There was interesting news from the UK recently, with the Financial Times reporting that its government is to begin trials of a new smart customs border designed to streamline the process of trading goods for businesses.
This comes at a time of continuing change for Britain post-Brexit - so is adding more new systems to contend with really the way to go? Here, we'll take a closer look at the news and its implications.
Announcement of a new smart border
British importers have been invited to submit bids to pilot the new system, with the FT quoting Whitehall insiders as saying it will be trialed at an as-yet undetermined "live port environment" in May 2022.
The smart border is to use cutting-edge technology with the aim of reducing the friction British importers currently experience when moving goods abroad.
Estimated to last six months, it is reported that ideas to be included are tamper-proof digital container seals and GPS technology to track lorries and prevent unscheduled diversions.
The government has described this as a "Rolls-Royce system for moving goods" and reportedly hopes that by ensuring businesses are directly involved, it will overcome some of the obstacles presented by previous tech projects.
As a result of the system, border agencies will be able to share information in real-time and create a highly auditable process to reduce issues at customs, the FT reports.
The plans have been cautiously welcomed by business leaders, but the British Chambers of Commerce's William Bain told the news provider he feels relations between the UK and EU should remain a priority.
"These trials should not be seen as an alternative to deeper customs co-operation between the UK and EU," he remarked.
Further commitments to digital trade
This is not the first commitment Britain has made towards making trade processes digital. Earlier this year, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £180 million (€211 million) fund for building a "Single Trade Window" by 2025 that aims to digitally streamline trader interactions with border agencies.
There is also an £838 million fund over three years to ensure the delivery of IT infrastructure such as the Customs Declaration Service, which will replace the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.
This came after it was finally announced in August 2021 that CHIEF will no longer be used for import declarations as of September 30th 2022, and that it will be closed completely by March 31st 2023.
Another £45 million has been allocated to overhaul the Department for International Trade's export support services.
Are digital systems really essential?
Since it first began to be introduced, information and communications technology (ICT) has transformed the way that businesses can operate and transport their goods to other countries.
It can remove barriers and ensure paperwork and admin is completed before products are shipped, which reduces the likelihood of delays and issues that may cost time and money.
In a previous report, the World Customs Journal went so far as to say ICT in the field of customs is no longer simply an enabler, but so much more.
The document said: "It is fundamental to the future of customs administrations, which must acknowledge that technology is a key strategic business issue. Prudent management of ICT is a means to reap benefits that impact positively on the effectiveness of all customs operations, and hence the improvement of national finances."
Looking to the future
Going forward, should the UK smart technology trial prove to be a success, it could mean the nation creates one of the world's most efficient border systems that many others seek to emulate.
Indeed, the EU is also already in the process of creating a single customs window to remove obstacles for exporters, demonstrating that the developing world is seeing the importance of more advanced technology and its implementation for the future.
There will undoubtedly be snags, but it seems there will eventually be no option but to join the even more digital revolution.
In the meantime, if you're a business owner or manager and have any concerns about how you will keep pace with the rapid march of digitalization in trade, why not get in touch with us here at MIC? We have a range of software solutions available that will ensure you can maintain transparency, minimize compliance risk and save on costs.
Our products will carry out everything from export control to origin of goods calculation so you don't have to - and our regular updates stay on top of even the most rapidly-changing rules and regulations.