WCO News June 2017

The WCO has published the 83rd edition of WCO News, the Organization’s flagship magazine aimed at the Customs community, which provides a selection of informative articles that touch the international Customs and trade landscape.

This edition features a special dossier on the use of collective action to fight corruption and how it can apply in the Customs context, and includes both country-specific experiences as well as the views of Customs’ partners.

It also puts a spotlight, in its focus section, on the WCO Mercator Programme, the capacity building programme designed by the WCO to assist governments in implementing the Customs trade facilitation measures outlined in the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

Other highlights include articles on the implementation of a new standard to ensure that men and women receive equal pay for equal work, enhanced control of light aviation in West Africa, the use of basic mathematics to fight corruption and bad practices, and much more.

The magazine is published and distributed free of charge three times a year, in February, June and October, and is available online or in paper format. Source: WCO

Copy of Enhancing Images

At least 30 representatives of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recently met in Maseru – capital of the ‘Mountain Kingdom’ – Lesotho, to undertake a 5-day training workshop on the WCO Data Model, between 29 May to 2 June.

The training formed part of capacity building support to Member States to implement IT connectivity and information exchange between SACU Customs Administration. The training was facilitated by WCO Data Model Expert, Mr Carl Wilbers from South African Revenue Service (SARS) and GEFEG.FX software tool Expert, Mr. Martin Krusch from GEFEG, Germany.

The recent ratification of Annex E to the SACU agreement – on the use of Customs-2-Customs (C-2-C) Data Exchange between member states – paves the way for participating countries to exchange data within the terms of the agreement on the basis of the GNC Utility Block, also greed to by the respective member states. It also coincides with recent work on the establishment of a SACU Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) which must be implemented by the SACU countries in all export and transit data exchanges between themselves, respectively.

Just recently, in May 2017, the heads of SACU Customs administrations were presented a prototype demonstration of data exchange between the respective systems of the South African Revenue Service and the Swaziland Revenue Authority.

The WCO Data Model provides a maximum framework of standardized and harmonized sets of data and standard electronic messages (XML and EDIFACT) to be submitted by Trade for Cross-Border Regulatory Agencies such as Customs to accomplish formalities for the arrival, departure, transit and release of goods, means of transport and persons in international cross border trade.

The course was extremely comprehensive, providing SACU customs users the full spectrum of the power and capability which the GEFEG.FX software tool brings to the WCO’s Data Model. GEFEG is also the de facto Customs data modelling and data mapping tool for several customs and border authorities worldwide. It significantly enhances what was once very tedious work and simplifies the process of mapping data, ensuring that the user maintains alignment and consistency with the most up-to-date version of WCO data model. One of the more significant capabilities of the GEFEG.FX software is its reporting and publishing capability. For examples of this please visit the CITES electronic permitting toolkit and the EU Customs Data Model webpages, respectively. Pretty awesome indeed!

Users had the opportunity of mapping the SACU agreed data fields both manually as well as using the tool. The SACU group was able to add additional enhancements to its agreed data model, providing an added benefit of the work session.

big_data

Historically, a customs officer’s “intuition” backed up by his/her knowledge and experience served as the means for effective risk management. In the old days (20 years ago and back) there wasn’t any need for all this ‘Big Data’ mumbo jumbo as the customs officer learnt his/her skill through painful, but real-life experience, often under bad and inhospitable conditions.

Today we are a lot more softer. The age of technology has superseded, rightly or wrongly, the human brain. Nonetheless, governments thrive on their big-spend technology budgets to ensure the safety of their economies and supply chains.

No less, the big multinational corporations whose ‘in-house’ business is no longer confined by national boundaries or continents are responsible for the generation of huge amounts of data which need to extend  to the limits of their operations. When the products of such business are required to traverse national boundaries and continents,  their logistics and transport intermediaries, financiers, and insurers become themselves tied up in the vicious cycle of data generation and transfer, also spanning national boundaries to ensure those products arrive at their intended destinations – intact, in time and fit for purpose. Hence we have what as become known as the international supply chain.

