eTIR: What is it, and how does it facilitate trade?

The transit procedure TIR is a key component in making importing and exporting easier - now it gets an electronic upgrade. This is what you need to know!

The TIR system operates in almost 70 countries and continues to expand. Following Egypt’s accession to the TIR Convention at the end of last year, countries in Africa, Asia and South America continue to proactively move towards the accession and subsequent implementation of the fully paperless system.

What is TIR today and why was it set up?

TIR standss for Transports Internationaux Routiers, Internationaler Straßengütertransport in German. The TIR system, the UN’s oldest public-private partnership, dates from 1949, when a young IRU, supported by a young UN, began to address the difficulties of moving goods across fragmented borders in post war Europe.

An international Transit system

With over 50 countries using the procedure, the TIR system is the international customs transit system with the widest geographical coverage.

What does TIR do?

As with other customs transit procedures, the TIR procedure enables goods to move under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes that would normally be due at importation (or exportation).

The TIR transit system is founded on the following five main principles (the so-called pillars):

  1. the use of secure vehicles or containers,

  2. the international guarantee chain,

  3. the TIR carnet,

  4. the mutual recognition of customs controls, and

  5. controlled access to use the system.

How does it work?

Goods move from a customs office of departure in one country to a customs office of destination in another country under cover of an internationally accepted customs transit document, the TIR carnet.

TIR can only be used in the Union for international movements, i. e. where the movement either starts or ends in a third country.

This is particularly relevant for customs unions, e.g. like the EU. Although each EU Member State is a Contracting Party to the TIR Convention, the European Union is considered to be a single territory for the purposes of the TIR procedure. This means that TIR can only be used to move between two or more EU Member States via the territory of a third country, e.g. UK via EU to Turkey.

A condition of the TIR procedure is that the movement of the goods must include transport by road.

Do I need a financial guarantee?

Usually yes, the TIR carnet provides a financial guarantee for the payment of the suspended duties and taxes. The guarantee system is managed by an international organisation, which is currently the International Road Transport Union (IRU).

Who can issue TIR carnets?

The IRU is also authorized by the Administrative Committee of the TIR Convention to issue and disseminate TIR Carnets.


The TIR Convention 1975 is dynamic in the sense that it has been amended many times over the years in order to reflect changes in respect of each of these main principles. In recent years the amendments have been structured and taken forward in discrete phases.

The first two phases introduced arrangements whereby access to use the TIR system would be subject to customs authorisation (the so-called "controlled access") and a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the major players involved in the TIR system.

The third phase, on which this blog entries focuses, includes a project to computerise the TIR system (eTIR international system) and measures in order to increase the transparency of the international organisation.


The new legal framework for the full digitalisation of the TIR system (the so-called eTIR) entered into force in May 2021, opening eTIR to 77 countries across five continents. This change will allow for completely paperless cross-border transit of goods, under the customs guarantee of the TIR system.

What is eTIR?

The eTIR international system (customs to customs) is a global United Nations border crossing facilitation tool. It will ensure the secure exchange of data about the international transit of goods, vehicles or containers according to the provisions of the TIR Convention between national customs systems and allow customs to manage the data on guarantees, issued by the guarantee chain to holders authorized to use the TIR system.

30.000 businesses and 3500 customs offices worldwide

The TIR system counts more than 30,000 authorised operators and is accepted at more than 3,500 customs offices worldwide.

History of the TIR Convention

For more than 70 years, TIR has made trade faster, easier and more secure. The legal framework for digitalisation – the new Annex 11 of the United Nations TIR Convention – will reinforce and expand TIR benefits for global multimodal trade. Under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the TIR transit system was developed soon after the Second World War in order to help revitalise the economies of post-war Europe. The TIR Agreement was concluded in 1949 and its success led to the establishment in 1959 of the first TIR Convention.

The 1959 Convention was replaced by the current Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets in 1975 (TIR Convention 1975).

Legal Framework took 10 years+ to create

The final legal framework for electronic TIR follows more than a decade of planning, investment and trials with the support of Customs Authorities, TIR associations, and other regional and international bodies.

Not quite ready yet

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran (the Islamic Republic of), the Republic of Moldova, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey and Uzbekistan, are in the process of interconnecting their customs information systems with the eTIR international system. Furthermore, on behalf of its member States, the European Union is in the process of finalizing a proof of concept to interconnect the European Union’s New Computerized Transit System (NCTS) with the eTIR international system.

TIR Handbook

The TIR Convention is maintained by the UNECE who, in co-operation with the TIR secretariat, also maintain a publication known as the TIR Handbook. The Handbook not only contains the text of the Convention but also a wealth of other useful information concerning the practical application of the Convention.

For more information, please visit the dedicated eTIR website:

More Information

The TIR Convention

The TIR Convention
Download PDF • 24.58MB

FAQ on the TIR Convention

The TIR Procedure FAQ
Download PDF • 239KB

3 views0 comments

Copyright Customs Manager Ltd. 2021

A company established in England and Wales

Company No. 12994125