Customs Modernization Initiatives


In recent years, the Customs agencies worldwide have actively engaged in what is often referred to as Customs modernization initiatives. The goal of these projects is to bring Customs and it procedures into the 21st century and equip the agencies to better face the challenges of a global economy where e-commerce and highly complex supply chains are forever changing the face of international trade.  

Encouraged by the guidelines of the World Customs Organization, efforts to modernize Customs have resulted in revised national Customs Codes and the implementation of ‘Single Window’ systems.  The modernizing of Customs Regulations and efforts to improve Customs procedures is expected to give Customs greater enforcement capabilities whilst facilitating trade.

Below are some of the countries that have recently revamped their Customs Codes and regulations or have introduced a Customs Single-window environment:

European Union

The Union Customs Code (UCC)[i] which entered into force in 2013, will begin mandatory EU-wide implementation on May 1, 2016.  This means that all the EU member states must amend their national Customs Codes to harmonize with the UCC.  

The European Commission emphasizes that The UCC is part of the modernization of customs and will serve as the new framework regulation on the rules and procedures for customs throughout the EU. The aim of the UCC is to:  

  • Streamline Customs legislation and procedures
  • Offer greater legal certainty and uniformity to businesses
  • Increase clarity for customs officials throughout the EU
  • Simplify customs rules and procedures and facilitate more efficient customs transactions in line with modern-day needs
  • Complete the shift by Customs to a paperless and fully electronic environment
  • Reinforce swifter customs procedures for compliant and trustworthy economic operators (Authorized Economic Operators)
  • Wide-ranging provisions which will allow customs decisions and authorizations to be valid across the EU in the future



Decree number 390 of March 7, 2016,[ii] established the new Customs Regulation. The new Regulation, seven years in the making, revise and expand the existing Customs Code by:


  • Harmonizing Customs Regulation with international Customs and trade standards
  • Giving Customs greater authority and better tools for enforcing compliance
  • Facilitating trade by simplifying Customs procedures
  • Mandating the implementation of Improved information technology systems for monitoring and facilitating trade






On March 15, 2016, India’s Ministry of Finance published Circuar-10/2016: Implementing Integrated Declaration under the Indian Customs Single Window[iii] marking the latest major milestone in the development of the Indian Customs Single Window Project. 

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) developed the ‘Integrated Declaration’, under which all information required for import clearance by the concerned government agencies has been incorporated into the electronic format of the Bill of Entry.

The Integrated Declaration will do away with much of the paperwork required by Customs and other Participating Government Agencies (PGA) such as the Drug Controller (CDSCO), Animal Quarantine (AQCS) and Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage (DPPQ&S) to name a few. The use of Integrated Declaration went live on April 1, 2016.


South Africa

Since its 2014 rewrite of South Africa’s Customs and Excise Act 1964, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has been busy drafting the rules for implementing the newly created Customs Control Act 2014; Customs Duty Act 2014 and Customs Excise Amendment Act 2014[iv]

The drafting of the new regulations is still underway, however, SARS is working towards having some of the new rules become operational, in phases by 2016.  One major change under the new Customs Control Act 2014, is that importers and exporters will need to renew their import and export registration certificates and receive a new Customs registration certificate under the Customs Control Act 2014. It is expected that regulations for the Customs Control Act 2014, will go live by August of 2016.



The Single Window system, Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) is in full swing and importers, exporters and brokers are already using ACE to declare their shipments. Mandated by Executive Order on Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses[v], signed into force on February 19, 2014, ACE is the primary system through which the trade community will report imports and exports. 

The ACE Single Window initiative is the effort to create a single system, so that multiple paper processes can be eliminated and importers and exporters will only have to file information once, to one system. Through ACE, manual processes will be streamlined and automated and paper will be largely eliminated which will result in a more efficient, paperless entry process.          

[i] The Union Customs Code (UCC) was adopted on 9 October 2013 as Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

[ii] Decreto No. 390 Marzo 7, 2016

[iii] Circular- 10/2016-Customs Implementing Integrated Declaration under the Indian Customs Single Window


[v] Executive Order on Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses

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