EU – Import Control System 2 (ICS2)

The European Union makes it a top priority to ensure the security of its citizens and single market. Every year trillions of Euros worth of goods are imported into EU, with the EU-27 now accounting for around 15 % of the world’s trade in goods. The European Union is implementing a new customs pre-arrival security and safety programme, underpinned by a large-scale advance cargo information system – Import Control System 2 (ICS2). The programme is one of the main contributors towards establishing an integrated EU approach to reinforce customs risk management under the common risk management framework (CRMF).

The pre-arrival security and safety programme will support effective risk-based customs controls whilst facilitating free flow of legitimate trade across the EU external borders. It represents the first line of defence in terms of protection of the EU internal market and the EU consumers. The new programme will remodel the existing process in terms of IT, legal, customs risk management/controls and trade operational perspectives.

The EU’s new advance cargo information system ICS2 supports implementation of this new customs safety and security regulatory regime aimed to better protect single market and EU citizens. It will collect data about all goods entering the EU prior to their arrival. Economic Operators (EOs) will have to declare safety and security data to ICS2, through the Entry Summary Declaration (ENS). The obligation to start filing such declarations will not be the same for all EOs. It will depend on the type of services that they provide in the international movement of goods and is linked to the three release dates of ICS2 (15 March 2021, 1 March 2023, and 1 March 2024).

Advance cargo information and risk analysis will enable early identification of threats and help customs authorities to intervene at the most appropriate point in the supply chain.

ICS2 introduces more efficient and effective EU customs security and safety capabilities that will:

  • Increase protection of EU citizens and the internal market against security and safety threats;
  • Allow EU Customs authorities to better identify high-risk consignments and intervene at the most appropriate point in supply chain;
  • Support proportionate, targeted customs measures at the external borders in crisis response scenarios;
  • Facilitate cross-border clearance for the legitimate trade;
  • Simplify the exchange of information between Economic Operators (EOs) and EU Customs Authorities.

For more information on the ICS2 programme, refer to the EU Webpage here!

Source: European Union

Brazil launches national AI strategy

Brazil has launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, which aims to balance ethical use of the technology while boosting research and innovation in the sector.

Following a public consultation, which ran from December 2019 to March 2020, the strategy sets out six objectives. These include to: develop ethical principles that guide responsible use of AI; remove barriers to innovation; improve collaboration between government, the private sector and researchers; develop AI skills; promote investment in technologies; and advance Brazilian tech overseas.

Since Canada became the first country to adopt a national AI strategy in 2017, other governments have raced to develop policies that will reap the benefits of AI while curbing its harms. The OECD now tracks over 60 countries’ AI policy frameworks.

Brazil’s strategy notes that the state needs to encourage entrepreneurship in the sector. “In 2019, while the US invested US$224 million in AI startups, and China US$45 million, Brazil invested only $1 million,” it said.

Trust and ethics

Brazil has adopted the OECD’s five principles for responsible AI: inclusive growth, sustainable development and wellbeing; human-centered values and equity; transparency and responsible disclosure; robustness, security and safety; and accountability.

The strategy is organised into nine pillars or axes. The first pillar – “legislation, regulation, and ethical use” – is thematic and ensures that human rights are safeguarded and that strong regulatory frameworks are established. This includes a commitment to build ethical requirements into tenders for AI-driven solutions.

Another pillar – “qualifications for a digital future” – aims to “prepare current and future generations to cope with the changes and impacts of AI”. The strategy proposes a national digital literacy programme for students, and tech training for teachers, for example.

And a third pillar focuses on how AI can be applied to government for the benefit of citizens, including a commitment to implement AI in at least 12 of Brazil’s federal public services by 2022.

Big opportunities

The strategy is also ambitious about the possible commercial benefits of doubling down on AI.

One pillar of the strategy, for example, aims to identify productive sectors — such as financial services and the law — and applications, where AI would benefit to industry. It proposes fostering links between AI start-ups and SMEs.

And another pillar – “research, development, innovation and entrepreneurship” – points out that Brazil has a good national distribution of AI experts and practitioners, but that they mostly work in academia or the public sector, rather than in private tech firms.

Source: Global Government Forum, article by Josh Lowe, 13 April 2021

Tanzania – TRA uses app in bid to curb counterfeit stamps

The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) in Kilimanjaro Region is now using a mobile phone application to confirm the genuineness of Electronic Tax Stamps (ETS) on spirits that are sold in some bars.