It does not end there. Besides the Customs authorities, what about the myriad of other government regulatory authorities who themselves have a plethora of forms and information requirements which must be administered and approved prior to departure and upon arrival of goods at their destination.

Inefficiencies along the supply chain culminate in delays with added cost which dictates the viability for sale and use of the product during delivery. These may constitute what is called non-tariff barriers (or NTBs) which negatively impact the suppliers credibility in international trade.

The bulk of this information is nowadays digitised in some for or other. It is obviously not all standardised and structured which makes it difficult to align, compare or assimilate. For Customs it poses a significant opportunity to tap into and utilise for verification or risk management purposes.

The term ‘Big Data’ embraces a broad category of data or datasets that, in order to be fully exploited, require advanced technologies to be used in parallel. Many big data applications have the potential to optimize organizations’ performance, (and here we have it) the optimal allocation of human or financial resources in a manner that maximizes outputs.

At this point, let me introduce one of the latest WCO research papers – “Implications of Big Data for Customs – How It Can Support Risk Management Capabilities” by Yotaro Okazaki.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the implications of the aforementioned big data for Customs, particularly in terms of risk management. To ensure that better informed and smarter decisions are taken, some Customs administrations have already embarked on big data initiatives, leveraging the power of analytics, ensuring the quality of data (regarding cargos, shipments and conveyances), and widening the scope of data they could use for analytical purposes. This paper illustrates these initiatives based on the information shared by five Customs administrations: Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA); Customs and Excise Department, Hong Kong, China (‘Hong Kong China Customs); New Zealand Customs Service (‘New Zealand Customs’); Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the United Kingdom; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP). Source: WCO

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Dubai Customs has introduced a sophisticated scanner that can detect 25 controlled and banned items in 25 seconds, in a bid to clamp down on smuggling. “The Ionscan 500DT can also detect as little drugs or explosives as one nanogram — which is one billionth of a gram” — according to Mohammad Juma Nasser Buossaiba, Director-General of the UAE Federal Customs Authority.

The highly sensitive scanner, equipped with HD touchscreen, is one of many other advanced equipment the authority has provided the Dubai Customs with in order to tightly secure all the crossing borders of the emirate. The new devices are in line with a memorandum of understanding signed recently between the UAE Federal Customs Authority and Dubai Customs. The Federal Customs Authority will also provide training to Dubai Customs staff on how to use the new devices, apart from the regular maintenance. Source: CustomsToday.pk and WCO IRIS

EmptyTrips

Founder and CEO of tech start-up EmptyTrips; Africa’s first smart transport marketplace says she is aware that the introduction of her new transport concept could possibly disrupt the logistics industry as we know it.

Benji Coetzee’s “Filling spaces to places” is a similar concept to that of Uber and Airbnb. It’s based on convenience and inexpensive transport services that pick up goods and take them to a clients destination faster, and cheaper than conventional logistics and road freight services.

“The EmptyTrips concept is based on smart algorithms that match empty trips on trucks, trains and planes, to the demand. This opens up access to cross-border runners using vetted transporters for your transport needs,” Coetzee said.

Logistic often account for a large portion of product and service costs, with transporters often battling with the reality of empty return legs. EmptyTrips has opened up a platform for users to offer their empty trips, find an empty trip from current postings, and request an empty trip as a customer. It aims to bridge the gap for competitive rates, and fill these empty return legs allowing the transporter to recover fees on otherwise empty trips while the customer pays less for transport.

“For too long we have focused on hard infrastructure, when we could be using technology to reduce congestion, delays and assist in our goals of high regional trade.

The on-demand transport service is likely to help with these problems and provide an ease to transporting goods from one place to another.

Transporters and senders of goods can sign-up to www.emptytrips.com. The transporters can bid for cargo needing to be moved and shippers can get competitive open bids. Source: TransportWorldAfrica.com

Uber-Freight-Truck

Global transportation network company Uber has launched Uber Freight – an online booking application “which aims to empower truck drivers and small trucking companies to run and grow their business”, according to a blog on the new Uber Freight site launched last week.

