Education in Trade and Customs Procedures

There are many reasons why people might want to become familiar with the subject of international trade and customs. For customs officials and their counterparts within the private sector there is the WCO PICARD Standard to draw upon. A number of universities around the world offer accredited programmes. Most of those universities are also members of the International Network of Customs Universities.

Many administrations around the world also provide for dedicated customs academies, colleges and universities. Practitioners may also consider trade and customs modules linked to other professional development programmes where knowledge of trade and customs procedures is critical – e.g export managers, logistics professionals, tax accountants, procurement officers, economists, civil servants, amongst others.

As a qualified lecturer I have helped develop, implement and deliver a wider range of programmes and training solutions at various institutions. This includes Master programmes at the University of Nottingham and the University of Münster. Frequently, I am also asked to deliver bespoke seminars and workshops for trade officials, officers and policy makers. Within the context of the UK’s departure from the European Union I also designed and help deliver much of Ireland’s customs training for its SME business community. The practical benefit of those training workshops were featured in the Irish edition of The Sunday Times and feedback from participants was excellent throughout.

For students and practitioners there are also a wide range of online training providers to call upon. The International Trade Centre and the World Customs Organisations are two examples of many. For those in need of a comprehensive overview or introduction to cross-border logistics operations – including applicable trade and customs procedures and underlying policy – I have written a dedicated textbook which can be purchased at most major bookshops.

At Trade Facilitation Consulting we frequently deliver bespoke training solutions for executives, policy makers and practitioners around the world. Often we will produce and write educational materials for third parties, too. Furthermore, training and mentoring services are regularly called upon in the delivery of trade facilitation solutions.

Please feel free to reach out to us if you wish to discuss further.

Port and Border Resilience

Recent disruptions at ports and borders worldwide highlight their importance in global supply chain operations. And any disruption or friction at ports has a cost; global supplies are constrained. In extreme cases, government regulators may be called in for assistance where access to critical supplies is no more available.

While at the University of Nottingham I benefited from substantial EPSRC and ESRC research funding to focus on the resilience of UK ports. This led to some very fruitful outputs in cooperations with research colleagues at UCL and in Nottingham. The subjects of Port Resilience and Trade Facilitation overlap extensively. For starters, ports are the gateways to global markets and trade facilitation seeks to make sure that any friction between business operators and government agencies is minimised. The topics also overlap because they both share very similar stakeholder communities. What differs is the context.

When ports face disruption the objective is to work out how to keep traffic flowing; and when things fall apart, to work out how to mitigate the impact and recover quickly – ie to be resilient. Trade facilitation is about implementing measures that get rid of friction – for example by making procedures simpler or harmonising adminstrative arrangements with trade partners. In both subjects it is the quality of relationships between the various stakeholders that counts.

In our research we experimented extensively with computer simulations (using historic trade and traffic data in a visually engaging way) that were then used to inform conversations amongst port stakeholders about the impacts and responses to various disaster scenarios. The resulting conversations could then be used to feed into various policy and contingency planning activities. We also piloted ideas for data sharing, where we sought to make transparent who holds operationally useful information so that disaster responses can be best planned and prepared for.

The resulting research pipeline produced a number of interesting publications. These include:

  • Grainger, A., & Achuthan, K. (2014) Port resilience: a primer
  • Grainger, A (2016) “Foreword” in Maritime Security and Resilience, UK Department for Transport
  • Grainger, A., Shaw, D. and Ashuthan, K. (2017) “Port resilience”, in Port Operations, Management and Policy, A Beresford and S Pettit, Kogan Page
  • Shaw, D., Grainger, A., A. Achuthan (2017) “Multi-level port resilience planning in the UK: How can information sharing be made easier?”, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Volume 121, August 2017, Pages 126-138
  • Anand, N and Grainger, A “The port as a critical piece of national infrastructure”, Safety and Reliability, February, 37(2-3):1-22, January
  • Shaw, D; Achuthan K, Sharma A and Grainger A (2019) “Resilience Orchestration and Resilience Facilitation: how government can orchestrate the whole UK ports market with limited resources – the case of UK ports resilience”, Government Information Quarterly, Volume 36, Issue 2, April 2019, Pages 252-263
  • Grainger, A., Rundle, J. and Ahsen, S. R. (2019) “Customs and Humanitarian Logistics”, Global Trade and Customs Journal, Vol 14, Issue 4, April
  • Grainger, A (2021) “Borders and Disaster Relief Logistics Operations” in Cross-Border Logistics Operations, A Grainger, Kogan Page

Much of the above work and related publications can also be found on ResearchGate. Enquires about future research opportunities are very welcome.

Measuring Trade Facilitation

Over the years I have been involved in various initiatives that seek to measure trade facilitation and the impact of non-tariff measures (NTM). Early work focused on the direct costs associated with trade and customs procedures. This includes, for example, a very detailed study at the University of Nottingham with focus on UK/EU meat imports in collaboration with the International Meat Trade Association and the UK Port Health Association. More recently, this was extended to explore the impact of NTMs on UK food and agricultural supply chains for DEFRA. In collaboration with the Technical University Delft we also conducted extensive descriptive work – published in the World Customs Journal – that sought to highlight the many costs (direct and indirect) that arise in cross-border logistics operations.

Increasingly, the need to measure trade facilitation is also of prime importance for trade officials and policy makers. This is because the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement allows its members to hold each other accountable to their respective performance in cross-border logistics operations. There are many stakeholders involved and the trick is to work out how their respective costs and benefits that are derived from trade facilitation type interventions can be appropriately assessed. Key to note is that impact narratives might differ significantly from one organisation to the next.

With my good colleague and friend Duncan Shaw we presented an outline of an appropriate methodology at the 2017 WCO Picard Conference in Tunis. There we received very encouraging feedback and subsequently shared our thoughts in an article for WCO News. That work has continued in the form of an impact assessment for the GIZ of Montenegro’s new pre-arrival processing capabilities. What was really nice about the GIZ project was that it also allowed us to explore Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for specific impact themes that were important to stakeholders.

As highlighted in the subsequent article for WCO News, it is not all about economic benefits (though important). It is also about evaluating the alignment of trade facilitation measures with international best practices, the operational outcomes for the administrations and businesses concerned, learning, and impacts for society at large. The later also includes improved control outcomes that may be achieved in addition to any cost savings.

Please feel free to reach out. I am always happy to elaborate and discuss our work further.

The Irish Times explains: How you can get in shape for a no-sweat Brexit

It would be far fetched to claim that Brexit is ‘no-sweat’, especially if you are new to trade and customs procedures and their implications – not to mention the many added costs associated with tariffs, paperwork, planning and transport. Nevertheless, some preparation can go a long way. Training and awareness of what is required is essential; and I am incredibly proud of the very positive feedback from the Irish SME business community about the training that we delivered in partnership with KGH for Enterprise Ireland and Ireland’s Local Enterprise Offices. Some of the advice provided in those workshops has been prominently featured in the Irish Times article. You can find it here.

Please feel free to reach out to us for similar training and support.