Customs 2013 – the Year of Innovation

web_innovationWhile contemplating next year’s challenges and opportunities, I suppose it’s not a bad time to reflect on the WCO‘s theme for Customs Inc. in 2013. The Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, is pleased to announce that 2013 will be dedicated to promoting innovation under the slogan “Innovation for Customs progress”. He believes that WCO Members and their partners will have the opportunity to promote innovative ideas and practices that they have implemented, new partnerships that they have developed, as well as creative solutions and technologies that they have adopted. Customs and its stakeholders are urged to be innovative and creative in taking forward the innovation theme in all its facets throughout 2013.

The Year of innovation will be launched on International Customs Day, celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.

Considering the age of the WCO (CCC), I thought the pictures below might conjure up some yesteryear profiles of male and female customs officers. These come from a book A Ladybird ‘Easy-Reading’ Book – ‘People at Work’ – The CUSTOMS OFFICER, which was around when I was a youngster in primary school. Needless to say, the content is perhaps meaningless where the period ‘gate-keeper’ approach to customs control has since been superseded by ‘automated risk management’, i.e. where a computer tells a customs officer what to search for, or what is suspicious or worthwhile expending energy on. Passenger processing has likewise seen a revolution in technology aids and controlled procedures. In many places it is the biometric reader which ‘facilitates’ expedited passenger/traveller processing. While verbal interrogation is still used it is merely a ‘level’ in the ‘layered’ approach in the modern customs risk management process. X-ray body scanners and drug-loo’s complete the customs officer’s enforcement toolkit. Yet, it still takes the ingenuity of a customs officer (and many instances his detector dog) to raise the ‘portcullis’ on crime.

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  1. Hi Mike,

    Great inspirational article to start the new year off. It also motivates to do even more and support the WCO theme for Customs in 2013 – Even to improve on the present SA Customs Operations Detector Dog capacity and capability to detected hidden narcotics, explosives, firearms, ammunition, endangered species, copper wire, tobacco products, cell phones and currency (dual trained) in any mode of transport, cargo, containers, mail, luggage, rail and buildings!

    Season Greetings,

    Hugo Taljaard


    1. Thx Hugo, there has been a significant interest indicated by readers in joining the dog unit. Can I refer them directly to you, or could you provide me an appropriate channel for these good people to liaise with the SARSS DDG Unit. Thanks my friend


      1. Hi Mike,

        The Detector Dog Unit expansion project in SA makes provision for internal recruitment for now…..
        They are however most welcome to contact me via mail for more info.

  2. Happy New Year Mike – and a good post.

    On you last point, agree that technology is an aid, but secondary to an officers experience and intuition. I believe that the automated tools serve to focus the officers attention, and help them become more effective in looking for non-compliance and fraud. The biggest concern is of course, an ageing workforce in many agencies, means that a lot of this experience and intuition is being lost, hence the reliance on technology, and the need for more innovation.


    p.s. love the old book and pictures. Would love to get an electronic copy of the book if you can share it?


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