Uber Freight has its own app, of course, which is available on iOS and Android. There’s a sign-up page for drivers, who will be vetted before they’re allowed to use the Uber Freight. The service “takes guesswork out of finding and booking freight, which is often the most stressful part of a driver’s day,” according to Uber, which says it’s dismantling a process that typically takes “several hours and multiple phone calls.”The blog explains that vetted users download the app, search for a load, and simply tap to book it.

“We send a rate confirmation within seconds, eliminating a common anxiety in trucking about whether or not the load is really confirmed,” said an Uber Freight spokesperson.

Another advantage of the new booking service is Uber Freight is committed to paying within a few days, fee-free, for every single load.

Drivers can browse for nearby available loads, see destination info, distance required and payment upfront and then tap to book.

The idea is to streamline something that used to take hours of back and forth negotiation via phone or other communication, putting it in a simple workflow with confirmation of job acceptance and rates paid within a few seconds.

Uber’s not the only company trying to change the trucking industry. Amazon is working on a similar service that would pair drivers with companies that need goods delivered. Manufacturers big and small are also working on bringing semi-or fully-autonomous technology to long haul trucks.

Uber Freight is currently only available in the United States.

CT X-ray Imaging

Battelle has produced a White Paper on ‘The Importance of Image Quality and Image Quality Verification with Imaging Based Screening Technology’. It highlights how the quality of the images produced by a CT used for security screening is critical to the ability of the CT to automatically detect explosives.

X-ray systems have been used for civil aviation security screening for decades to provide a means to quickly and efficiently examine the contents of an item (e.g. cabin baggage or hold baggage) non-intrusively. Originally, such systems relied only on screeners to scrutinise the X-ray image on a display to identify potential explosive threats. Beginning in the mid to late 1990s X-ray screening technology advanced to the point that X-ray systems could automatically detect potential explosive threats and highlight them and associated IED components for secondary on-screen review by a security officer, thus enhancing the probability of detection, reducing the false alarm rate and increasing bag throughput. Computed tomography (CT) explosives detection systems (EDS), based on technology used for medical imaging, were the first to provide this capability.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was the first to implement this technology in the late 1990s. The 9-11 tragedy in 2001 led to the creation of the TSA and accelerated the adoption of this technology in the U.S. The worldwide civil aviation community has been slower to adopt CT EDS, relying instead on other X-ray technology, but is now committed to its use for screening, with deadlines for 100% implementation in different regions of the world ranging from now to 2020 and beyond.

TSA’s model as a government aviation security regulator is different from its counterparts in most other countries in that TSA not only specifies requirements and certifies equipment but it also acquires and deploys this equipment at all 440 U.S. commercial airports. In support of this full life cycle model, TSA has developed robust test and evaluation methodologies to ensure the equipment it acquires is working properly before it is accepted for use. TSA’s deep understanding of CT and its experience with testing security screening equipment in general provide an invaluable reference for the rest of the worldwide aviation community relative to the successful acquisition of CT-based screening equipment.

The automatic detection capability afforded by CT is a result of two key elements of the system: 1) the three-dimensional image rendered by the CT; and, 2) the automatic threat detection (ATD) algorithm which analyses each three-dimensional image to look for suspicious items which it then will “alarm on” and highlight for subsequent review by a screening official. The system’s ability to perform this automatic detection function properly is therefore dependent on both image quality and the ATD. The ATD is based on software and is certified by government agencies (TSA in the U.S. and ECAC in the EU) to detect specific explosive threats in quantities of concern. Since the ATD is embodied in software, it does not degrade once it is developed and compiled. The same cannot be said for the image generation capability of CT which is reliant on the system’s hardware and proper system setup.

With a CT EDS, image quality is a function of many hardware and software parameters that support and make-up the imaging subsystem. Key components include the scanner conveyor(s), X-ray tube, X-ray detectors, X-ray gantry, power supplies, and cooling systems. If any of these elements is not working properly it can affect the image quality and thus the ability of the system to detect explosives.