The application provides information on whether the ETS on the drink product was genuine or fake.

This follows a recent request by residents of Kilimanjaro and Arusha, asking the taxman to work with other state agencies to investigate the presence of fake tax stamps in the market.

The TRA  regional manager for Kilimanjaro, Mr Gabriel Mwangosi, said yesterday the fake stamps will soon become a thing of the past because the ‘special devices’ have the capacity to verify the fake and genuine ones. “Some traders are buying these stamps from the streets without knowing if they are genuine or not,” he said.

Adding: “We have found some of them buying ETS stamps, which are not recognised by the TRA system. This is a major reason for us to come up with a tool that can help curb fakes,” he noted.

The taxman is friendly with traders because the two depend on each other, cautioning that those using the fake stamps will face the law.

“We provide them (traders) with education to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities of paying appropriate taxes and on time in order to avoid unnecessary penalties,” said Mr Mwangosi.

He stressed the ETS are mandatory for all traders, cautioning them to refrain from cheating.

“With these verifying devices, I can assure you (traders) and the resi-dents that no one will use fake stamps,” he noted.

Recently, TRA in Kilimanjaro Region reported to have arrested a man, Mr Kimario, in a deliberate effort to dismantle the network of individuals who engage in the distribution of fake ETS.

“He was arrested at his home. He would pocket Sh10,000 on every 100 fake stamps he sold to manufacturers. At times, he would issue a Sh2,000 discount and sell at Sh8,000. This is sabotage of our economy and revenue collec-tion efforts,” said Mr Mwangosi last Wednesday.

The government announced plans to adopt the ETS system in June 2018 and the first phase was conducted on January 15, 2019 whereby stamps were installed on 19 companies that produce alcohol, wine and spirits.

ETS seeks to boost transparency in the collection of excise duty, value-added tax (Vat) and corporate tax from manufacturers.

The ETS system enables the government to use modern technology to obtain production data on a timely basis (real time) from manufacturers.

Source: The Citizen (Tanzania), 16 March 2021

ICC and Partners Launch eTradeHub

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in partnership with West Blue Consulting, United Parcel Services (UPS), Trade Law Center (TRALAC) have officially launched the eTradeHubs portal, http://www.etradehubs.com.

The eTradeHubs portal is a one-stop for Trade Tools, Information & Collaboration which aims to reduce the time and cost of doing business by supporting businesses at all levels of maturity – the micro enterprise to the multinational.

Features

The portal which was virtually launched last week Thursday has features such as a multi country Tariff and Trade Information Tool and a Duty Calculator.

A first-time trader or existing trader wishing to import raw materials or export finished goods, can search on the portal.

The Duty Calculator further provides an estimate of the customs duty, tax and levies of the destination region or country to aid in financial and logistical planning.

eTradeHubs also provides a Trade Management Tool. Equipped with accurate trade information, the trader can proceed to transact, by generating trade compliant documentation, manage compliance, workflow and costs – all on the same platform, without the need to visit multiple regulatory agencies, entities, websites and physical offices as done previously.

The portal currently provides country data on Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and the ECOWAS sub region, with more countries and sub regions to be introduced in support of the Digitise 5 million African SMES initiative.

CC, UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) announced a partnership to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

The partners will offer capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portals called “e-Trade Hubs,” advocate for enabling public policy, and create electronic guidelines to help women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitise their businesses.

COVID-19

The Secretary General of ICC, Mr John W.H. Denton AO in his remarks said the economic, social, and health consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic had unequally impacted the lives and livelihoods of women business owners everywhere. 

“We are extremely proud to partner with UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting to level the playing field in Africa and provide women entrepreneurs with the required resources to digitise their businesses. Women-led businesses are the backbone of their local economies – we can’t afford to leave them behind,” he added,

The CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting,  noted that “The adoption of solutions by women in business and trade, will ensure benefits such as an increased ability for women to work from home whilst raising families; improved global market access, employment opportunities and a shift of women from the informal sector to the formal.

“The portal will provide a 24/7 collaborative space where women traders and entrepreneurs in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and of course their male peers can connect and access timely and up to date information, skills and operational tools, offered by various providers”, she added.

Information

Ms Mintah expressed delight to partner with ICC, UPS and TRALAC to provide the needed skills training, trade information and tools via the eTradeHubs portal http://www.etradehubs.com.

