Archives For Information Technology

WCO Transit GuidelinesYes, the info junkie I am – this is what I was really after! The WCO chose to delay the real stuff. The WCO has published its Transit Guidelines, and a substantial compendium its is. Click here to access/download the file (5,4MB)! The WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya, has noted the possibility of developing a separate publication on transit encompassing national or regional best practices.

At the recent conference on transit, particular attention was given to the difficulties faced by landlocked developing countries.  During a special session on the issue, the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), several concrete suggestions were made on how to turn land-lockedness into land-linkedness.  The Director General of Paraguay Customs indicated that trade transactions in his country incur 30% additional costs due to Paraguay’s geographical limitations.  The Representative from UN-OHRLLS confirmed that on average, LLDCs bear up to 40 % additional costs on trade transactions.  The investment being made in hard infrastructure, such as roads, rail infrastructure, intermodal logistical hubs and dry inland ports, remains one of the main priorities in order to improve the situation.  Participants confirmed the need for harmonization and simplification of border control procedures, as well as the promotion of ICT for the management of transit systems.  This is of significant importance to LLDCs in Africa of which there are eight!.

Representatives from  several of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities present at the Conference, such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), also highlighted the need to ensure that establishment functioning legal frameworks are in place to address the main challenges of regional transit regimes.

The use of existing information and communication technology (ICT) solutions was also raised at the Conference.  Today, numerous technologies are available to secure the movement of goods, such as electronic Customs seals which are actively used on containers transported from China to Europe and have proved to be reliable and efficient.  The regional electronic tracking system used for goods transiting between Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda was also mentioned as a successful project resulting from cooperation between neighbouring Customs administrations.  The Representative from ECOWAS informed participants that work has started to connect the IT systems of ECOWAS Members.  Regarding the challenges related to interconnectivity, the benefits of global implementation of the WCO Data Model were pointed out.

Railway transport is playing an increasingly important role in moving goods between countries in Eurasia, as explained by the Representatives from China and Russia Customs as well as the Representative from the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF).  It was pointed out that block trains now bring goods from China to Europe through Russia and Central Asian countries within a fortnight; four times faster than via maritime routes.  It is worth nothing that in the absence of a global instrument regulating the movement of trains across borders, which would obviously be of benefit to transit operations, bilateral agreements are the norm.

Transit systems, such as the European Union’s New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), the Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) and relatively new transit facilitation initiatives in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), were also discussed in detail.  Turkey, a user of two transit systems – NCTS and TIR – highlighted the importance of digitalization of the transit processes and explained its involvement in the e-TIR project aimed at providing an exchange platform for all actors (Customs authorities, holders and guarantee chains) involved in the TIR system.  In this regard, Turkey has participated in two pilot projects with two neighbouring countries, namely Georgia and Iran. Source: the WCO

Blockchain

T-Mining is currently working on a pilot project that will make container handling in the port of Antwerp more efficient and secure. Using blockchain technology, processes that involve several parties – carriers, terminals, forwarders, hauliers, drivers, shippers etc. – are securely digitised without any central middleman being involved.

Just getting a container from point A to point B frequently involves more than 30 different parties, with an average of 200 interactions between them. Given that many of these interactions are carried out by e-mail, phone and even (still, nowadays) by fax, paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport.

“We aim to do something about this,” says Nico Wauters, CEO of T-Mining. This Antwerp start-up has developed a solution for a recognised problem in the port. When a container arrives in the port it is collected from the terminal by a truck driver or shipper. To ensure that the right person picks up the right container a PIN code is used. However, the PIN code is transmitted via a number of parties, which of course is not without risk. Somebody with bad intentions can simply copy the PIN code, which naturally can cause great problems.

“We have developed a very secure solution for this,” explains Nico Wauters. “Currently, when we want to transfer a valuable object we generally make use of a trusted intermediary to carry out the transfer. For instance, when you want to sell a house the notary not only carries out all the paperwork but also ensures that the money lands safely in your bank account while the buyer receives full title to the property, without any unpleasant surprises for either party. But this intermediary naturally does not work for free, and furthermore the additional step causes extra delay.”

The blockchain solution overcomes these issues, permitting safer and faster transfer of valuable objects, fully digitally and without a middleman. “With our blockchain platform the right truck driver is given clearance to collect a particular container, without any possibility of the process being intercepted. Furthermore our blockchain platform uses a distributed network, so that the transaction can go ahead only if there is consensus among all participating parties, thus excluding any attempts at fraud or undesired manipulations.”