Image degradation caused by certain elements of the system not functioning properly can be so subtle that the naked eye cannot perceive it on a screener’s display yet such image quality degradation can significantly diminish the ATD’s ability to detect threats. Each vendor has their own image quality kit for internal testing purposes, however, these kits do not conform to a commonly agreed standard and may not be adequately sensitive to all relevant system elements that affect image quality. How then does an operator know that their CT is producing images of acceptable quality? The answer is a standardised approach to image quality verification that verifies all key system elements impacting image quality and that has the sensitivity to detect issues that could impact detection performance.

TSA has always developed its own test articles for acceptance testing to ensure products meet their standard of acceptance and to assure consistency across all platforms. Up until very recently the TSA test articles for CT were based on a statistical method that was reliable but that only provided a go/no-go result. This system involved many test articles that were logistically difficult to manage and that required regular maintenance. To address these shortcomings and to improve the detail and value of the testing process TSA, several years ago, embarked on a programme to develop image quality test phantoms that would directly test the key elements of a CT as described above and provide empirical data that directly (not statistically) assesses CT image quality.

This empirical testing system was developed cooperatively by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Laboratory, TSA, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), screening equipment OEMs and Battelle. It consists of two test phantoms, and mathematical formulae for analysing the CT images produced by the test phantoms when scanned. The system produces 78 image quality metrics that represent the performance of the key CT subsystems and components mentioned above. These 78 parameters are analysed through the accompanying software to determine the quality of the CT image. The test results can help diagnose specific CT subsystems or components contributing to poor image quality and the test data, if captured on a periodic basis, can be used for trend analysis to anticipate imminent failures and to optimise maintenance. This new standard has been published in the US as ANSI N42.45 2011. It will be published internationally in 2017 as IEC 62945.

In summary, the quality of the images produced by a CT used for security screening is critical to the ability of the CT to automatically detect explosives. CT image quality should be verified as part of the acquisition process for new CT and it should be periodically verified to ensure that the CT continues to produce images of acceptable quality. A new standard has been developed for worldwide use that can be used to perform this image quality verification (ANSI N42.45 (U.S.) and IEC 62945 (international). These standards define test phantoms and associated analytical formulas for determining CT image quality. Battelle now offers the phantoms and associated analytical software commercially under the trademarked name, Verif-IQ™ X-ray Image Quality Verification System. Source: airport-business.com (leading airport magazine)

Angola CustomsThe introduction in the coming months of a new customs tariff in Angola is feeding expectations among economic agents that replacing the current regime will be a stimulus to the country’s growth.

A new customs tariff system, submitted to the Council of Ministers and expected to be implemented this year, proposes cuts on import duties on foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables, cooking oils and grains (including wheat flour), as well as raw materials such as iron, steel and aluminium products as well as second-hand cars, the Angolan press reported.

The aim is to replace the existing customs tariff system – introduced in 2014 before the start of the economic and financial crisis now facing the country – which is generally regarded as protectionist of local farmers and manufacturers, seeking to make imports more expensive in order to encourage diversification of an economy that is highly dependent on oil.

The current tariff has been the subject of much criticism from local and international companies as well as from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In its most recent report on Angola, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said replacing the current tariff would likely be a positive move, as it had the effect of increasing the cost of domestic production and reducing competition in the market.

Despite tariff protection, the EIU points out that operational challenges – such as a lack of electricity, poor supply chain management and lack of human resources – have kept the country dependent on imports.

In addition to this, the fall in the price of oil following the introduction of the 2014 tariff has limited access to foreign currency for Angolan companies, making payments to suppliers abroad difficult and, as the kwanza has weakened, imports have become significantly more expensive.

“If and when (the new tariff is) applied, the cost of imports should fall and this should help fight inflation. A less protectionist customs regime should also stimulate Angola’s trade with its neighbours and can help the country finally meet the long-standing promise of joining the Southern African Development Community’s free trade zone,” the EIU said.

“A review of Angola’s current punitive customs regime should give a positive boost to the national economy. However, it is still unclear when the new tariffs will be applied,” it said.

In 2016, Angola formalised its accession to the International Convention for the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Kyoto Convention) of the World Customs Organisation, which aims to facilitate international trade.

