Single  Window is defined as a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements


Eurasian Economic Commission in association with UNECE hold 2nd Trade Facilitation Conference on Single Window ("Capital Express" № 2/2013)

On 23-24 April 2013 Moscow hosted the 2nd Trade Facilitation Conference on Single Window, organized by the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in the framework of the exhibition and conference “TransRussia 2013”.

The event was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Communications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, the Federal Customs Service of Russia, Finland’s Ministry of Transport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Best Practices and Trade Facilitation Center (Singapore), UNECE, the Customs Control Committee of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Customs Control under the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Belarus, the experts from relevant non-governmental organizations, etc.

The implementation of Single Window is utterly important as Single Window is a facility that allows parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardized information and documents with a single entry point to fulfil all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. Single Window allows to improve the alignment of the existing government systems and processes while promoting more transparent and simple methods of functioning of state authorities and their interaction with the companies. It also strengthens coordination and cooperation between government agencies involved in trade activities. And as a result Single Window reduces transaction costs in foreign trade, increases the level of compliance with the requirements imposed by trade organizations through more accurate and timely submission of data, increases state revenues, efficiency and effectiveness of border management and control.

The participants, recognizing Single Window as an effective tool for trade facilitation, proposed Eurasian Economic Commission and the Member States of the Customs Union and Single Economic Area to develop a strategy for trade facilitation.

In his welcome speech Mr Tochin Andrew, Director of EEC Trade Policy pointed out that today the old schemes used in the trade and transport, are no longer work. In this regard it is necessary to search for new tools. He stressed that the creation of Single Window is not a goal in and of itself, it is a tool for efficient operation. UNECE occupies a unique niche in the formation and promotion of Single Window. Thus, “one of the key questions this conference asks is whether we are prepared to use the UNECE tools and are they effective for us? We are facing the problem of serious contradictions between the agencies. How serious are they to implement the Single Window? It should be a “two-way street,” Tochin said.

In this regard, UNECE Regional Adviser Mr Mario Apostolov said: “Today as part of the Conference objectives it is necessary to determine the extent to which the Member States of the Customs Union are willing to implement trade facilitation measures. Member states of the Customs Union have different institutional structures. One of the central challenges facing by these countries is the choice of the scope and level of single window implementation, i.e. local, sectoral or national.” Mario Apostolov said that “the creation of a Single Window “is a difficult political reform that goes beyond just technological solutions and financial issues. Incremental consistency of its implementation requires changes in law, the integration of key institutions, etc.” Among other needs expert outlined the simplification of customs clearance procedures, reducing the cost of trade, the creation of conditions encouraging greater transparency in trade.

Mr Leonid Lozbenko, Board Member of the “Support of Russia”, Chairman of the Foreign Trade and Customs Affairs Committee, stressed that there are solutions to many problems related to the trade facilitation, but the main thing is understanding the need to implement these processes at the management level for the highest political circles “to convince policy-makers it is really necessary.”

For efficient functioning of Single Window within the overall trade facilitation strategy it is important to take into account the international experience of its implementation. To this end, the Conference presented and discussed different models, standards and tools of international practice, which can be used in the development of Single Window in order to increase understanding of how countries and regional integration organizations really moved towards the implementation of the Single Window in line with international standards and recommendations.

Many countries from all regions of the world have implemented, and introduced Single Window and received substantial benefits by reducing administrative barriers and the resources for the preparation, submission and processing of the required official information. As noted by Satya Prasad Sahu, a technical expert at World Customs Organization, according to the latest trends there are 71 Single windows in 18 countries, the remaining 53 are at the stage of development and use interaction with public authorities. The efficiency of electronic document in the framework of the Single Window is supported by the fact that where there are paper documents, there is the possibility for abuse and corruption. Speaking of the most promising ways to introduce Single Window, Satya Prasad Sahu, dwelled on the WCO instruments and standards for Single Window. She stressed that public-private partnership is the locomotive that will implement Single Window. Another important trend is the use of business-to-business cooperation. Thus, the system of Single Window is not only a mechanism for trade facilitation. It is an environment.

Discussing the experience of introduction and development of Single Window in EU, Eva Kanevska, European Commissioner, the Directorate of Customs and Taxation, noted that there are many IT systems for the introduction of the Single Window for customs. In EU, customs authorities are leaders in the use of IT systems. She stressed: “Single Window is a complex project that was developed step by step. The first stage performs automatic validation of documents. EU has Single Windows  in some areas, they are sector-specific. Due to the complexity there is no Single Window for the whole EU. Each country has its own concept of Single Window and work is underway to develop a common concept of a full-scale Single Window. Eva Kanevska encouraged the countries to build their national Single Windows. “Everybody stressed the need for political will, we have the political will, but still the specific terms of the implementation are not set,” she said.

