build a sustainable future.

Recognising the importance of such initiatives, Singapore Customs makes it easier for the business community to conduct green activities. This is done through a range of trade facilitation schemes such as the Temporary Import Scheme and the granting of Goods and Services Tax (GST) relief and duty exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

Recently, Singapore Customs facilitated two such R&D projects: the import of 11 micro-electric vehicles for a
study trial on eco-friendly modes of transport, and of a prototype bench plant for research on turning waste tyres
into useful products.

Beyond providing monetary savings, these facilitations help to advance the development of new technologies
such as alternative urban transport systems and waste disposal solutions to reduce pollution.

Test Driving Eco-Cars in NUS

NUS faculty and staff will travel within the University Town (above) and Kent Ridge campus in duty-exempted micro-electric vehicles for a study on green transportation for short distances.

The study conducted jointly by Toyota Tsusho Asia Pacific and National University of Singapore (NUS) tests the feasibility of green mobility vehicles for short-distance travel.

The two-year trial involves testing 11 micro-electric vehicles on the roads within the University Town and Kent Ridge campus. Faculty staff and students will share and use the vehicles as personal transport to commute within the campus.

The micro-electric vehicles are single-seater cars that run on electricity from lead acid batteries rather than fossil fuels. As the NUS campus is a self-contained township, the area will be transformed into a 'living laboratory'. Researchers will be able to review the viability of introducing the vehicles in an
urban environment.

"The results from the trial can be expanded in a measured manner to future and radical city or township planning," said Associate Professor Tan Kok Kiong from NUS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

As part of the study, TTAP had to import the 11 micro-electric vehicles from Japan. In normal circumstances, each imported vehicle will be subject to an ad-valorem excise duty which is 20 per cent of the vehicle's transaction value.

Generally, vehicles used for R&D studies are eligible for facilitation under the Transport Technology Innovation and Development Scheme (TIDES-PLUS) administered by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Economic Development Board (EDB). The scheme grants the exemption of excise duties along with waiver of other taxes.

The challenge, however, was that the micro-electric vehicles are not eligible for TIDES-PLUS as they are not constructed for public road use in Singapore.

As such, Singapore Customs worked with public agencies such as LTA and EDB to look into creative ways to facilitate the study.

Recognising the project's merits in contributing to eco-friendly urban transport systems and sustainable city planning research, Singapore Customs decided to waive the excise duties for the 11 vehicles in June 2012.

The waiver helped TTAP to save nearly S$50,000 in duties altogether. The earnings derived can go towards other developmental activities for the project.

Turning Waste Tyres into Energy

Rubber tyres that are damaged or have lost their traction are usually dumped in landfill sites. To combat such pollution, an environmental solutions company has come up with a way to convert waste tyres into useful
products instead.

Using special induction heating technology, rubber powder from waste tyres is processed into energy and carbon black. The first of its kind, this innovative process is pioneered by AEL Enviro (Asia) and carried out by its prototype bench plant, which was built in its California facility by plasma science and engineering experts.

Looking to further improve the technology and achieve higher efficiency in their outputs, AEL Enviro (Asia) wanted to import the bench plant to Singapore for continued testing and development.

With the research from this project, the company aims to establish a commercial plant in Singapore in the next
two years.

"With the large-scale plant, we plan to create a Singapore brand and market the technology to the world using Singapore as a base," said Mr Tan Hiang Mong, Chief Operations Officer of AEL Enviro (Asia).

Normally, goods imported for exhibition, repair, testing, experiment or demonstration can be brought into Singapore under the Temporary Import Scheme. Duty and GST on the goods will not need to be paid if they are to be re-exported within six months of import. This excludes liquor and tobacco products.

The problem, however, was that the bench plant would need to be in Singapore for over 24 months. The extra time is needed to refine the technology and fine-tune the commercial plant's design.

While the longer period of import means it would not normally qualify for the Temporary Import Scheme, Singapore Customs recognises the importance of balancing regulatory controls with a pro-enterprise mindset. With its eye on the bigger picture, Singapore Customs understands that supporting innovative ideas today will bring about greater rewards for tomorrow.

In assessing the situation, officers from different branches in Singapore Customs, in close collaboration with EDB, took into account the project's merits. Importing the bench plant will lead to the development of waste disposal technologies while the commercial plant will contribute to Singapore's economy.

Thus, Singapore Customs decided to provide a special GST waiver for the bench plant, which helped the company save over S$44,000 in GST.

"We would like to thank Singapore Customs and the authorities for providing opportunities not seen elsewhere in the region. The bench plant is a big capital investment for a small, newly-setup company like AEL Enviro (Asia) to prove its technology concept," said Mr Tan.

"The GST waiver helps to free up much needed funds, for us to take the next step in this R&D effort," he added.

AEL Enviro (Asia)'s prototype bench plant can process waste tyres into useful products such as energy and carbon black.

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