Each acceding country has a deadline of 36 months to apply the general rules of this agreement, which provides for the minimisation of customs controls between members, thus facilitating and simplifying international trade. Source: macauhub

Mozambique flagThe Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) recently published a communication informing it’s stakeholders about the Single Road Cargo Manifest as received from the Mozambican Revenue Authority (MRA).

The MRA has informed MCLI that the 2nd phase of the Single Road Cargo Manifest process will come into effect from the 16th of June 2017, when all international road carriers transporting goods to Mozambique through the Ressano Garcia border post will be required to submit the Road Cargo Manifest on the Single Electronic Window platform in compliance with national and international legislation. MRA Service Order Nr 17/AT/DGA/2017, in both Portuguese and English, is attached for your consideration.

For information and full compliance by all members of staff of this service, both (National and Foreign) International Cargo Carriers, Clearing Agents, Business Community, Intertek and other relevant stakeholders, within the framework of the ongoing measures with a view to adequate procedures related to the submission of the road cargo manifest, for goods imported through the Ressano Garcia Border Post, in strict compliance to both the national and international legislations, it is hereby announced that, the pilot process for transfer of competencies in preparation and submission of the road cargo manifest to Customs from the importer represented by his respective Clearing Agent to the Carrier is in operation since December 2016.

Indeed, the massification process will take place from 15th of April 2017 to 15th of June 2017, a period during which all international carriers (national and foreign) who use the Ressano Garcia Border, are by this means notified to register themselves for the aforementioned purposes following the procedures attached herewith to the present Service Order.

As of 16th of June 2017, the submission of the road cargo manifest into the Single Electronic Window (SEW) for the import regime, at Ressano Garcia Border, shall be compulsory and must be done by the carrier himself.

International road carriers must therefore register for a NUIT number with the Mozambican Revenue Authority between the 15th of April and the 15th of June 2017 and the necessary application form is included. Road carriers are urged to do so as soon as possible to enable the continued smooth flow of goods through the border post.

Specific details can be found here! 

Source: MCLI

WCO

This initiative brings together the foremost experts in Customs matters to meet the demands of a complex international and cross-border trading system. Business professionals, Customs managers and administrators, border agency officials, international organization representatives and academia will benefit from the intensive interactive discussions of the most pertinent topics in the Customs environment today.

The courses will be led by technical experts widely respected in their various fields and will also include instructors from private sector companies, government institutions, and academia. The primary objective of the WCO Knowledge Academy for Customs and Trade is to provide an intense training for Customs and Business practitioners.

The Academy is open to all interested participants. Registration is free for one participant from each WCO Member administration. Additional participants from Member administrations, and non-WCO Member participants are subject to a fee. The Public Sector learning track will have interpretation in English and in French.

Why attend?  

  • Gain in-depth knowledge of the WCO’s tools and instruments
  • Express business needs and expectations on core Customs issues
  • Share knowledge, know-how and expertise with participants
  • Be part of a vital Customs-Business knowledge network.

Visit the WCO Knowledge Academy for Customs and Trade webpage for up-coming details of itinerary and programme.

American Shipper

This year’s American Shipper’s benchmark report examines the extent to which freight buyers rely on the art of negotiation versus the technological tools to refine the procurement process. It also looks at the background dynamics confronting procurement professionals to show why investment in technology is so important. Visit AmericanShipper.com – requires registration to download!

It’s not an option for shippers and 3PLs to ignore the data that’s washing over the logistics industry anymore. And respondents to American Shipper’s most recent Transportation Procurement Benchmark Study, The Art and Science of Buying Freight, recognize that as much as anyone.

Only one quarter of freight buyers feel their organizations are above average when it comes to procurement technology. Nearly half admit they are still using predominantly spreadsheets and email to conduct procurement across modes and regions. Two-thirds are still reliant on EDI. Source: americanshipper.com

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The notices detailing President Donald Trump’s promise to build a “big, attractive wall” were made public late Friday (3 April 2017) by Customs and Border Protection. The request from the Customs and Border Protection Department called for a 30-ft-high wall, but said that plans to build a wall minimum 18 ft in height may be acceptable.

