Region: Europe, Middle East, The Americas
The SABER impact on industry
Dubai, UAE, 29 May 2019: In 2018, Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) announced the launch of the SABER electronic platform, which “aimed to register and issue conformity assessment certificates for consumer products before entering the Saudi market”. This came into effect on January 1, 2019, according to Intertek’s fact sheet on the new system, which also noted that on April 1, the SABER platform was extended to include electrical products imported and sold into the market.
According to Intertek, there are two certifications required by importers. The first is the Product Certification of Conformity (PCoC), issued online in the SABER platform. This can be obtained by the importer by adding product information on the SABER platform, selecting a SASO-approved certification body (CB) for issuance of PCoC and paying the related fees. The CB then accesses the SABER platform to check for importer requests to facilitate the conformity assessment of the product, to verify the results and to upload qualifying valid documents into the SABER system. Following the procedure, the PCoC is then issued online through SABER and would be valid for one year.
The second requirement, noted in Intertek’s factsheet on the system, is the Shipment Certificate of Conformity (SCoC), to ensure “every regulated product included in the shipment will be verified by the CB to ensure there is an existing valid PCoC”. If a valid PCoC is confirmed, an SCoC is issued.” To obtain the SCoC, the importer sends an online request via SABER for products to be imported. The CB then verifies if there is a valid PCoC for every regulated product and determines whether selective inspection is required. If the PCoC is verified, the CB confirms through SABER that it has been found to be true and performs selective inspection, if applicable. The importer then pays the SCoC fees, and an SCoC is issued online in SABER, which is valid only for that specific shipment.
Johan Gouws, Managing Director, Middle East, Tecumseh, said that stakeholders in the engineering community understand that fundamentally, “consumer safety and product quality is at the very heart and core of the SABER programme”. However, Gouws said that Tecumseh experienced some difficulty understanding the new framework, requirements and procedure – a point voiced by other manufacturers and suppliers eager to find clarity on the process, in order to comply with the new regulations. “When our importer went online, they had difficulty in navigating the registration process,” Gouws said. “The site had limited accessibility, and not all the certified bodies that are approved for the SASO certification process were listed.” He said that although the company was informed that non-registered products would no longer be allowed for import after January 1, the deadline was moved and, to the best of his knowledge, there is no fixed date yet on when SABER will finally go live.
Rahul Bhatia, Logistics Controller, Turkey, Middle-East & Africa, Danfoss Middle East, said that the company is also waiting for official updates, as the SABER system has not gone live for all sectors. “The challenge is for companies with a diverse portfolio of products,” he explained. “SABER has currently gone live for gas-operated equipment, toys, low-voltage equipment (LVE) and engine lubricants. On the horizon are building materials and textiles/apparels. What concerns importing parties in KSA are massive increase in costs to register products on SABER, when compared to traditional model of certification through authorised certification bodies.”
For Pontus Grimberg, Export Director, Lighting Solutions, Fagerhult, the issue is a particularly pressing one. “We have one shipment in the customs in Saudi Arabia yet to be released due to the fact they changed the regulations,” he said, sharing that on April 1, the company was asked for additional requirements in the form of an EER certificate to measure energy consumption of lighting, in addition to the CB certificate under the PCoC.
The industry experience so far
Much of what the stakeholders do know come from their own experience or “market hearsay” in attempting to understand the process. Bhatia said that as importers need to make sure goods are registered in the SABER portal, customers that regularly purchase a range of commodities from Danfoss are reaching out to request for technical data, as it is their responsibility to upload the data to the SABER system. “There are two ways of doing this,” he explained. “First is per product, if you wish to, or products by group. Registration by single product may seem a good option but supports small-scale traders only. There are traders who deal with a portfolio of over 50,000 product lines, such as automobile spare parts manufacturers or FMCG goods, like apparel, who would ideally choose the grouping method.” Bhatia added that the registration price ranges from SAR 3,000 (USD 799.95), in an ideal scenario with prior required paperwork availability, to as much as SAR 10,000 (USD 2,666.50), in a scenario where products require test certificates to meet specific global standards or testing as per specific schemes of electrical products. He added that customers can upload products by group and pay an annual registration fee for the product group, rather than for each product. Bhatia said this information is based on customers of Danfoss, many of whom are registering products by groups.
Speaking on behalf of Tecumseh, Gouws said that historically, compressors, which fall under the low voltage directive regulatory framework, need to be registered per product, in compliance with SASO certification. “Moving forward with the SABER programme the same will apply,” he said. “Products imported need to be registered at the product level.” The catch, Gouws said, is the SAR 500 (USD 133.32) fee to register the product in the system, paid annually by the importer. A cost that will now need to be absorbed directly by the importer.
Having said that, Gouws stressed that for manufacturers that don’t have the necessary certification, meeting this requirement would be a challenge. “When importers register a product, they need to select which certified body they will use for approval of their product,” he said. “Through that process, the product importer registers each product in the SABER portal. Part of this registration process is to upload comprehensive technical data and product certification. This data is then checked and verified to confirm that it adheres to the minimum SASO/IEC technical standards required for import into Saudi Arabia. If the data provided is okay, you get approval for the product. If the product is not approved, based on the data and technical information uploaded, you will then need to approach the certified body to complete physical testing. The total cost for getting product tested and certified by an external approved certified body can run up to USD 20,000 per product, and take between six and eight weeks to get completed. Do manufacturers have an option to shop from other than the approved list? The answer is ‘no’. There is a select number of approved bodies for testing, if you want your product approved.”
Grimberg stressed that this is an additional challenge for products that have a wide variety, speaking from the company’s experience trying to understand the full weight of the requirements to move forward with distribution. “We need to pay a lot for certificates,” he said. “We are trying to register per family in SABER, but our family contains enormous article numbers, sometimes thousands. Once they enforce CB, you can register per family, but there is a limit of 100. Within our own range, not all lights even need the CB certificate, so it’s new for us also.”
Cost implications of compliance
Bhatia said the implications vary from industry to industry and sometimes from company to company and on the type of commodity. This was echoed by Grimberg. “We are fortunate that we are large in size and we have a technical director that knows regulations,” he said. “Our lab can also do third-party testing, so we can do the test ourselves and it’s more or less about doing the paperwork and receiving the CB certificate. But it’s still 5-6 weeks. If you don’t have a lab, you have to go to a certified laboratory and that can take anything from two months to half a year for a test report. For a small manufacturer it would be tough. It’s also hard for them to get the proper knowledge on the process.” Grimberg explained that if a company has one family of products and can get through the process with only one registration, they are able to survive and the impact of the additional cost would be minimal. However, Grimberg said, for companies that have a wide and diverse range of products, the cost of complying with certification requirements would be significant.
Bhatia said that a number of stakeholders are already concerned about the additional layer of cost – owing to the registration fee of products, which is renewed annually – and the shipment fee, both of which fall on the importers. “Generally, our job is to give historical data on classification, technical information and orders,” he said. With the need to register in SABER, there has been in significant increase in supply timelines to KSA for various industries.
Bhatia added that the conformity structure will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s economy and that manufacturers having a significant share in the Saudi market would look to develop their own plants in the Kingdom to reinforce long-term position in the local market. Grimberg also said that the new requirements would further nudge companies that are looking to develop production plants in Saudi Arabia but that given the high level of investment required to do so, manufacturers’ willingness will depend on the market share and opportunities in the Kingdom and whether there will be changes in the requirements down the line.
[All currency conversions made as per May 29, 2019 exchange rate]