President of UPS, Ms Penny Naas, the International Public Affairs & Sustainability said “Research shows that only 1 out of 5 businesses that exports is led by a woman. At UPS, we’re moving our world forward by helping women-run businesses maximize their participation in trade through public-private partnerships that provide policy recommendations and support with knowledge sharing and building skills”.

 Executive Director of Tralac, Ms Trudi Hartzenberg, said the adoption of digital trade solutions for the AfCFTA would address many border management challenges that disproportionately impact women traders.

Source: GraphicOnline, 11 March 2021

International Customs Day 2021

Once again, the Customs community comes together, united in celebrating International Customs Day, which officially falls on 26 January of each year. This special day enables WCO Members, the WCO Secretariat and Customs’ worldwide partners to dedicate themselves to taking forward a particular theme. Thus, throughout 2021, under the slogan “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain,” the Customs community will be focusing on emerging from the global pandemic and support people and businesses by strengthening the global supply chain, reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting “people” at the centre of the transformation process.

Indeed, as Customs will be moving to reconstruction in the wake of COVID-19, Members will be invited to embrace digital transformation at the borders, paying particular attention to automation, the use of innovative technologies, and the adoption of collaborative approaches with all stakeholders along the supply chain.

Customs, being uniquely positioned and mandated at borders, can contribute to a sustainable supply chain in the following ways:

  • Reinforcing collaboration to drive the Recovery process. The economic impact of the pandemic on companies has been colossal, with considerable disruption of global supply chains. The herculean task of reconstruction cannot be undertaken in isolation, and the expertise of all border agencies and stakeholders will be a decisive factor. Customs will be called upon to demonstrate its leadership during this process, at the national and international levels. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that coordinated border management is possible, efficient, and can be further institutionalized at international and national levels. The sound implementation of the SAFE Framework of Standards, including the AEO standards and cooperation with other government agencies, appears to be a relevant focus in this context. Given the increase in e- commerce observed during the COVID-19 period, it would be timely for Members to implement the WCO E- Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce in order to address security and facilitation in the context of this emerging supply chain trend, in close collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Embracing advanced technologies to enable Renewal rather than return to how things were before. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of major innovative and technological concepts which the WCO has been promoting for years. These include all-digital and paperless clearance methods, and the use of technology for implementing effective controls and facilitating, enhancing and accelerating processes. Irrespective of the pandemic, Customs administrations have been sensitized – through specialized forums and conferences – about thebenefits that can be reaped from the integration of technologies based on the use of big data, telematics and the Cloud into Customs operations. Building on the lessons learned, Customs administrations should look at the way goods are cleared at borders from a fresh perspective. Non-intrusive inspection devices, blockchain, artificial intelligence, sensors and connected objects, and other technological advances offer tangible benefits in terms of collecting, combining, sharing and analysing data, and these benefits should be maximized.
  • Putting “people” at the centre of change for a Resilient and sustainable supply chain. In order to address the vulnerability of Customs to systemic risks such as pandemics, Customs administrations will be called upon to build on the lessons learned and ensure that no one is left behind as we move towards a deeper transformation. To create greater resilience, “people” should be at the centre of the recovery model. Citizens around the globe have changed their daily lives drastically to adapt to the new reality. By the same token, Customs are called upon to rethink and adapt the way they operate, and enhance the preparedness of their staff through awareness raising and capacity building for the provision of a professional service. At the same time, resilience cannot be achieved without integrity, diversity and inclusion. A lack of integrity in Customs can distort trade and investment opportunities, undermine public trust in government administration and ultimately jeopardize the wellbeing of citizens, which in times of recovery could prove to be a recipe for failure.

The WCO will continue to provide guidance, help to share best practices and information, and deliver capacity building and technical assistance support to Members for the achievement of the above goals.

As in previous years, I am fully convinced that Customs administrations and the wider Customs community will rise to the occasion, fully committed to actively promoting their efforts and activities aimed at bolstering “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience for a sustainable supply chain” that includes sharing relevant practices and activities with others at WCO meetings and in key WCO publications.

Wishing you all a happy International Customs Day!

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya

WCO Secretary General

26 January 2021

Australian Border Force launches blockchain trial with TradeTrust

The Australian Border Force (ABF) started a blockchain trial with Singapore Customs and the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for the digitalization of cross-border trade processes. The tests will use both the ABF-developed Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’a TradeTrust.While one of TradeTrust’s objectives is to enable interoperability, it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the announcement.

