Crash-course in customs and trade compliance management

This course has a long pedigree and draws on many years of classroom and online teaching. A version of this course was even featured in The Irish Times! What makes this course unique is that it offers a broad yet detailed introduction to trade and customs procedures that apply to the cross-border movement of goods at home and abroad – all this in just one day (or two half days)!

Participants might be new to the subject and in need of robust orientation, especially if they want to save time in trying to work out what to do next. The course is also suitable for participants who have some international trade experience but feel overwhelmed or unsure and now wish to revisit what they do in a more structured and informed manner. The course covers:

  • how applicable customs duties and liabilities are calculated
  • the many transport and logistics related implications
  • common commercial arrangements with suppliers and customers to agree responsibilities
  • trade compliance management practices, their cost, and the good standing with officials
  • the wider regulatory context that applies to the trade in goods
  • useful tools and trade compliance management practices

The course is often attended by:

  • SME business owners thinking about new sources of supply and/or export markets
  • Businesses that have dabbled in international trade but now in need of further orientation
  • Individuals who have already participated in public funded short courses about specific trade and customs requirements, but feel overwhelmed or confused
  • Accountants and business advisors (including business-facing officials) who need to quickly familiarise themselves with the subject so that they are able to have informed conversations with their clients
  • Logistics and procurement professionals who wish to become more familiar with the international trade and compliance dimension of their business
  • New starters at the very beginning of their career in international trade

Course Outline

The course is structured into four session with short breaks in-between. It is delivered online via Zoom as a full day event or two half days. The adopted small group format (max 12) encourages dialogue and questions throughout. Course participants will have the opportunity to explore and set action points for themselves with the guidance of the course tutor. Questions and dialogue are strongly encouraged throughout the course.

Session one

Following a brief welcome this session sets the scene. It gives an overview of applicable trade and customs policy and its relevance to:

  • borders and regulatory control objectives
  • trade tariffs by sector in the world’s main markets
  • challenges and barriers to trade
  • common registration, authorisation, licensing, permit, certification and packaging requirements

This session also looks at:

  • the export-import journey and the many steps necessary (yours and those of others) to make sure goods clear borders smoothly
  • “who does what” by giving an overview of the activities performed by officials, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, brokers, transport operators, port and terminal operators, etc.
  • applicable trade and customs documents or their electronic equivalent
  • policy trends and developments with implications on trade compliance costs and business opportunities

Short exercises are conducted to identify key learning needs and individual focus areas. These will be revisited throughout to enable participants set personal action points.

Session two

Here we dive into the technical by explaining how to calculate applicable customs import duties. Participants are thus introduced to tariff classification so that they are able to refer to their goods in the applicable tariff schedule. Duty rates can then be calculated by reference to relevant customs valuation and preferential origin rules. Practical examples are provided, including an overview of the documents that are often needed to take advantage of preferential trade arrangements. We also discuss possible duty exemptions for low value shipments, available business support services, binding decisions, and the use of supporting online tools and reference resources.

Session three

Who is responsible for what can be a tricky question, especially when starting out or when things go wrong. It is best to prepare and be clear about compliance responsibilities from day one. We will thus look at standard commercial terms between buyers and seller – the so called Incoterms® 2020 – and explore their respective implications within the context of duty payment liabilities, other indirect taxes (e.g. VAT), distribution models and customer service expectations.

In this session we will also take a look at the services offered by customs agents, freight forwarders and brokers. This is followed with and detailed overview of how trade and customs declarations are submitted to the relevant authorities along with possible software, registration, authorisation, licensing, permit and certification requirements.

Discussed, too, are advance (pre-arrival / pre-departure) declaration requirements, the use of electronic systems, scope for automation, and simplified arrangements – e.g. for shipments sent by post or shipments destined for inland clearance. Important not to forget are the arrangements for physical inspections, their potential costs, and the risk of penalties and fines.

This might look like a a very busy session – but it all links together and will be approached in a digestible and practical way!

Session four

This block concerns costs and competitiveness. We will look at access to advantageous customs treatment, such as: customs warehousing; special export processing arrangements; customs freezones; amongst others. Trusted Trader and Authorised Economic Operator programmes are highlighted, too.

In this final session we will also expand on:

  • trade-off decisions between compliance costs, optimal load sizes and distribution arrangements
  • methodes to mitigate the impact of border related delays
  • access to economies of scale and electronic compliance solutions
  • access to public funded business support services and tools
  • practical steps to keep up-to-date
  • your relationship with the border agencies

Important: This session includes a recap with focus on any identified “next steps” and action points.


A reasonably good understanding of English is essential. We ask that when you attend you are in a relatively undisturbed environment. Comfort breaks are offered between sessions; and there will be a lunch break, too. Please note that Zoom software is dependent on a stable internet connection. Interactivity is greatly enhanced if the camera is switched on (though we understand the this is not always feasible).


We recognise that participants will have different backgrounds and experiences – this is OK and generally enriches the small group learning experience.

Prior to delivering the course we will contact you with a brief list of questions to help fine-tune course content and delivery.

Upon course completion

The course is designed to provide a robust overview, but also identify any next steps and action points which can be discussed during the class. We hope that these will serve you well in your ongoing endeavours.

A certificate of participation will be provided


The course will not be recorded. This is to ensure that there is room for a lively discussion and interaction. A set of presentation slides with a list of additional learning resources is emailed closer to the start date. Questions and dialogue are actively encouraged throughout the course.

Your Instructor

The course is delivered by Prof Dr Andrew Grainger.


To be announced

Please note that it can be difficult to gauge potential demand. Do reach out to us if you would like us to set additional dates and time slots.

Fee / Costs

To be advised.