“The north side of wall (i.e. USA facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”, reads the RFP. In the documents, CBP says that the side facing the US must also be “aesthetically pleasing” in “color, anti-climb texture etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”.

And that’s before a new Trump budget, which came out Thursday, includes $2.6 billion over two years to begin construction of the wall. The government is asking for a 9-meter-high concrete barrier, extending 2 meters underground, built to be “physically imposing” and capable of resisting nearly any attack, “by sledgehammer, vehicle jack, pickaxe, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools [or] oxy/acetylene torch”.

Earlier this week Mexican lawmakers increased pressure on Mexican construction firms tempted to help build deeply reviled wall.

The proposal document asks contractors for 30-foot-long prototypes and mock-ups of 10 feet by 10 feet. Although Trump made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign to get the Mexican government tol pay for the wall, expectations are low that the U.S.’s southern neighbor will give money while it’s being built or afterwards.

The specifications leave almost all of the design work to interested bidders, who now have about two weeks to develop and submit their plans, known as proposals. Trump called for the wall to stop illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and to cut off drug-smuggling routes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in January that the wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, though other estimates have put the price tag as high $25 billion.

There was some misplaced optimism that Donald Trump would immediately jettison all of his inane campaign promises upon taking office; that the threat of a wall at the Mexican border would be quietly tabled for its obvious insanity.

Proponents of a wall make two questionable assumptions: First, that there will be a continued north flow of refugees. Friday’s release did not address the overall cost of the wall. The city of Berkeley, California, said last week it would refuse to do business with any company that’s part of the border wall. The cost of about 1,000 miles of wall could cost $21.6 billion between now and 2020. Published on Aliveforfootbal website

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Forget increasing the number of Free Trade Zones at and around UK ports, real thought should be given to whether Britain could become a nationwide FTZ, a panel discussion at Multimodal heard today.

The discussion, organised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, weighed the advantages and disadvantages of setting up more FTZs as Britain’s starts its exit journey from the European Union.

While Geoff Lippitt, business development director at PD Ports, said that there was no “desperation for the traditional type of FTZ”, he conceded that as UK ports enter a new post-EU member era, any method that could improve the competitiveness of the nation’s exports should be considered.

Tony Shally, managing director of Espace Europe, added that FTZs would give the UK a great opportunity to bring manufacturing back to the country.

Bibby International Logistics’ managing director Neil Gould went a step further, calling for the creation of a ‘UK FTZ’, to facilitate a joined up environment in which it is easier to move trade. “We need to think how we work together as an industry and how we join everything up to make the UK more competitive,” he said.

However, Barbara Buczek, director of corporate development at Port of Dover, sounded a word of caution, warning that FTZs could actually be detrimental for ro-ros, an important cargo mode for the south UK port. “It’s a great concept, but we also have to be mindful of the guys on the other side who we have to ‘play’ with,” she said, adding that she is “a bit sceptical” about how an FTZ plan could pan out. Originally published by Port strategy.com

THE NEW YOUGrowing electronic commerce (E-Commerce) has provided unparalleled opportunities for and has become a game changer in the international trade arena. It has revolutionized the way businesses and consumers are selling and buying goods with wider choices, advanced shipping, payment, and delivery options.  At the same time, E-Commerce, in particular Business to Consumer and Consumer to Consumer (B2C and C2C) transactions, is presenting several challenges to governments and businesses alike.

The WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC) together with its four Sub-Groups is steadily progressing with the four identified work packages, namely Trade Facilitation and Simplification of Procedures, Safety and Security, Revenue Collection, and Measurement and Analysis with a view to develop recommendations/guidelines on cross-border E-Commerce from a wider facilitation, security or revenue perspective, to collect and disseminate good practices/initiatives, and to enhance/update related WCO instruments and tools.

Given the current focus of the WCO Members and the private sector on this topic, the 215th/216th Sessions of the Permanent Technical Committee (PTC) held a whole day dedicated session on E-Commerce on 5 April 2017. During the ‘E-Commerce Day’, the delegates were provided an update with the work done thus far, as well as, the envisaged work by the four Sub-Groups on respective work packages. A number of valuable suggestions were provided by delegates from policy, business process, and operational perspectives to further enhance the WCO E-Commerce Work Programme with tangible and practical deliverables for providing a concerted and effective response to this growing channel of trade.