ABF’s trial will initially test digital verification for electronic Certificates of Origin the blockchain platforms and gather feedback from participants on their experience, a document with information regarding the product’s destination and country of export. Typically customs departments rely on this to assess import duties. The trial’s outcomes will be shared in the National Blockchain Roadmap’s Discovery Report

“In addition to our efforts internationally, this initiative will incorporate paperless trading and secure, digital exchange of trade information as part of the future architecture and design of an Australian Trade Single Window,” said Michael Outram, ABF Commissioner.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, and financial institutions in Singapore, such as ANZ will also be involved in the project. 

The Australian government recently announced the Simplified Trade Agenda, which aims to reform and digitize trade compliance processes. The Department of Agriculture is already working with Singapore on paperless trading for agricultural trade. ABF’s trial is another step towards the Agenda’s end goal. 

Meanwhile, the TradeTrust initiative was launched by Singapore’s government over two years ago with the purpose of strengthening Singapore’s competitiveness in international trading. Ultimately its goal is to enable interoperability for trade documentation. It has broad aims that include legal harmonization, developing standards as well as providing open-source software solutions.

Ten months ago, global organizations, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), signed a cooperation agreement to develop the TradeTrust blockchain framework. 

Source: Ledger Insights, 26 November, 2020

Data is King!

Two recent articles reaching my desk reiterate the importance of clean and standardised Customs data. Without this, any real benefits to be derived from the latest and future technologies will not be fully achieved. Downstream, a country’s economy depends on this data for accurate analysis, forecasting and policy-making. Similarly, the business community relies on accurate information to assist in better business and investment decisions.

During the 15th PICARD Conference held during 23-26 November 2020, ‘World Customs Journal Special Edition’ was introduced. The first paper of the special edition is based on the keynote speech which was given at the 14th PICARD Conference in October 2019 titled “Data Science: Policy Implications for Customs”.

The paper referred to is titled –

“If algorithms dream of Customs, do customs of cialsdreamofalgorithms?A manifesto for data mobilisation in Customs

The Abstract of the document reads as follows –

“Governance by data is a growing global trend, supported by strong national public policies whose foundation is open data, artificial intelligence and decision-making supported by algorithms. Despite this trend and some technical advances, Customs face obstacles in deploying ambitious data use policies. This article describes these challenges through recent experience in some Customs administrations and considers the technical and ethical issues speci c to all law enforcement agencies in the context of customs missions, to open paths for research and propose policy recommendations for a better use of customs data.”

The second matter is perhaps more directed towards Africa. TRALAC Newsletter, of October 2002 titled “Trade and Related Matters discusses the importance of data, specifically now with the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021.

The article considers more than just Customs trade data relating to goods. It envisages trade in services data as just as important to ensure a holistic approach –

“Trade-related data includes not only recorded values and volumes of goods trade among countries, but also data on services trade, non-tariff measures and barriers, tariffs, informal trade, trade restrictiveness, macro-economic conditions (like gross domestic product), micro-economic data (industry/firm-level data including employment, sales, profits and prices) and investment. This data is utilised by governments to make public policy decisions including the formulation of industrial, agriculture, trade and economic growth policies, strategies and regulations; trade negotiations strategies; merger and acquisition reviews; assessments of anti-competitive practices and determinations in trade remedy cases and applications for changes in tariffs. Businesses use trade information, such as tariffs in destination markets, applicable non-tariff measures, transportation costs and trade restrictiveness in combination with macro-economic indicators, firm-level data and market information to make investment, trade and market development decisions, and also to lodge trade remedy and tariff review applications and to inform their participation in public-private forums.”

The Newsletter continues to explain the notable improvements in data and reporting oer the last decade –

“Although trade and trade-related data has various uses, it needs to be useful, reliable and accurate information which is publicly available (except in the case of confidential information). This is the area where most African countries have historically fallen short although there has been some significant progress over the last decade. Initially, African trade data was only available on subscription databases and only for a select number of countries (like South Africa, Kenya and Egypt) and limited to trade in goods. There was a lack in published tariff schedules and data pertaining to non-tariff measures, investment, informal trade and services. In recent years, the availability of some data has improved significantly, especially for goods trade.