A pilot project is currently running in the port of Antwerp with a limited number of parties. “We want to test whether it all works smoothly in practice,” says Nico Wauters. “Together with PSA, MSC, a forwarder and a transporter, we ensure secure handling of the first containers on our blockchain platform. Thanks to the City of Antwerp we even have an office in Singapore where we are working hard to introduce our solution there too. Our ambition is to serve the first paying customers by the end of this year,” Nico Wauters concludes. Source: Port of Antwerp

Customs and Border Protection is analyzing the distance between travelers’ eyes and the width of their foreheads to better track international travelers.

This week the agency began using facial recognition technology at Bush Intercontinental Airport on one daily flight departing Houston for Tokyo.

“The use of biometrics is approaching an almost everyday type of experience,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company. “It’s much more common now than it was 10 to 20 years ago.”

Similar technology is increasingly used everywhere. For instance, fingerprints are used to unlock phones and access secure banking information. Facebook can automatically recognize and tag friends in photos. And a variety of airport entities, ranging from airlines to the Transportation Security Administration, also are using biometric data to enhance security and expedite traveling.

Some still question the reliability of facial recognition technology, but it has evolved over the years and continues improving.

Delta and JetBlue recently announced collaborations with Customs and Border Protection to integrate facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process. And Customs began piloting its own facial recognition technology in June 2016 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The technology then was rolled out at Washington Dulles International Airport in May 2017, and seven additional airports will receive the technology in the next several months.

Customs “sees potential for the technology to transform the travel process provided privacy issues can be addressed,” an agency spokesperson said in an email.

“The use of biometrics to confirm identity from the beginning to the end of travel has the potential to reduce the frequency travelers have to present travel documents throughout the airport.”

Currently, the system takes pictures of individual travelers right before they board an international flight. That photo is then compared with a flight-specific photo gallery Customs and Border Protection created using travel documents passengers provided to the airline.

Officials say capturing this type of biometric information will ensure travelers aren’t lying about their identity. And the agency spokesperson emphasized that Customs worked closely with its privacy office. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the photo of that traveler – having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen – is discarded after a short period of time.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any resistance by consumers to this,” Harteveldt said, “provided they’re given very clear explanations about what information is being collected, why it’s being collected and a high-level understanding of the safeguards that will be taken to keep their biometrics data safe and secure.”

 Opinions vary on whether capturing such data from departing travelers will boost security or hurt airlines’ on-time performance. But the point is moot. Laws requiring exit control have been on the books for many years.

“It is already required by law, and it has taken way too long to implement an effective exit technology,” said Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that pushes for stricter immigration controls.

He said monitoring foreign travelers as they leave the U.S. helps enforce immigration laws. And if visitors enter the country legally but officials later realize they pose a threat, this exit system will tell officials if they are still in the U.S.

Harteveldt, however, said passport and visa information is already collected when travelers leave the country. He doesn’t believe biometrics are needed.”I’m just not sure it adds a lot of value to the exit process,” he said.

But compared with fingerprint technology, Harteveldt said facial scanning can be faster and cleaner. There’s no need to touch anything. Customs officers at Bush Intercontinental began taking the fingerprints of some departing international travelers in 2015.

Anthony Roman, president of global investigation and risk management firm Roman & Associates, said the best type of security is layered and uses cross-verification, such as a Customs and Border Protection officer checking passports, fingerprinting machines and facial recognition technology.

As for the latter, he said developers claim to have solved problems found in the older facial recognition technology. These past problems included false readings caused by a shadow on the face, blinking at the wrong time or even grimacing. Algorithms were also slow at processing the data.

The new technology is supposed to be faster and more accurate. “Whether that’s true or not, time will tell,” Roman said.

Arthur is still waiting to see that facial recognition technology is as reliable as fingerprinting. He wants to know the number of false positives and if facial recognition technology is affected by haircuts, beards or glasses.

They both agree, however, that the vigilance is warranted.

“Our technology needs to keep evolving,” Roman said. “We need to keep changing what we’re doing. It makes it more difficult for the insurgents to create long-term research and development projects to overcome existing technology.” Source: Houston Chronicle

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

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.

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

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.