In addition, four thematic workshops relating to different dimensions of E-Commerce were organized by the Sub-Groups’ Co-Leads together with other partners. Through these workshops, some interesting facets of e-commerce were explored in detail and a number of interim recommendations were made concerning facilitation, risk management, safety and security, revenue collection, and associated capacity building through enhancement partnerships with all e-commerce stakeholders and augmented public awareness and outreach programmes.

In the course of the panel sessions, a number of collaboration success stories were identified, and they will be captured more formally and shared with interested parties, through the WCO webcorner.

The WGEC Sub-Groups will continue carrying out further work and a consolidated set of interim recommendations will be presented to the July 2017 Sessions of the WCO Policy Commission and Council. Source: WCO

For thousands of years, maritime authorities have relied on tip-offs, patrols, investigations and random inspections to find smuggled goods. Today they have a variety of additional methods at their disposal, and one of the most promising is also the most intuitive: looking at every vessel’s historical behavior.

Israeli firm Windward was founded to collect, vet and analyze AIS, along with a variety of other commercial data sources on maritime traffic. Just having access to the massive quantity of data that the world’s fleet generates is not sufficient: it could take weeks for a human operator to sift through the records of just a few hundred ships, and law enforcement agencies need actionable intelligence in real time.

This is where Windward excels. Its system uses proprietary algorithms to find specific ships that may be involved in illicit activity based on a number of “red flag” behaviors. Loitering just off of a village or an uninhabited bay may be a sign that a vessel is engaged in tendering goods or passengers from shore. Similarly, when a ship turns off its AIS transmitter or changes its AIS reporting name near smuggling hotspots, it may be taking on contraband. And a ship with a well-established trading pattern that suddenly heads to a troubled region may be engaged in a new (and not entirely legitimate) line of business.

These behaviors are obvious when Ami Daniel, Windward’s CEO and co-founder, walks through a few examples in a live presentation. The novel development isn’t the signal pattern – it is the fact that his firm can automatically find it, without knowing which ships to examine in advance. It doesn’t matter if a vessel is operated by a reputable company or a known North Korean front – Windward’s system analyzes records for the entire fleet, and if a vessel looks suspicious, it gets flagged.

A few cases illustrate the potential of this approach. In Windward’s best-known example, a Cyprus-flagged reefer with a history of trading between Northern Europe and West Africa headed to a port in Ukraine – well outside its normal pattern. It returned towards the Strait of Gibraltar, but before passing through to the Atlantic, it lingered off of Algeria and Morocco for 12 days. It turned its AIS on and off multiple times in busy shipping lanes during this loitering period. Windward notes that this region is at high risk for the smuggling of arms and narcotics.

After passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, the vessel headed north towards Scotland, where it arrived on January 14. It loitered again for half a day in a small bay off the isle of Islay – an area without a port for a 4,200 dwt ship. Windward’s system flagged this behavior as a potential sign of a smuggling drop-off, though it is also possible that the ship anchored up to wait out foul weather or to time its arrival.

This particular case made headlines in the UK when Windward told media that hundreds of vessels with suspicious records entered British waters in the first two months of 2017. The story was picked up by the Global Mail, Sky News and the Daily Record, and Scottish politicians called on the authorities to look into the matter: “This requires investigation, certainly by the police and, I suspect, by the security authorities to clarify what’s going on,” said member of Scottish Parliament Mike Russell.

These results capture attention, and Daniel says that the firm is marketing the system’s abilities to multiple government agencies. The kind of smuggling/trafficking behavior that it can identify is often associated with organized crime and the financing of terrorism, so it has a great deal of appeal for intelligence applications as well as maritime security / maritime domain awareness. He suggests that for now, commercial users (traders, brokers and others) are not a target market, nor does he foresee branching out into similar offerings for trucking or air freight. Windward does one thing well – very well – and Daniel expects that it will invest in its core strength for some time to come. Original article published in The Maritime Executive.