  • African countries are now increasingly publishing their statistics on websites of national statistics authorities and notifying their national data to the United Nations (UN). This data includes data on formal goods trade, aggregate services trade, non-tariff measures, tariffs, investment and some market information. The quality of the data has also improved as most countries now extensively verify the data prior to publication and submission. Increased access enables organisations like the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and International Trade Centre (ITC) to obtain, collate and publish trade data in databases like the ITC TradeMap and MacMap and the WTO trade portal.
  • As part of the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, many countries are establishing trade portals. Southern and eastern African countries that already have functioning portals include Seychelles, Eswatini, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Some portals contain detailed information on import and export requirements by specified product, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, port of entry and applicable tariffs. The trade portals of countries in east Africa, including Uganda and Rwanda provide details of import or export processes including the trade costs such as inspection charges, and indicate the waiting time to complete the different steps.
  • Once fully operational, the African Trade Observatory (ATO) will contribute significantly to the availability of African trade data and capacity building. The ATO will collect and analyse trade and trade-related qualitative and quantitative data and information, establish a database for African trade; monitor implementation and evaluate the implementation process and impact of the AfCFTA and the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT); and equip national governments and businesses to analyse and use of trade and related data.
  • There is increasing awareness of the effect of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on intra-Africa trade. More information is available in the public domain through industry/product/sector studies, the trade cost database of the World Bank and the online non-tariff barrier mechanisms of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area, the Borderless Alliance (west Africa) and the new AfCFTA mechanism.
  • Informal trade is recognised as a major component of intra-Africa trade and this is not captured in formal trade statistics. There are a number of initiatives to gather data on informal cross-border trade (ICBT), including studies by UNECAand ongoing work by the Bank of Uganda which has been conducting surveys and reporting ICBT data since 2005.

Although there have been improvements in intra-Africa trade data, there is room for improvement.”

USA & Singapore – Letter of Intent to Explore Single Window Connectivity

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Singapore Customs signed a historic letter of intent today that will enable closer cooperation in the areas of trade facilitation, revenue protection and risk management.

Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Trade Brenda Smith signed the letter of intent in Washington, DC on behalf of CBP and Deputy Director-General Lim Teck Leong signed the letter of intent in Singapore on behalf of Singapore Customs.

The Letter of Intent to Explore Single Window Connectivity between Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform (NTP) and the U.S. Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) formalizes the United States’ and Singapore’s commitment to sharing trade data and to exploring the possible connection of the two countries’ national Single Windows for trade facilitation. Single Windows are electronic systems that automate and expedite the processing of import and export data by allowing traders to input standardized information in a single entry point to fulfill all import and export requirements. In doing so, Single Windows reduce costs, enhance accountability and improve collaboration among government agencies and the trade community.   

“We value the opportunity for transparency and cooperation that a shared Single Window will bring,” said Executive Assistant Commissioner Smith. “Government-to-government data sharing is rapidly becoming an important component of efficient and secure trade, and CBP looks forward to working with Singapore Customs on this forward thinking approach to trade facilitation.”

“The signing of this letter of intent signifies the first step towards trade data connectivity between the two Customs administrations, and reinforces our commitment to maintain the security of international supply chains, while facilitating legitimate trade,” said Deputy Director-General Lim. 

The letter of intent follows the successful negotiation of the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement in 2004 and builds on the Authorized Economic Operator-Mutual Recognition Agreement and the Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement concluded by CBP and Singapore Customs in 2014. These efforts support the principles, standards and objectives of the World Customs Organization Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade.

The collaboration between CBP and Singapore Customs complements the United States’ continued engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Window Steering Committee on trade facilitative data exchange and Single Window connectivity/interoperability. Singapore is an active member of ASEAN and the ASEAN Single Window. 

In 2019, two-way trade in goods between the United States and Singapore totaled $57.6 billion, making Singapore the United States’ 17th largest trading partner and its second-largest trading partner in ASEAN. 

Source: US Customs and Border Protection, 10 November 2020

TradeLens – Youredi to offer data connectivity services between supply chain entities

Building on the TradeLens network connectivity Youredi has provided since 2018, 3PLs, shippers and cargo owners can now use their software integration services to connect quickly and flexibly to the TradeLens platform. The Youredi Integration service, is an offering that integrates seamlessly and easily with a wide variety of TMS, ERPs and other supply chain and logistics applications, whether on premise or cloud-based.

Permissioned data sharing across the maritime industry, improving the speed of data connectivity between different stakeholders, plus the need to digitalize and automate workflow processes has been a pain point for the industry for decades.

Youredi will support BCOs, 3PLs, carriers, freight forwarders, ports and terminals, authorities, customs brokers, and any other stakeholders to connect with the TradeLens platform rapidly with a predictable cost, effort and time commitment. Connecting different stakeholders with the platform will create a more transparent container shipping industry in which all parties can collaborate and trust each other.

