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eTIR: Towards Paperless Cross-border Trade

eTIR: Towards Paperless Cross-border Trade
Jorge Cachinero el


The Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention, 1975), commonly referred to as TIR, is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) flagship convention – one of the most successful international transport conventions and is so far the only universal Customs transit system in existence.

TIR facilitates the international carriage of goods in transit from one or more customs offices of departure to one or more customs offices of destination (up to a total of four customs offices departure and destination, pending an amendment to become eight, soon) and through as many countries as necessary.

In general, the vehicle remains sealed throughout the TIR transport and, thus, goods are not usually inspected at border crossings.

The Convention applies to transports with road vehicles, combinations of vehicles as well as containers and allows for the use of the TIR carnet for all modes of transport, provided that some portion of the journey is made by road.

This, of course, requires several precautionary measures, such as strict customs control and secure sealing at the customs office of departure.

TIR also contains specific technical requirements for the construction of the load compartments of vehicles or containers, to avoid smuggling, with only carriers authorised by customs permitted to transport goods under TIR.

To cover the customs duties and taxes at risk throughout the journey, the Convention has established an international guaranteeing chain which is managed by IRU.

Tasked by the newly established UN in post-war Europe, IRU created the TIR system in 1949.

This was initially an inter-governmental agreement – later becoming the global convention that we know today.

As the TIR system evolved, another of IRU’s roles was printing and distributing the TIR carnet, which serves both as international Customs document and proof of guarantee.

The overall supervision of the TIR Convention and its application in all Contracting Parties falls under the responsibility of the TIR Administrative Committee, an inter-governmental body comprising all Contracting Parties and its TIR Executive Board (TIRExB), composed of nine elected members, each from a different Contracting Party.

To date, the TIR Convention has 76 Contracting Parties, including the European Union, and it covers the whole of Europe and reaches out to North Africa and the Near and Middle East.

China, India and Pakistan are just three of the latest countries to ratify the TIR Convention, representing between them 40% of the world’s population. TIR’s expansion efforts have gone truly global.

Today, more than 33,000 operators are authorised to use the TIR system and around 1.5 million TIR transports are carried out per year.

However, we cannot ignore that a global revolution is underway, the digital landscape is evolving at breakneck speed.

Digital services are reshaping the world as we know it, and TIR needs to remain current to survive.

Fully digitalising TIR has been discussed within the UN and TIR governing bodies for almost 15 years, and now is the time to act.

IRU is pushing forward with the full digitalisation of TIR, having invested heavily in new digital services for all stakeholders in recent years to safeguard the future of TIR.

In parallel, reflecting the move towards digitalisation, UNECE and IRU have signed agreements on the digitalisation of the customs transit procedure under TIR to boost international transport and trade by improving the efficiency and security of customs procedures through enhanced data management.

A recent Memorandum of Understand signed by the two bodies outlines the launch of new digital TIR pilot projects to encompass further countries.

Digitalisation will harness the advantages already offered by IRU digital transit tools, together with digital customs procedures, to benefit all TIR contracting parties.

The computerisation of the TIR system will enhance the speed, efficiency and transparency of the TIR customs transit procedure.

And hand in hand with that, an increasing interest in the TIR Convention means more and more countries will benefit from these improvements.

In concrete terms, the main benefits for Customs authorities:

• Reduced administrative burden in the absence of paperwork – more time to focus on high risk consignments
• Enhanced security and reduced risk of fraud – identical information available at all customs en route electronically
• Streamlining TIR procedures at border crossing points
• Straightforward to implement and customisable to differing national IT systems
• Modernised customs procedures
• Generating more revenues by further trade facilitation
• Enhancing trade with trade partners by joint implementation of digital operations

For transport operators:

• More flexibility related to work with TIR and possibility to obtain TIR electronic guarantees outside of office working hours
• Reduced time related to TIR handling
– No need to go to the association to obtain TIR guarantee
– No need to fill in TIR guarantee manually
– Possibility to log TIR transport in real-time
• Reduced border waiting times

For exporters and importers:

• More accuracy with goods delivery times
• Possibility to put goods on the market more quickly and generate more revenue

For national associations:

• Makes TIR more attractive and eases its management
• No physical stocks of TIR guarantees required – reduction of related costs
• Possibility to log TIR transports in real time using TIR IT tools – further reducing possible risks

To prosper in our brave new world, the road transport industry needs to be future-proofed, and TIR now has full digital and intermodal capabilities.

There is a growing web of digital trade corridors inching around the globe – with TIR offering the global standard for digitalised transport.

Quicker, simpler, safer; a move to fully digital TIR would give real-time data availability, online monitoring, improved reliability and flexible guarantees – a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved.
Picture: Olga Algayerova (l), UNECE Executive Secretary and Umberto de Pretto (r), IRU Secretary General, signing the MoU on the digitalisation of the customs transit procedure under the TIR Convention.

With the contribution of Youlian Guenkov, John Kidd and Janet Waring.


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