Advanced Technology Solutions at Border Points Key to Enhancing Revenue and Addressing Security Needs
Dubai-UAE: 15 May, 2013 – A collaborative, single-window system of coordination between government agencies and stakeholders – supported by effective information technology solutions – is vital to achieving greater harmonisation and the streamlining of cross-border customs procedures, according to experts at the opening day of the WCO IT 2013.
This viewpoint emerged as one of the highlights of the first roundtable session entitled “Integrated, Collaborative or Coordinated Border Management - What's in a Name?” at the Middle East debut of the 2013 WCO IT Conference and Exhibition, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
Alerting the gathering to the undesirable tendency of countries to adopt a protectionist stance in international trade – one that would be counterproductive to world commerce, Raymond Benjamin, Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization, said, “Effective border management will result only if authorities and stakeholders join forces for success. To this effect, states are urged to consult one another and exchange information in order to facilitate efficient and sustainable solutions for border management issues. Information technology solutions such as machine-readable travel documents contribute to accelerating traveller clearance at the check-points and reduced loss of revenue.”
George Weise, Executive Vice President, Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services Inc., who facilitated the roundtable, reiterated the need for collaborated operations, saying “The customs department faces challenges on a daily basis, from simple cases such as illegal travellers to major security issues such as contraband, including drugs and weapons. We have realised that effective cooperation between the private sector, traders and cross-border agencies is the best and only way forward to contain these illegal activities that, more often, arise from internal conspiracies involving these entities.”
Adding to this point, Agnes Katsonga Phiri, Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Malawi, said, “Today we have multiple agencies working at the border – sometimes numbering up to 15 – with varying mandates but one common goal, which is to achieve success in cross-border trade. But the question today is who is in control and who is the leader? Although each of the cross-border agencies works hard in their own right, there is no attention being paid to the victim who suffers due to lack of integration between border management entities. This could be a simple trader, whose business is negatively affected due to the long procedures at the border.”
“Simplicity, trust and reduced release time of goods are, thus, important success factors for cross-border management. These are the missing links that need addressing by various border agencies,” he added.
Major General Carl Modey, Commissioner, Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority said that in an ideal scenario, customs authorities of countries play a progressive role of trade facilitation without compromising revenue and national security.
He added: “Government must have the political will to implement required legislation wherein a lead agency, such as the customs department, is instated to coordinate effective communication and exchange of information among the multiple agencies involved in border management. Moreover, there should be greater mobilization of funds to formulate a simplified system of data sharing, which will in turn enhance revenue flows and border security.”
Roger Smith, Deputy Director General, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand, said, “Trust between customs department and agencies is the key to achieving coordination between stakeholders. In New Zealand, we realised the need for serious discussions between the units tasked with protecting the country, including the police, border patrol and other departments. We believe this is the perfect solution to enhance border security and reduce crime. In addition to trust, professionalism in doing the job and identifying issues is vital to ensure secure borders.”
Citing the example of Dubai's progress in integrating border management responsibilities through information technology solutions, Mohammed Sharaf, CEO, Group Chief Executive Office of DP World, said: “We believe in working closely and consistently with customs authorities to improve trade flows and increase revenues while not compromising on security. With the global container trade expected to touch a billion TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) by 2020, the need for secure customs procedures is rising. Our experience proves that physical inspection is not only a cumbersome process, but one that can open doors to corruption. On the other hand, the use of technology will provide information on consignments that can be smartly analysed, thereby decreasing time costs and enhancing trade flows.”
The three-day conference is focusing on sharing views, experiences and best practices between global border security agents and other government entities such as customs, environment ministries, municipalities, health authorities, and immigration. It also seeks to broaden communication channels between stakeholders to help maintain safer economies and societies.
The event has brought together more than 1,000 senior decision makers representing the World Customs Organization and customs departments of more than 100 countries, including specialists in customs, security and information technology. The agenda of the forum includes discussion topics related to customs operations, such as control and inspection systems, as well as transport and logistics.