The Youredi solution takes care of the data translation, so you can always send and receive data in your preferred data standard or format. The solution can work both with structured (rich data) and unstructured (PDFs, scans, images) data. Whenever required, Youredi can also provide data validation and data enrichment logic.

More information about the service available at Youredi TradeLens Connectivity.

Source: TradeLens

EC – Proposes ‘Single Window’ to modernise and streamline customs

The European Commission has today proposed a new initiative that will make it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders, who will be able to submit the information required for import or export of goods only once. The so-called ‘EU Single Window Environment for Customs‘ aims to enhance cooperation and coordination between different authorities, in order to facilitate the automatic verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU.

The Single Window aims to digitalise and streamline processes, so that businesses will ultimately no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. Today’s proposal is the first concrete deliverable of the recently adopted Action Plan on taking the Customs Union to the next level. It launches an ambitious project to modernise border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies.

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy, said: “Digitalisation, globalisation and the changing nature of trade present both risks and opportunities when it comes to goods crossing the EU’s borders. To rise to these challenges, customs and other competent authorities must act as one, with a more holistic approach to the many checks and procedures needed for smooth and safe trade. Today’s proposal is the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment and better cooperation between all authorities at our external borders. I urge all Member States to play their part in making it a true success story.”

Each year, the Customs Union facilitates the trade of more than €3.5 trillion worth of goods. Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of having agile yet robust customs processes, and this will become ever more important as trade volumes keep on increasing and new challenges related to digitalisation and e-commerce, such as new forms of fraud, emerge.

Currently, the formalities required at the EU’s external borders often involve many different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage and market surveillance and product compliance. As a result, businesses have to submit information to several different authorities, each with their own portal and procedures. This is cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way in combatting risks.

Today’s proposal is the first step in creating a digital framework for enhanced cooperation between all border authorities, through one Single Window. The Single Window will enable businesses and traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual Member State, thereby reducing duplication, time and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to collectively use this data, allowing for a fully coordinated approach to goods clearance and a clearer overview at EU level of the goods that are entering or leaving the EU. 

This is an ambitious project that will entail significant investment at both EU and Member State level, in order to be fully implemented over the next decade or so. The Commission will support Member States in this preparation, where possible, including through funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to enable them to reap the full, long-term benefits of the Single Window. 

Source: European Commission, 28 October 2020

UN Special Recommendation No.33 – Guidelines for Single Window : 2020 Edition

In many countries, companies involved in international trade must prepare and submit large volumes of information and documents to governmental authorities to comply with import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements. Often, this information and documentation must be submitted to several different agencies, each with their own specific (manual or automated) systems and paper forms. These extensive requirements, together with their associated compliance costs, can constitute a serious burden to both Governments and the business community and represents a serious barrier to the development of international trade.

One approach to addressing this problem is the establishment of a Single Window federating all relevant government administrations whereby all trade related information and/or documents need only be submitted once at a single entry point. This can enhance the availability and handling of information, expedite and simplify information flows between trade and government and can result in greater harmonization and sharing of the relevant data across governmental systems, bringing meaningful gains to all parties involved in cross-border trade. The use of such a facility can result in the improved efficiency and effectiveness of official controls and can reduce costs for both Governments and traders due to better use of resources.

The Single Window is therefore a practical application of trade facilitation concepts meant to reduce non-tariff trade barriers.

Download the Guidelines here!

Source: United Nations

Nigeria – Huawei, Smiths Detection, Bionica win concession for $3.1bn Customs modernisation project

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday ratified the $3.1 billion anticipatory approval by President Muhammadu Buhari to concession the modernisation project of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to a consortium named Messers E.Customs HC Project Limited. The concession is for 20 years.

The consortium is made up of Bionica Technologies W.A. Limited, Huawei, Smiths Detection, Nuctech of China, Larsen & Toubro Group, and Paramount Group.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday, said the project will be at zero cost to the Federal Government since the $3.1 billion being proposed for the project will be sourced by the concessionaire.

She said, “The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning presented a memo, which is for the ratification of Mr. President’s anticipatory approval for the contract for the Customs modernisation.

“The purpose of the memo we presented to Council was for a project that will enable the complete automation of the Nigeria Custom Service processes and procedures using the application and information and technology in all aspects of Customs administration in favour of a firm known as E. Customs HC Projects Nigeria Limited For a concessionary period of 20 years.