International trading involves many participants all around the globe. These participants may not necessarily have the needed trust of all parties, especially at the initial stages, when newcomers join the trade. Blockchain can provide the needed trust to capture key transaction activities as immutable records, as well as storing and sharing encrypted legal and financial documents.

Visibility of transaction records and documents are tightly controlled by blockchain, permitting sharing only among entrusted and allowed parties. In this demo, IBM demonstrates how blockchain may support such an application.

The blockchain solution being built by the two companies is expected to be made available to the ocean shipping industry later this year, according to a joint statement from International Business Machines Corp and the container unit of A.P. Moller-Maersk. It would help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers globally by digitizing the supply chain process from end to end.

This will enhance transparency and make the sharing of information among trading partners more secure.

When adopted at scale, the solution based on the Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger platform has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars, the companies said.

“Working closely with Maersk for years, we’ve long understood the challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry and quickly recognized the opportunity for blockchain to provide massive savings when used broadly across the ocean shipping industry ecosystem,” said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, industry platforms, at IBM.

IBM and Maersk intend to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities to build the new global trade digitization product, the companies said.

The product is also designed to help reduce or eliminate fraud and errors and minimize the time products spend in the transit and shipping process.

For instance, Maersk found that in 2014, just a simple shipment of refrigerated goods from East Africa to Europe can go through nearly 30 people and organizations, including more than 200 different communications among them.

The new blockchain solution would enable the real-time exchange of original supply chain transactions and documents through a digital infrastructure that connects the participants within the network, according to IBM and Maersk. Source: Reuters

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 13.18.00The recent WCO publication of a Study Report on E-Commerce is based on a short survey answered by the Organization’s Members. The Report compiles Customs administrations’ practices as well as their ongoing and/or future initiatives related to the processing of cross-border low-value e-commerce.

Current practices, issues and challenges as well as initiatives and potential solutions are presented in each of the survey sections: Facilitation; Risk Management; Data Exchange/Cooperation with E-Commerce Operators; Control and Enforcement; Revenue Collection. Case studies are also widely used throughout the document to illustrate specific practices.

The survey was undertaken as part of the WCO Work Plan on Cross-Border E-Commerce aimed at addressing cross-cutting issues in relation to e-commerce and coming up with practical solutions for the facilitated clearance of low-value shipments, including appropriate duty/tax collection mechanisms and control procedures.

An overview of the WCO’s work so far, including tools, reports and interim recommendations issued by the WCO Working Group on E-Commerce (WGEC), as well as work to be completed in the future, is available here. Source: WCO

wco-icd2017As national Customs administrations and border agencies celebrate International Customs Day, no doubt showcasing their recent ICT endeavours, it is good to reflect not only on the available standards and tools which are becoming more available to Customs and Border Management Agencies.

The WCO spearheads and supports several initiatives aimed at fostering increased coperation and collaboration between member states under the banner of ‘Digital Customs’. In the post security era, throught is capacity building arm, the WCO champions global development of its Digital Customs concept and strategy. The WCO’s work programme in this regard covers a broad area of focus, for example:

  • to support the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement,
  • the updating of related WCO instruments and tools,
  • ongoing promotion and maintainance of the WCO Data Model,
  • monitoring of new and emerging technological developments (3D printing, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Drones and Blockchain),
  • promotion of e-services and apps,
  • exchange of information between stakeholders nationally and accross borders, and
  • promotion of the Single Window concept.

For most customs and border administrators, they have somewhere heard of, or to some extent are aware of the ‘buzz words’. The various chapters of the WCO through the working groups provide up-to-date developments in all facets on developments in the modern Customs operating and global trade environment. These are ably supported by several internal business organisations and umbrella associations adding credence to the developmental work and ultimately the standards, policies and guidelines published by the WCO.

In this modern era of uncertainty – global political and socio-economic risks – International Customs Day should be a combined celebration not only for Customs, but moreover, the associated supply chain industries and business intermediaries. If there was no trade in goods there would be no Customs or WCO. Without the providers of ‘big data’ there would be no need for data analysis. Without illicit activities there would be no need for expensive enforcement technology and equipment and the application of risk management.