Antti Arkim, Finnish Transport Agency under Ministry of Transport of Finland, shared their successful experience of Single Window implementation: PortNet system (maritime Single Window). The idea of introducing PortNet dates back to the 1990s, when they developed and planned the implementation of the system, up to the 1998. The key feature of the Finnish PortNet is that it works closely with the traders - representatives of the ship owners and maritime agents. Finnish Customs system AREX interacts with other traders - cargo owners and declarants. He noted that all customs formalities are provided in compliance with Directive 2010/65/EU. In Finland, there is a timetable for the introduction of Single Window at the national level. Currently, the objective is to harmonize the cargo manifest to submit it not only in Finland but also in other countries. There was a question about the cost of the Single Window introduction in Finland. Antti Arkim said the system has worked for 4 years, the first tranche amounted to EUR1,5 million and now it is funded annually in the amount of EUR250-300 million.

Mr Oleg Platonov, Deputy Chairman of the Interagency Working Group on the Implementation of “Single Window - Local Solution” in the ports of Odessa, shared the experience of the implementation of the project “Single Window - Local Solution” in the area of Southern customs and ports of Odessa region (Ukraine). He noted that the specificity of the Ukrainian model of introduction is its implementation at the local level. The advantage of this solution is that the process doesn’t require significant investments, but it gives an opportunity to go two ways at the same time: introduction and research, and thus to work out all the problems. Mr Platonov said the creation of Single Window is supported by the Government of Ukraine. At the initiative of the Ukrainian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ІCC Ukraine) and supported by the government four years ago, the UNECE withdrew the request to assist in the development of technology and business plans, in carrying out activities related to the implementation of Single Window. Today, Ukraine has established an Interagency Working Group, which includes representatives of ministries and departments involved in border control, as well as business and professional associations. Results of research and the existing obstacles are discussed at the meetings of the Working Group, taking place every three months.

Regarding the practical results, on the 2nd of April this year Odessa Port turned its Port Community System (EISPS) from test to regular mode.  Today, 90% of orders in the Odessa Port are issued in electronic format (XML), certified with electronic (digital) signature. The first stage of PCS in the Port of Odessa was focused on the “electronic manifest.” Subsequently Illichivsk Port signed Memorandum of Interest to join the system. It is planned to extend it to the pan-Ukrainian level for maritime commercial traffic. Methodological and practical issues of Single Window introduction will be discussed on May 30, 2013 at the Third International Trade Facilitation Seminar on Single Window-Local Solutions (Port Community Systems) allowing to submit information and documents required to choose the control level to one authority in one place and making a stop for control only once.

The conference also discussed the basic parameters of the Single Window introduction in the countries of the Customs Union at the local, regional and national levels. To this end, they considered the experience and success of the Member States of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Area (CU and SEA) in the implementation of the Single Window. During the event, they presented various projects and approaches related to the Customs Union on the establishment and effective implementation of Single Window.

The topics “Trade facilitation” and “Single Window and the role of government and departmental officials involved in the process”, mechanisms for the administration of the theoretical and practical aspects of the introduction of electronic documents were discussed by: Deputy Chief of Customs Control of the State Customs Committee of Belarus Mr Sergei Fedorov  and Head of Information Technology General Administration of Customs Mrs Bormotova Elena, Head of Department of Customs Law and Practice Mr Galanamatis Alexander, Head of JSC ACS Mr Dmitry Kaplunov, Counselor of the Department of Sanitary, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Measures: An international approach to e-veterinary certification Mr Akin Ispullaev, Executive Director at Association of electronic trading platforms Mr Ilia Dimitrov,  and a representative of Russian CCI Committee on logistics Mr Yuri Kozhankov.

The conference addressed the legal basis of domestic and international trade data required for the establishment and operation of Single Window at the national level and within the framework of the Customs Union. The agenda included questions on the readiness of the legislation of the Customs Union to the establishment and operation of Single window, which have been highlighted in the reports by Mr Anatoly Martynov, expert; Head of the Dissemination of Legal Information at the National Center of Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus Mr Andrei Romanov; Director of the Regional Centre for Asia and UNCITRAL Mr Luca Castellani; Board member of the International Association “e-Signature Without Borders” Mr Nikolay Yermakov; a Board member of ICPI Mr Sergey Kudryavtsev. The main purpose of these presentations was to identify potential legal problems impeding the implementation of Single Window.