“The main objective of this project is to completely automate every aspect of the Customs business and to institutionalise the use of smart and emerging technologies that will enhance the statutory function of the Nigeria Customs Service in the areas of revenue generation as well as trade facilitation and enhancement of security. The total cost of the project is in the sum of $3.1 billion. The consortium, the PPP group that has been approved are led by Messers Y Technologies with four other members.

“The committee that led this process also looked at the National Trade Impact process that has been going on for years and confirmed that the Nigerian e-customs project is a subset of the National Trade Impact and would prefer the Nigeria Customs to play its role in the national trading platform.

“The Bionica Technologies West Africa Limited, Bargain Securities and Supplies Nigeria Limited, these are lead sponsor and co-sponsor. We also have The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) as the lead financier and Huawei Technology as a technical service provider.

“So, the council today, ratified Mr. President’s approval for the PPP concession for a 20-year period to Messers E. Customs HC Project Limited as a concessionaire for the delivery of customs modernisation project. This is a project that will not have an immediate cost to the government, the investors are providing all of the financings and this revenue will be deployed in three phases in the concessionary period of 20 years.

“The Nigeria Customs currently has some level of automation services but it is not all of its serves that are automated. This is an end-to-end automation of all of Nigeria Customs Service processes and it’s going to bring huge value to the country. So this investment of $3.1 billion is broken down into capital investment of $1.2 billion which will be done in three phases over 36 months by these investors and $1.1 billion is our projection of the operational cost over the 20-year period of the implementation of the project.

“This project has the potential to yield up to $176 billion of revenue and the consortia that are providing this investment are going to be paid over time according to the schedule that is negotiated for their investments including their profits and cost.

“So this is the best possible way for Nigeria to roll out an important capital project using funds from the private sector and providing service for the use of Nigerian people and the government.”

Asked if with the project Customs would overtake petroleum as a source of revenue for the country, the Minister said it was part of the diversification plan of government.

According to her, “We hope that at some point those revenues from oil will begin to be insignificant compared to revenue from the non-oil sector in the Nigerian economy. That is our aspiration and that is the true meaning of diversification.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in his explanation said, “The key point is that it is not costing the Federal Government one thing, the $3.1 billion being proposed will be sourced by the sponsors and the partners.”

15 companies were pre-qualified and were all invited to make presentations on their solutions to enable Nigeria realise its vision of attaining complete automation of its Customs operations and enthroning best practice methods as obtained in advanced countries.

Bionica Technologies W.A. Limited was the preferred bidder after a rigorous evaluation process. Bionica presented its bid together with a consortium namely, Huawei, Smiths Detection, Nuctech of China, Larsen & Toubro Group, and Paramount Group. The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) is both an equity investor and the Mandated Lead Arranger (MLA), which will facilitate loan syndication with foreign and local banks.

Source: Ships and Ports, September 2002

MSC to accelerate e-B/L roll-out in India after successful pilot

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has announced it will accelerate efforts to promote an electronic Bill of Lading (e-B/L) across the maritime industry in response to the crisis brought on by COVID-19. 

In a statement, the carrier said it has been running a pilot scheme alongside its third-party blockchain platform WAVE to introduce the e-BL in India since late-2019. 

MSC’s customers continued to ship goods by using what it called the “reliable and secure digital platform for the fast transfer of trade-related documents”, even through throughout the pandemic, the company said. 

The pandemic caused a drop in TEU volume across the world but as China has resumed exports, congestion has hurt port operations, particularly in India.

The problem has been exacerbated by lockdown measures forcing people to work remotely which has led to vital documents such as the Bill of Lading (BL) being incomplete. 

To mitigate this problem, MSC has said it will offer the WAVE e-BL solution to streamline affected operations and ensure continuity of service.

In the pre-COVID, paper-based process, it would take days for the BL to travel from origin to destination, physically changing hands several times along the way.

“We have had situations where couriers were unable to deliver documents between ports, trade offices and banks due to quarantine measures,” relates Capt. Deepak Tewari, Managing Director at MSC India.

“WAVE mirrors the paper-based process that the shipping and cargo transportation industry is used to, only without physical couriers. 

“Thus, it’s an ideal solution to implement at a time when our customers need to rapidly adjust their processes, as the learning curve is quite low.” he adds.

Captain Deepak Tewari, MSC, also commented: “We have been working with WAVE on introducing and piloting an e-BL solution since 2019. We ran successful pilot projects with some of our customers last year, where we saw first-hand the benefits which arise from digitalising this part of the process. 