Thanks to an imperfect and unequal world the WCO, through its association with the world’s customs authorities, big business and ICT service providers is able to develop a Digital Customs Maturity Model, which provides a road map for administrations from the least to most developed (mature rather). The pace and extent of maturity is undoubtedly determined by a country’s discipline and agility based on a clear strategy with the support and commitment of government and allied industries.Happy Customs Day!

wco-in-russia

The WCO Policy Commission, held in Moscow, Russian Federation, from 5 to 7 December 2016 under the chairmanship of Mr. R. Davydov, brought to the fore the key role of Customs in creating a sustainable and efficient e-commerce ecosystem, reviving-up the exchange of data between stakeholders and enhancing risk-management through electronic interface. The other main topics discussed during the Commission pertained to trade facilitation, security, the enhancement of the Customs/Tax cooperation and the modernization of Customs administrations.

The newly established WCO Working Group on E-Commerce will work to tackle the different dimensions of e-commerce by collecting and exchanging best practices in the field, stocktaking and leveraging some of the ongoing work being carried out by other entities and drawing up proposals geared towards the development of practical solutions for the clearance of e-commerce shipments, including appropriate duty/tax collection mechanisms and control procedures.

Concerning the in-depth discussions on Custom /Tax cooperation, the WCO issued this year “Guidelines for strengthening cooperation and the exchange of information between Customs and Tax authorities at the national level” and will continue working on topics of common interest for Customs and Tax experts such as transfer pricing, drawback and Illicit Financial Flows (IFF).

During the Commission, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, confirmed the WCO Theme for 2017 “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management” and stressed the impact of the digital revolution and the need to address promptly the challenges posed to the global economy. The Secretary General invited all the WCO Members to promote and share information in the coming months on how they are leveraging the potential of data to advance and achieve their objectives and respond to the expectations of traders, transport and logistic operators, and governments.

As data analysis will be emphasized in 2017 as a force multiplier for Customs administrations, it is relevant to highlight that the WCO is carrying out a Study to collect best practices among its members to assess and promote initiatives in the area of e-commerce. A previous analysis of preliminary data underscored the need for digitalization of processes, better sharing of information between e-commerce stakeholders and customs for improved risk management and the necessity for harmonization in the low-value shipment processes. Source: WCO

sars-edi-user-manualSARS has been operating Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) with its external stakeholders since 2001. More than 98% of all customs declaration (CUSDEC) transactions are today submitted electronically to Customs and the electronic submission of multimodal cargo reports (CUSCAR) is steadily increasing. Today, declaration processing is fully electronic end-to-end thanks to the availability of highly established EDI and Customs software service providers supporting the local customs and logistics community. SARS has also recently introduced a benefit for compliant cargo reporters who will be absolved of certain manual (paper) submission requirements once they attain an acceptable level of electronic submission compliance and data accuracy.

The ultimate objective is to ensure that all Customs-to-Business (C2B) transactions are electronic to enable full supply chain connectivity between the South African business community and Customs. This in turn enables the possibility of SARS accrediting or approving ‘supply chains’ as opposed to just individual trader segments (importers and exporters). The extent of electronic compliance is also a pivotal requirement for traders operating under the new Customs Control Act, to be enacted in the future.

SARS overall EDI capability extends further than declarations and cargo reports. In recent years Customs-to-Government (C2G) messaging has also been successfully established between SARS and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) as well as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). SARS is also engaging other government stakeholders concerning IT connectivity and data exchange.

Moreover, developments for cross-border Customs-to-Customs (C2C) data exchange are also in the pipeline and could come to fruition with the partner administrations in Mozambique and Swaziland in the foreseeable future. These initiatives will usher in increased supply chain connectivity through active use of the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) between participating customs administrations. The ultimate objective here is the creation of mutual recognition benefits for local and cross-border traders based on their accreditation status agreed between the participating customs administrations.

The SARS Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Manual (which can be downloaded from the SARS EDI webpage) has been updated with the latest versions of SARS Edifact Data Mapping Guides as well as improved diagrams explaining the functional composition of the various electronic messages specified for Customs processing. Also included are the requirements for registering as an EDI user with SARS.

The manual includes recent updates relating to cargo reporting (manifests) as well as the updated customs declaration message incorporating recent inclusion of customs surety, penalty and forfeiture requirements. The latter enhancement removes another document based requirement (the Form DA70 Provisional Payment) for Customs Brokers with the view streamlining data requirements, enhancing customs billing and customs status reporting with the trade and logistics community. This EDI Manual will be an important document over the coming months and years in that it will feature updated electronic requirements in support of the new Customs Control Act. Watch this space!