Issues relating to the approaches to the establishment of Single Window voiced at the beginning of the conference, were discussed in the debate concerning the use of the standards and recommendations of UNECE and other organizations to create Integrated Information System for Foreign and Mutual Trade. Participants discussed the current approaches to the design and implementation of information management systems, electronic data interchange, including the Integrated Information System for Foreign and Mutual Trade with the Customs Union and Single Economic Area based on the use of international standards and recommendations. The discussion focused on roadmaps and design solutions on the selection and use of international standards and recommendations for harmonization of data (documents) and the creation of electronic data interchange systems. The presentation “Opportunities for the use of UNECE standards and other international organizations in the Integrated Information System for Foreign and Mutual Trade of the Customs Union and in national projects” was made by an expert and CEO at GEFEG (Germany) Mr Michael Dill. The new elements of data harmonization and documents in the European Union, the use of international standards were discussed by Jean-Luc Delcourt, the Directorate of Customs and Tax (DG TAXUD) of the European Commission. The proposal of methodological approaches to the application of the recommendations of the Single Economic Area was made by “Katsit” CEO Mr Ruslan Sivakov. Report “On the principles of construction and work on creating the data models of the Customs Union and Single Economic Area” was presented by the Head of the Department of Information Technology ECE Mrs Elena Suslin. Victor Dravitsa, Director of “Interdisciplinary Research Centre of identification systems and e-business” under the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Belarus discussed the formation of a single information space in accordance with international standards for electronic document management.

The conference held a round table to discuss the problems of introduction of Single Window technologies in the countries of the Customs Union. Mr Vladimir Tkachev, Ltd. “Bonded Logistics Center”, Konstanin Kholopov, Group of Companies “SVT”, and Zahirdzhan Kuchkarov, Research Center Concept under Moscow Physical-Technical Institute noted that the Single window is an ideology that demands serious scientific study, i.e. a “solid foundation.” At present, considering the possibility of introducing a Single Window on the territory of the Customs Union a number of problems related to the definition of a clear format of documents within Single Window was mentioned, including the need to standardize them and a need for the formation of single window terminology, etc. Despite many recommendations, taking into account national peculiarities, there are many problems associated with their use. There is a need to develop a national way to introduce the proposed mechanisms. It was proposed to create a headquarters for reforms in transport and logistics activities. To solve the above problems in the course of the conference, it was proposed to create a particular body to coordinate the implementation of the single window in Customs Union. According to the majority of those present at the roundtable this mission can be borne by Eurasian Economic Commission.

At the end of the conference there were reports on the Single Window pilot projects and their results in the Member States and Single Economic Area. Presentation by Vladimir Korostelyov (“Sea Express”) considered the compatibility standards for exchange of information between different departments and sectors and their compliance with international norms and standards; Mr Sergei Lahturov, Chief Engineer of the center of Transport Service (CCTS) under JSC “Russian Railways” informed on implementation of electronic document management in the organization of international traffic; Mr Valery Bolyuchenko, group of Tamga companies, informed on some aspects of the use of navigation systems (GLONASS / GPS) by the customs authorities for international road transport and suggestions on the use of positioning systems for single window projects. 

“We are going to organize the collection and analysis of information on existing and planned projects of the Single Window in the countries of the Customs Union. Based on them we will make recommendations regarding the choice of optimal scheme, respect of the integrity of the conceptual model. Obviously, it is necessary to form a working group on trade facilitation and the formation of Single Window,” Andrew Tochin said after the conference. “It is necessary to analyze what effect the Single Window will have on the complexity of clearance of import and export transactions, including on the number of required documents and related costs. This analysis will be done with regard to the methodology of Doing Business,” he added.

Also, it is required to consider ways to approach legislation in regard to the settlement of issues such as data protection, identification, authentication and authorization, the equivalence of paper and electronic documents, as well as the use of electronic signatures and trusted third party services.

According to the results of the Conference the participants adopted the following  recommendations.

The Conference offered Single Economic Area and Customs Union states to develop a strategy for trade facilitation.

As a first step, it was proposed to analyze the possible impact of the introduction of Single Window to reduce the number of documents required for clearance of import and export transactions (including the methodology of Doing Business), as well as expenses related to foreign trade operations.

To establish Single window, it is recommended to ask the Eurasian Economic Commission to form a Working Group on trade facilitation and the establishment of Single Window and to develop a conceptual model of the SW of the CU / SEA states and feasibility study. Under this model, it is necessary to identify goals, develop common terms and improve the system of legal acts of different levels, determining which of the levels (inter-ministerial, national or supra-national) needs to be focused on SW. An integrated approach, involving the departments concerned and representatives of the business community in a single project is required. It will define roles, goals and budget. The project should be implemented step
by step.

Noting the importance of the single window technology adoption in the countries of the Customs Union, it was decided to recommend UNECE and the Eurasian Economic Commission to hold a third conference in 2015.