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we decided to accelerate our roll-out and offer the e-B/L solution to our broader base of customers.” 

Gadi Ruschin, CEO at WAVE, comments: “Our mission since founding WAVE has been to transform the efficiency and security of international trade documentation through our robust digitisation protocol. 

“We now see ourselves as ‘mission critical’ to ensuring trade can continue as physical movement of people and the paper they carry has been shuttered across the world. It couldn’t come at a more critical time as countries rely on trade to fight COVID-19 and save their economies. 

“We launched this unique onboarding effort to help MSC swiftly onboard stakeholders and navigate the challenges while preparing the carrier to flourish once conditions normalise.”

MSC claimed its e-BL solution can cut BL transit time from days to minutes, without the need for physical contact. The e-B/L is sent using WAVE’s blockchain-based system, which uses distributed ledger technology to ensure that all parties can issue, transfer, endorse and manage trade-related documents through a secure, decentralised network.

Source: Porttechnology, 10 September 2020

U.K. Starts Research on Brexit Customs System Due in Four Months

Marcin Jozwiak – Uplash

The British government has started to conduct research on its new post-Brexit customs IT system, with four months left before the service is due to go live.

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, which is in charge of handling the new customs paperwork that will apply to UK-EU trade from 2021, has invited hauliers to participate in rounds of remote-user testing in the coming months for its Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS), according to a memo to the freight forwarding industry.

The GVMS – which is set to be used to police cross-Irish Sea trade from Jan 1 2021, and then all UK-EU goods flows from July – will give freight companies a unique reference number that proves that they have filed the necessary post-Brexit paperwork, such as customs declarations.

Without a reference from the GVMS, trucks will not be allowed to cross between the UK and EU.

The fact that the GVMS is still in the research and design phase less than 90 working days before it is due to be introduced is a cause for concern in the logistics industry: one freight forwarder, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said they are worried the service won’t be completed and functional on time.

The new system will be required even if Britain and the EU sign a free-trade agreement.

And while consultation with the industry is welcome, it would have been preferable to do such research during the system design process, said Anna Jerzewska, founder of Trade and Borders, a customs and trade consultancy.

“The Government has made it clear that GVMS is unlikely to be ready for January 1 and as far as we understand there will be back-up procedures in place,” she said.

“It will be crucial to ensure that such alternatives are available in places where traffic management will be important,” she said, citing Kent and the Irish Sea.

In the memo, HMRC says it wants to start the first round of testing “ASAP” due to the shortage of time.

The tests will involve hour-long video calls where hauliers try prototypes and give feedback.

“When designing a system that the industry will be using, it is important we work in partnership with them to make sure it suits their and our needs,” HMRC said by email.

“We will continue to develop our systems in readiness for the end of the transition period and when full border controls are implemented from July 2021.”

Source: Bloomberg, article authored by Joe Mayes, 28 August 2020

Maersk launches Maersk Flow, a digital supply chain management platform

To further assist small and medium sized businesses with the complexity of managing their supply chains, Maersk is launching Maersk Flow – a digital platform which provides customers and their partners with everything they need to take control of their supply chain, from factory to market.

The solution enables transparency in critical supply chain processes and ensures that the flow of goods and documents is executed as planned. It also reduces manual work and costly mistakes, while empowering logistics professionals with all the current and historical data they need to sustainably improve their supply chain.

The daily life of small and medium sized businesses is increasingly global, complex and fast-paced. Every day thousands of products are moving through the supply chain, on multiple carriers, coming from and reaching many supply chain partners and customers. And for many of these companies this complexity is managed fully manually via spreadsheets, emails and phone calls, which despite lots of hard work is leading to reduced visibility and control – and ultimately higher costs or lost sales. With Maersk Flow these companies will be able to take control of their supply chains.

Maersk Flow further extends Maersk’s customer reach and strengthens the company’s position as an industry leader in digital solutions.

Maersk Flow facilitates the uninterrupted flow of information, cargo, and documentation to empower you and your partners to take the right action at the right time. Its unique features give you convenience and bring coherence to your everyday operations, so that you can optimise your supply chain logistics and refocus your resources on delivering value to your customers. The tool will assist with –

  • Purchase Order Management
  • Booking Management
  • Reporting and Performance
  • Document Sharing
  • Visibility

For more information you can visit: https://www.maersk.com/solutions/supply-chain/maersk-flow